At its September 2002 meeting, the Board of Governors was poised to adopt a new graduation requirement for all California community college students. This new requirement for information competency, employing the definition of information competency adopted by the Academic Senate, would indicate to transfer institutions and to employers that our students had the ability to recognize the need for information and to find, evaluate, use, and communicate information in all its various formats. It combines aspects of library literacy, research methods and technological literacy. Information competency includes consideration of the ethical and legal implications of information use and requires the application of both critical thinking and communication skills. [Proposed Revisions to Title 5, Chapter 6, Subchapter 10, Section 55601]
However, just days before the Board was to approve this requirement, the Department of Finance (DOF) declared that a review of graduation requirements would present an "unfunded mandate" to districts; thus, the DOF informed the Board that it was not to adopt this new requirement and that moving ahead to consider it at that time would be illegal.
This frustrating development, a clear intrusion into the right of the system to make its own determinations about educational programs, requirements, and quality, is a source of ongoing discussion throughout the state. The Board, the Chancellor, the Consultation Council, and community college faculty supported this new requirement and had tacitly understood that any attendant "costs" would be borne by local colleges or districts in an effort to improve the educational experiences of all our students.
This procedural setback, however, has not dampened faculty's enthusiasm for this requirement. Because local districts remain free to adopt this graduation requirement independent of Board action, colleges, led by their faculty and especially their curriculum committees, continue to press forward in identifying how the local curriculum can best meet the local needs of students and the community by introducing information competency. Prompted perhaps by the once-pending adoption of such a requirement, faculty, deans, and other administrators across the state have launched their own spirited discussions.
The Academic Senate will present for adoption at the Fall 2002 Plenary Session, a second paper in what will no doubt be a series of documents published to support these efforts to institute local information competency requirements. This new document demonstrates how six colleges (Diablo Valley, Glendale, Cabrillo, Cuyamaca, Santa Rosa, and Merced) have gone about making and implementing their local decisions. Often beginning with the definition of information competency adopted by the Academic Senate, these faculty fostered a college-wide discussion by asking such questions as these: What courses currently offered address information competency? What sort of additional courses might be offered? How might the components of information competency be integrated into existing courses?
We urge local senate presidents to share the draft document widely (available electronically at http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us) and solicit faculty comment prior to session; presuming the paper's adoption in October, we then hope that the final publication of this informative paper in hard copy and on the Academic Senate website will further stimulate your own local innovation.
In support of resolutions adopted in Spring 2001 and Fall 2001, the Academic Senate also urges faculty to consider how such an information competency requirement might be applied to vocational and technical programs, especially to certificate programs of 18 units or more. At the 2002 Fall Plenary Session, the Curriculum Committee and the Occupational Education Committees will jointly sponsor a breakout on this very topic to explore with faculty the relevance of such competencies to these areas of study. We invite you to join these discussions.