Increasing Contact with the Local Senates: A New Charge for the Relations with Local Senates Committee and the Academic Senate Executive Committee

Vice President

Our Board of Governors recognizes the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges for California Community Colleges as the exclusive representative of the local academic senates in the state's community colleges. To accomplish its charge, the Academic Senate is committed to strengthening connections with the field. Such connections enable the state senate to acquire the collective wisdom of the faculty, to point to exemplary activities, to speak with greater knowledge and hence authority. These communicative structures also facilitate the distribution of information to local senates who may then function more effectively and develop informed and sound positions or policies.

One such structure was the Local Academic Senates Network, also known as the Geoclusters, developed in 1992. Under the Local Senates Network, a member of the Relations with Local Senates Committee was designated as the leader of colleges clustered in a given geographical region. Geocluster leaders were to meet with the local senate presidents in their geocluster and bring issues and information back to the Relations with Local Senates Committee. The Committee would in turn translate those issues and ideas into recommendations for broader statewide resolutions, positions, workshops or technical assistance visits.

The geocluster structure was revised periodically, but it eventually proved to be less effective than originally envisioned. Subsequent resolutions adopted by the body noted the inherent geographical barriers in some of the networks and the varying implementation of the networks in the different regions. The growing use of electronic communications was also cited as a factor that made geoclusters less relevant. The Local Senates Network of geoclusters was repealed in Spring 1999.

Subsequent to the development of the geoclusters, the Executive Committee continued to develop and extend efforts to expand communication and connections with the field. Recently the plenary session passed a resolution calling for the Executive Committee to devise a method of contact to fill the void that some perceived with repeal of the geoclusters as a primary means of contact with the field. Academic Senate President Hoke Simpson has set as a goal that each college's academic senate faculty shall be visited by a member of the Executive Committee or of its Relations with Local Senates Committee during the 2001-2002 academic year. Executive Committee members agree to visit several colleges within their geographic area, though not within their own district. The purpose of these campus visits would be to bring greetings as an official delegate of the Academic Senate, to listen, and to learn of the local senates' work, challenges, and successes. To assist in this effort, members of the Relations with Local Senates Committee would be called upon by the President to visit those colleges not visited by Executive Committee members. This augmented contact will supplement, rather than supplant, other forms of contact with the Executive Committee. The visits will also assist local senates in identifying the need for other senate services, such as technical assistance.

The Relations with Local Senates Committee seems particularly suited to this challenge as its existing charge includes the responsibility to "publicize successful local senate activities in Senate publications, the Senate website and at plenary sessions." Committee members argued that this charge can be more effectively and successfully carried out if personal connections with the local senates are established and nourished. Many resolutions arising from session call upon the Academic Senate to disseminate information (e.g., about AAUP), to research and publicize best practices (e.g., for integrating part-time faculty into local senates, for effective projects carried out under the aegis of PFE funds), and to work more directly with local senates on protecting their statutory responsibilities for academic and professional matters. Such work, the Committee determined, is best conducted under diligent, one-on-one, face-to-face contacts with faculty members on their home campuses.

In the coming weeks, local senate presidents will receive additional information about our desire to visit with you, to learn from you about the successes of your work with and on behalf of students. We-both Executive Committee participants and Committee members-look forward to working more personally with you. In the meantime, the Relations with Local Senates Committee will fulfill its other responsibilities determined by session resolutions.