How Much Do You Know About Your Academic Senate?

September
2005
Jane Patton, Chair

It's autumn again. time to meet new students, catch up on summer news with colleagues, and-plan for your first Academic Senate meetings! Oh the tasks that lie ahead for our senates! what's the hot topic on your campus? Enrollment shifts? Lack of faculty, staffing, equipment or facilities? Challenging relationships between the faculty and administrators, the board or the community? how about the status of hiring?

Are you aware of how many of these topics fall within the purview of the academic senate? If you answered: "well, all of them," you are right, although tackling all of them could be tricky and senates often find it challenging picking their battles. In addition, some topics overlap with union responsibilities. If you are new to your academic senate or it has been awhile since you have had an orientation to the academic senate, you might benefit from a refresher about the roles and responsibilities afforded to faculty via their local and the State Academic Senate. Faculty and local senates can spin their wheels-or worse, do nothing when problems arise, whereas if only they are armed with information, they could exert the influence needed to improve what we collectively do for our students.

Last June, college senate leaders were invited to the annual faculty leadership institute held in San Jose. attendees had the opportunity to review the foundation of senate authority and responsibilities by attending presentations about such topics as the basis for the senate, Brown act guidelines, 75:25 ratio update, faculty minimum qualifications, etc. Attendees left feeling more empowered and confident about their leadership and about the strength of the faculty via the senate. If you did not attend, you can see many of the powerpoint presentations and handouts by going to http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/Events/Faculty.htm.

Your senate might consider using the slide show called Basis for the Senate (available at the above URL) at an "orientation to the senate" meeting this fall, to orient new senators and promote a discussion with the more experienced senators. The slides lay out the foundation for faculty responsibilities in Education Code and Title 5. They may be shown on your campus using a projector or printed on transparencies. The slide show can also be used or modified for a flex day session, a new faculty orientation or department chair meeting in which one explains what the Academic Senate is to faculty who are not directly involved with the senate. The presentation can also be used to help trustees and administrators understand the academic senate. You can also request that the academic senate send a speaker to present this material at your college. Call the Academic Senate office in Sacramento for details.

Another PowerPoint presentation called Orientation to the Senate is available at http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/LocalSenates/LocalSenates.htm. These slides are briefer than the Basis for the Senate presentation and include topics to provoke discussions among senators about how to have effective senate meetings. Local senates may feel free to modify the slides to suit local needs. A good companion document is the asCCC publication, Empowering Local Senates: Roles and Responsibilities of and Strategies for an Effective Senate, which provides many more tips for building a strong senate, which is also available on our website.

We encourage senate presidents whether new or returning, to create an opportunity for all faculty to learn what the senate is, because when there is turnover in senators and when new faculty are hired, we cannot assume all of us have the same level of understanding.

Besides these two presentations, there are many other resources and opportunities for learning about the senate powers available to faculty. Does your senate have a library of ASCCC publications? If not, you might consider the benefit of setting up one. Then when an issue arises, faculty can check out documents to inform local discussions. Examples of ASCCC publications adopted last spring are Working with the 2002 Accreditation Standards: The Faculty's Role, and Textbook Issues: Economic Pressures and Academic Values. While all Senate papers are available from the website, it is likely that someone at your college has paper copies of many of them piled on her/his desk, and they could be made available for everyone's reference.

Have you ever attended a plenary session of the ASCCC, held each fall and spring? These are a "shot in the arm" for faculty. It is not surprising that we see the same faces return, because the depth and breadth of information presented are empowering. Details about the fall session in pasadena in november are already posted on the website.

As always, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges stands ready to assist the faculty of all 109 colleges.

By taking advantage of all the resources available to you, you can feel confident in the strength of the faculty for guiding academic and professional matters.

The Resources below can also be used as a part of an orientation presentation (and visual aids are a nice addition to presentations):

The Academic Senate website www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us (surely you have it bookmarked!) You can give a tour, navigating the site for your colleagues.

Publications (on dozens of topics e.g. hiring policies, student fees, faculty qualifications, workforce preparation, basic skills, etc.-all of them are listed and available on the website).

Resolutions (which guide the work of the ASCCC and provide a resource for local senates; available and searchable on the website).

The ASCCC in general and the Executive Committee (including the standing committee called "Relations with Local Senates").

"Empowering Local Senates: Roles and Responsibilities of and Strategies for an Effective Senate" (It's a handbook distributed at each Faculty Leadership Institute, that every senate office should have and all senate leaders should read).

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.