French Fries, Funding, and Student Success: Occasions for Unity


As I write this, I'm sitting in the Roadhouse Caf in LAX, Terminal 7, with a two-hour wait for a connecting flight. I was here a few weeks ago with Executive Director Julie Adams for a pause of similar proportions; we got a lot of work done (see accompanying photo), but, as importantly, we both noticed what a pleasant place it was to wait. The Roadhouse has a sign on the outside window, "Last Chance for Good Eats" (a believable enough claim as you're about to board an airplane), it has a Route 66 theme on the inside, and it seems to be a family enterprise-run by a very functional family. Everyone working here is upbeat, they treat one another with care and respect, and they are very solicitous of their customers. My order of french fries (excellent-real potatoes) was greeted with as much enthusiasm as my steak and scampi order at the Palm Springs Doral last night (a meeting of the occupational deans, who don't fool around about their meeting sites). The world needs places like this, places where being there is easy. Sure, we need challenge, danger and excitement, too; but just coming into an airport these days reminds us that there's more than enough of that, and that it's the peace and tranquility and the welcoming atmosphere that require the work.

Our community college system seems to me to be behaving more like a functional family than it has in the past, a trend that can only bode well for our students. There are several opportunities for faculty to contribute to that trend this year, and I want to urge you to take advantage of them.

First, there are, as always, issues of funding. I have heard from all over the state that campus constituencies have been working together toward the passage of Proposition 47, as well as, in many cases, for local facilities bond issues. We are all hoping for a big payoff on November 5th, and a much-needed renaissance in our facilities.

I also hope that academic senates are working with their administrations, staff and students on our voter registration and student mobilization campaign, designed to bring our 2.6 million students into the political process to lobby in their own interest on community college issues, with funding at the forefront of these. This is a project that needn't-in fact, shouldn't-end on November 5th, for the aim is not a vote on a particular measure, but ongoing contact with legislators and the Governor to create the political will to address the disparate funding of the public higher education segments. If we can successfully get this effort off the ground, we can, in the future, look to more sophisticated and more focused ways to employ community college "voter power." In the meantime, we have the opportunity to bring all our constituencies together in the shared recognition that we need a stronger political base if we are ever to solve our most enduring problems.

Finally, a major occasion for working together presents itself this year in the areas of equity and diversity. The Chancellor's Office Task Force on Equity and Diversity, formed in response to the Connerly v. State Personnel Board decision, will soon be issuing its report, in which it will propose that we achieve our long-held goals by assigning primary responsibility and timelines for each goal to different system constituencies, and by getting a public commitment from each constituency that it will meet its objectives. For virtually every goal, there is the recommendation that the responsible group coordinate its activities with one or more other constituencies. In other words, there is the recognition that we are all going to have to make progress together if we are going to make progress at all.

In the area of student equity, for example, the Academic Senate is assigned responsibility for updating the document Student Equity: Guidelines for Developing a Plan by October, 2002 (we've met that deadline), and the CEOs are charged with adopting updated student equity plans by March 2004, in coordination with all other district and college constituencies. We have, for years, bemoaned the fact that the original Board mandate to create these plans did not require regular updates or serious implementation, and have called for that to change (Resolution 6.01 F00). With the Task Force Report and the focus of the Board of Governors on the implementation of the report's recommendations, we now have an opportunity to work collaboratively to make revitalized plans and effective student equity strategies a reality in every district.

As delineated in the Student Equity: Guidelines document, a key ingredient in any plan will be a campus climate study, and the document proposes the sorts of research that can go into that. While we are exercising our collaborative skills, and thus making progress toward becoming a more functional community college family, let me suggest an addition to the research proposed on campus climates: Be sure to include a field trip to the Roadhouse Caf.