Integrity of Process: On the One Hand .
Faculty are perennially perplexed when changes in policies or procedures (or their implementation) suddenly occur. Abrupt changes in administrative hiring practices-mid-hire; newly announced processes for determining a college budget; unilateral changes in educational masterplans without prior discussion among governance groups; radical alterations of organizational structures, whether or not they are deemed to affect faculty roles, without discussion among those being impacted-these are all impositions of will or power that cause faculty to take note, to sit up in alarm or furor, to become defensive about the status quo, not necessarily because of their adherence to the familiar but because of a lack of attention to process-due, deliberate, transparent process.
The questions then become, "Do we continue to participate, when the failure to consult has led to abandoning the fair and agreedupon process? Do we contribute to the decimation of process with our participation? Or do we retreat from our responsibilities because it might be seen as acceding to a flawed process? Cooperation or cooption? Collaboration or capitulation?"
While I am not a moral relativist, I also have been very honest with those who directed inquiries to me: circumstances and local cultures of governance may determine how faculty respond. And regardless of my personal views, on behalf of the Academic Senate, I honor the individual decisions of local senates-so long as those determinations were reached after an open, full consultation with effected members and a fidelity to each senate's own established processes for reaching decisions. Local faculty, however, are not alone; at the state level, we too grapple with similar process issues on topics from A to Z, or at least A to V. Others seek our cooperation and our collaboration on matters affecting us all, within processes sometimes not of our own making. See for yourselves.
Accountability: Last-minute legislation (AB 1417) requires our community college system-and that includes faculty representatives-to "design a workable structure for the annual evaluation of district-level performance in meeting statewide educational outcome priorities." This plan is due March 25, 2005. Yet in September, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1331 that offered the sort of professional, defensible accountability faculty would consider; that bill had been weighed by intersegmental faculty through the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS) and reflected on by Consultation and the Board of Governors. Instead, the Governor's veto message calls "for outcomes, such as performance based measures, historically associated with accountability systems."
Nevertheless, the AB 1417 legislation before us now requires a speedy response. Briefly, the Chancellor has directed Vice-Chancellor Patrick Perry to oversee the following phases: (1) the Research and Planning (RP) Group's Center for Student Success is contracted to suggest a variety of metrics and models for discussion; (2) an oversight committee of five (including two faculty appointed by the Academic Senate) will provide a general framework by which accountability scenarios must be developed and will provide general oversight to the work of the RP contractors; (3) a panel of external experts (called for by the legislation) will also review the RP work and comment upon the suggestions; (4) Constituent feedback through Consultation will ultimately help shape the final recommendations to be adopted at the Board of Governors' March meeting.
On the one hand: We do not believe that the Legislature, the Administration and the Department of Finance are best positioned to determine appropriate "accountability" measures for our multitude of community colleges and their diverse missions, adopted in response to local needs. Further, we fear that a single "structure" could either become so broad as to be meaningless or too narrow to reflect the diversity of educational missions-which may vary significantly even within a single district. We fear that this legislative demand places faculty, students, and districts atop a very dangerous precipice.
On the other hand: Faculty at both the state and local levels determine "standards . regarding student preparation and success" as provided for in Title 5 53200. As with accreditation standards, we must ensure that good practices are recognized, while other districts are ultimately aided-not punished-when measured against any uniform "structure" that provides "for the annual evaluation of districts." While the Academic Senate will no doubt call upon you for timely comment as the RP group's ideas and proposals emerge, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges represents you in these discussions.
Accreditation: This subject is clearly related to the prior topic, wherein external forces seem to dictate "appropriate measurements" of student and institutional success. Your emails, phone calls, and requests for technical assistance confirm that community college faculty continue to wrestle with the 2002 Accreditation Standards. To provide local senates with greater understanding and options, the plenary body this fall adopted a paper, a "toolkit," that offers the context for Academic Senate positions, provides useful information for faculty seizing control of the accreditation process.
