Government, Disciplines, and Accreditation

September
2006
Greg Gilbert,

Part I: Government

There is a New America every morning when we wake up. It is upon us whether we will it or not.

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. US diplomat & Democratic politician (1900-1965)

In speaking of government, at age 81, Benjamin Franklin, lending his endorsement to the constitution, said that "with all of its faults, if they be such," a well administrated general government could be of value to the people "for a course of years." But then he went on to say that even a well administrated "government can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, and the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of anything else." Gore vidal, in Inventing a Nation, writes that remarks of this nature by Franklin have been omitted from contemporary publications and scholarly works, a recent example being a Harvard University edition of Franklin's autobiography.

The constitution that Franklin spoke of endorses "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Indeed, the US Constitution itself says that "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it." While any notion of abolishing a government as immense as that of the USA is beyond reasonable conjecture, there does exist a "duty" to resist any erosion of our founding principles that lead us closer to the despotism of which Franklin speaks.

Because "despotism" denotes tyranny, one may consider it an issue of scale primarily appropriate for discussions of national governance, but through my professional life, I have learned that the roots of despotism are founded in a local failure to assume responsibility.

An example is my experience as a former school board president with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Though NCLB was promoted at the national level, its implementation resulted from a lack of local resistance. Had school administrators, faculty unions, and various professional and community groups fully anticipated and understood the incredible damage that would result from NCLB, I am persuaded that general resistance could have blunted, if not eliminated, its potential for tyranny over our nation's school systems.

While many educators were caught unaware by NCLB, the "fool me twice, shame on me" response should be triggered. with NCLB, a significant shift occurred that moved public education into a mesh of federal measures, federal curriculum, and federal punishments -all in the guise of public accountability. NCLB is the precise model of the soviet style system of education that we abhorred and ridiculed in the 1950s, and if we allow this sort of tyranny to take root now in post-secondary education, shame on us!

Is it possible that we will NOT be fooled twice? When Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, and Texas millionaire investor, Charles Miller (who devised the model for NCLB), recently issued a draft report of a document that calls for the elimination of the full-time professoriate and the implementation of federal accreditation, the response by educators was such that the tone of the report and its more radical suggestions were modified. Even so, it remains clear that MS Spellings is intent on pushing a repressive agenda, and we must continue to not be twice fooled.

By the same token, we watch as the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) attempts to micromanage Compton's situation, and we wonder how it is that local governance and faculty oversight should be so easily shunted aside in favor of a regional accrediting body. Beyond compton's situation, we hear talk of reorganizing California's community colleges into a system of regional oversight, and I cannot help but wonder what the threat will be to faculty oversight of curriculum, programs, and other such academic and professional matters.

While it is easy to become complacent and let things take whatever course is dictated, such short sighted and selfish behavior denies the gift of liberty that has resulted from generations of diligence and sacrifice. One of America's most important attributes is its individualism, and when government and industry conspire to undermine the local authority "of the people" on behalf "of the people," we must stand up and expose such double-speak as despotic. Freedom is what matters, and if we allow accountability, like a latter day mccarthyism, to become the final arbiter of what will get done, Franklin's dire prediction will become our generation's failure of "will."

It is easy to see where liberty requires defending when we are threatened by foreign occupation, but it is quite another when conspirators smile at us from our television screens, newspapers, and across our meeting tables.

Make no mistake: the challenge to patriots today is to be vigilant regarding the small and seemingly benign concessions that can one day result in a loss of our sacred rights. The preservation of liberty, as never before, should be the business of educators. California's massive system of higher education is uniquely established in legislation, and to the extent that we can hold the line on academic freedom, our colleagues across the nation will take heart. We are the last great domino; our backs are against the sea, and as california goes, so will the nation. The WTO model of education cares nothing about a free and independent electorate, but we educators do. Europe's standardized systems of higher education are floundering, but our system remains the vital and dynamic envy of the world. Like the preservation of freedom itself, its fate rests on the will of each generation.