In presentations and workshops sponsored by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and by the community college RP Group (professional researchers' organization), faculty are presented with confounding strategies: quantitative data must drive the learning objectives movement, but qualitative evidence should not be abandoned; the outcomes movement is a "long-needed corrective to the measurement of `inputs,'" but outcomes should be assessed only if all students have had access to elements that contribute to their success-in other words, the "input" measurements regarding library or tutorial offerings, base funding, full-time faculty ratios, attention to scheduling, part-time faculty availability in compensated office hours, and counselor-tostudent ratios do matter, if all students are to have access to their own success.
Multiple resolutions adopted at prior plenary sessions propose faculty actions ranging from withdrawing from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, (WASC), to discontinuing active participation on teams or self-studies, to ignoring the contradictory terms used by ACCJC, including "student learning outcomes vs. "learning objectives."
On the one hand: To date, ACCJC has been unresponsive to Academic Senate requests for research supporting their contention that faculty time and energy spent on their required measurements of student learning actually result in improved student learning; faculty continue to withdraw from membership on visiting teams; and new, untenured faculty or seasoned accreditation veterans with little service to their local senates are hand-picked and nominated by their college administrators to serve on visiting teams.
On the other hand: We need caring and knowledgeable faculty who can bring a judicious eye simultaneously to both the standards of excellence a college exhibits and to the accrediting process itself. Faculty are best positioned to resist meaningless measurement mechanisms and define learning objectives. We will continue our efforts to meet with the Executive Director and staff from ACCJC to discuss your residual concerns; the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges represents you in these discussions.
Curriculum: Years of discussions among faculty and vice-presidents of instruction produced visions of a less cumbersome program approval processes. The Agency Review, commissioned by the Chancellor made similar recommendations urging the Chancellor's Office to "evolve from a focus on approval to one of leadership, technical support, and arbitration, when districts and regions need intervention. The Curricular Issues Advisory Committee should identify the issues and suggest timelines in making the transition to a regionally based approach" (Aspirations for Excellence: A Review of the System Office for the California Community Colleges, p. 15, and Appendix D. This document can be found at http://www.cccco.edu/reports/review/agency_review_final_report.pdf). Such a group is now at work considering mechanisms to fulfill these recommendations; it includes four faculty members appointed by the Academic Senate to represent the broad interests of occupational and transfer faculty, classroom based and technology mediated instruction, as well as urban and rural, large and small institutions.
On the one hand: Faculty decisions and local approval processes have long been second guessed with no ability for appeal to practitioners most likely to understand a program's intention. Districts and colleges are best served by technical assistance, not unilateral denials. Curriculum is a faculty-driven matter. Period.
On the other hand: Moving toward a more localized mechanism requires additional training, funding for travel, and reassigned time for the regional faculty participants. Faculty have often complained about their exclusion from various existing regional consortia, about their inability to teach and meet with the regional deans who at present dominate such groups. I repeat: Curriculum is a faculty-driven matter. Period. Clearly, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges represents you now in these discussions.
Full-time/Part-time Ratios: Marty Hittleman annually presents the Board of Governors with a chart detailing the system's overall (lack of) progress toward the 75:25 ratio. This year, as noted in the November President's Update, Board Member Rich Leib asked, "Why?" In response, the Chancellor is convening a task force to examine the matter. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges will represent you in these discussions, to be completed by March.
Student Fees: The Board of Governors hopes soon to adopt a policy on "reasonable" student fees. On the one hand: Faculty have long opposed student fees, and our recently adopted paper provides a justification for our pervasive view. Members of the Board may be amenable to "reasonable" fees moving downward rather than upward, but the Academic Senate must broadly share data and arguments in support of 25 years' worth of opposition to fees.
On the other hand: Some sitting board members have called opposition to fees "nave," and "unrealistic." Even student representatives of their organizations proclaim support for student fees, though preferably lowered fees. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges represents your adopted views in these debates.
Testing and Matriculation Assessment: Various legislative forays have asked the system to examine a single assessment/placement/exemption test to be administered to all California high school students. The RP group asked that the system undertake a review of the current matriculation assessment validation process as well as the course prerequisite validation requirements. After a finding that this was an academic and professional matter, the Academic Senate devised a mechanism to respond to this interest. A fact-finding group including representatives of the Vice-Presidents of Instruction, the Vice-Presidents of Student Services, and the Academic Senate has begun its work on the former request; their findings and any recommendations will be shared widely-especially at the Academic Senate's Spring Plenary Session, April 7-9-before the final report is submitted to the Consultation Council in Spring 2005.
On the one hand: In the 18 years since matriculation assessment was integrated into our college offerings for students' success, its efficacy has not been examined; it is certainly an apt moment to do so. It also provides an opportunity to educate others about the function of matriculation assessment.
On the other hand: The use of single, high-stakes tests is at odds with existing Title 5 and good practice. Most advocates of such a test, for use by all segments of California higher education, do not fully understand the different uses of such examinations such as the CSU- augmented California Standards-Based test, nor the value of multiple measures. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges effectively represents you in these discussions and on the fact-finding team.
Textbooks: Faculty groups have agreed to meet with CalSACC-Student Senate representatives to discuss strategies that might make textbook acquisition more economically feasible. The Educational Policies Committee will soon be presenting us with a paper on related issues concerning textbook selection and, as is reported elsewhere in this Rostrum, is exploring both a range of options and the possible consequences those options would have for our students and our shared scholarly efforts. We seek answers while we continue to assert principles of academic freedom.
On the one hand: We recognize that the cost of books can be prohibitive for attending students, that students' sharing of books may leave some readers unprepared or without access to their books in class or at crucial study times, and that some seemingly obvious solutions have proven unworkable on a large scale. We also know the value of putting our textbooks on reserve, or of donating our examination copies for use by students. We know we care.
On the other hand: We acknowledge the limitations of legislation to control the free market system. Most significantly, we retain our rights as faculty to determine the best educational materials for our students, without interference by local administrators or legislators who seek to control textbook selection or limit when we could renew or refresh our selected supporting materials. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges willingly represents you in these discussions with students and other interested parties.
Vocational ESL: Current law requires colleges who receive CalWORKs funds to submit a vocational plan for their recipients. SB 1639 now requires that plan to include "intensive English language immersion"; if funds are provided, colleges are required "to redesign basic education and ESL classes so that they may be integrated with vocational training programs." This is a curricular matter that must remain in the hands of local faculty.
On the one hand: we concur with legislative findings that students with English language literacy are more likely to achieve greater social and financial success. We also believe that the conversations that counselors and support staff in such programs undertake with discipline faculty positively contribute to their students' achievements.
On the other hand: While discussions about how to improve the linguistic fluency of CalWORKs students are valuable under any circumstance, curricular changes must be made within the context of students' entire educational experience and not merely offer a "quick-fix" for employers. The universal mandate for compliance by all colleges presumes there are such linguistic needs on all campuses in all sections of the state. We continue to resist the imposition of curricular changes or mandates through legislation. And significantly, while planning for such implementation may not require significant investment, the actual implementation of VESL courses or modules seems to be an unfunded mandate that may well require colleges to hire new faculty or develop new programs or courses beyond the scope of their current educational master plan. I can assure you that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges will represent you in any statewide discussion of this matter.
Thus, you have seen glimpses of our responses to these matters. Our views are based on adopted resolutions, earlier precedents, and common sense. In the coming months prior to our next session, we will doubtless call upon you to help us evaluate comments, proposals, responses offered forth in these eight areas; I trust you will respond and will weigh the multiple perspectives that emerge. Our aim is to preserve reasonable process, to assert our delegated authority where appropriate, and to respond with alacrity. As with local conundrums, you will observe that it's too often a matter of "on the one hand.but on the other hand."
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.