Part II: The Disciplines List

Last spring, the Academic Senate began the formal review of the Disciplines List. As you may be aware, the Disciplines List establishes the minimum qualifications for the faculty of California Community Colleges. In the past, we have reviewed the list every three years. Based on a resolution passed at the 2005 Fall Plenary Session, we have changed to a two-year process. We have also increased the opportunities for feedback and fine-tuning of proposals. Interested faculty members and professional organizations may submit proposals until February 2007. The Standards and Practices Committee will be reviewing proposals with the authors throughout the process. To assist with a review of disciplines, a letter has been widely distributed by the Academic Senate that includes a timeline for submission of proposals, the disciplines List form, and a list of proposals received thus far. To obtain a copy, check with your local senate president, check our website or contact the Academic Senate office.

Once you have obtained the form and begin to initiate the proposal, it is important to include a comprehensive rationale for the suggested change. Each proposed change should be accompanied by a brief explanation and must have as its basis at least one of the following:

1. changes within the profession or discipline

2. clarification or elimination of confusion and ambiguity

3. inclusion of new degrees

4. continual use of the equivalency process to hire under a specific discipline

5. Assurance of the maximum degree of flexibility for the discipline while maintaining discipline integrity

6. other reason, as fully detailed and justified in the proposal

Indeed, one issue that often arises in disciplines hearings is that a proposed change may make perfect sense for a specific college, but when considered against the needs of the entire system, it may be viewed as too narrowly defined to be generally applicable. Therefore, when considering a proposal, think globally.

In preparation for the Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 Plenary Sessions, proposed changes are being widely distributed for review and discussion at breakout sessions (Hearing times will be announced in the Plenary session program). We ask that you circulate the letter once you have received it, including proposed changes and Disciplines List proposal forms, to all departments at your campus. The letter will also include the process for proposing changes and for resubmissions. The final list of proposals will be voted on at the 2007 Spring Plenary Session, with resultant recommendations forwarded to the Board of Governors for adoption.

The current disciplines List is available on the Academic senate website at http://www.cccco.edu/divisions/esed/aa_ir/psmq/min_qual/min_quals%20_rev.... If you have any questions, please contact Greg Gilbert, Standards and Practices Committee Chair, at greggilbertcmc [at] adelphia.net, and indicate Disciplines List on the subject line of the email.

Part III: The Accreditation Institute

Mark your calendar for the senate's first Accreditation institute: January 5-6, 2007, at the San Francisco Airport Westin. For $395.00 (single occupancy, including room and board), you will attend the only statewide accreditation training that places collegial consultation at the center of the process.

Speakers at the Institute will include Chancellor Drummond on the present state of accreditation in California's community colleges system and Alan Frey on how to connect budget and planning to our missions and self studies; and among other noted speakers, we will feature such accreditation luminaries as Janet Fulks and Marcy Alancraig.

The Accreditation institute is divided into strands that focus on pragmatics, effective practices, and political realities. The Pragmatics Strand is designed to help institutions meet some of the major changes implemented by the 2002 ACCJC standards concerning student learning outcomes and assessment at all institutional levels.

The effective Practices Strand deals with the particulars of the four new standards and develops a list of recommended self study practices. the strand will include a panel discussion of institutions that have smoothly, and not-so-smoothly, completed the process.

The Political Realities Strand examines the accreditation movement, from local to global implications. Accreditation is all about accountability, but views about this accountability and who should control it are under extreme scrutiny. This strand explores such political issues infused into the accreditation process as instituting outcomes while protecting equity and diversity; balancing academic autonomy with accountability; separating academic and institutional effectiveness from business models driven by profit; and determining who establishes criteria and judgment about educational quality.

At the heart of the Institute is the belief that our colleges work best when all segments work in unison.

That is why enrollment is open to ALL faculty, with a special emphasis on counselors and librarians. Along with faculty representatives, we want to encourage that faculty be accompanied by CIOs and CSSOs. We believe that when local senates work with the various segments at their colleges and take the lead in establishing a college-wide dialogue and resultant outcomes, our students reap the benefits. Personally, I think that you will find this institute unique as it will not only provide the training necessary for successful self-studies, it will offer the philosophical underpinnings and practical methodologies for keeping faculty at the center of the accreditation process.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.