Minimum Qualifications Audits

Greg Gilbert, 2006 - 07 Standards and Practices Chair

"Title 5, section 53430 establishes the standards for hiring faculty based on equivalencies, and it echoes the language of Education Code section 87358 that each individual faculty member must possess minimum qualifications."

-Ralph Black

On May 30, 2007, the Academic Senate's Standards and Practices committee met with Planning and Development Specialist Ken Nather at the System Office. Nather discussed with the committee the fact that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in responding to faculty concerns during an accreditation visit initiated a minimum qualifications audit to see if the college had hired the wrong people in the wrong areas. The bottom line is where a course was judged to have been taught by an unqualified person, the credit for that course was invalidated, the course was struck from college transcripts, and transfer institutions were informed.

It doesn't require Stephen King to explain the horrors that can follow when courses are invalidated.

Consider first the nightmare for affected students. Think of the impact on faculty, particularly part-time faculty who suddenly are not asked back. Imagine the potential for litigation and charges of financial culpability. Think of the impact on an accreditation report, and consider how this issue reflects on the bodies responsible for overseeing hiring and compliance with the minimum qualifications: local senates and boards. Consider how such malfeasance can undermine the credibility of the System and our profession.

It's not as if this issue hasn't been widely discussed over the past several years. In 2004 Mark Snowhite wrote a very informative Rostrum article on the subject of minimum qualifications, which included Chancellor's Office legal counsel Attorney Ralph Black's 2003 memo to Snowhite declaring "that a district is not authorized to establish a single course equivalency as a substitute for meeting minimum qualifications in a discipline." The Black memo has been available in its entirety on the front page of the Academic Senate website for several years now. Moreover, in 2006, the Academic Senate published a paper on the granting of equivalencies (available on the Academic Senate's website at: which detailed the faculty's authority and responsibility in the hiring process. In 2007, the Academic Senate completed another round of hearings for the Disciplines List that featured the subject of minimum qualifications and equivalencies in breakouts, hearings, and mailings. What with all the workshops, articles, and papers on the subject, the word is getting out that those who teach within our system, regardless of their subject area, must meet or exceed the minimum qualifications established by the Academic Senate and approved by the Board of Governors.

Even so, local practices in some instances suggest that non-compliance may be viewed as acceptable when efforts to comply become challenging, regardless of the fact that compliance is a matter of law. Perhaps it's like driving 80 MPH in a 65 MPH zone until we see someone getting red lighted. Then we slow down. Well, as you can see, it appears that the red lights are on. The story that opened this article is not an isolated example of what can happen if local senates fail to take the initiative-but a growing reality.

What should local senates do? First, download two documents, The Disciplines List at and Equivalence to the Minimum Qualifications at and read them. Local senates have joint agreement with their boards on the hiring of faculty and instructional administrators and the establishment of equivalencies. Joint agreement means that both sides must agree before any action may be taken, and, thus, compliance with the minimum qualifications and the hiring of faculty are first and foremost the responsibility of local senates.

While colleges may not grant themselves an amnesty from previous violations, they should conduct an audit and agree that from that date forward, they will no longer place unqualified faculty in courses, they will no longer grant substandard equivalencies, and they will no longer permit single course equivalencies. While it is impossible to do anything about past infractions, immediate action to rectify noncompliance would certainly be preferable to what would transpire should an external audit reveal that no effort on the part of a local senate and board had attempted to make things right. While it is possible that the greatest hardship may fall to those part-time faculty who are not properly qualified, colleges should do all that they can to find appropriate courses for these individuals and encourage that they come into compliance as soon as possible if they wish to be eligible to teach specific courses. Also of importance is that the granting of equivalencies and eminence may only occur after local board and senate approval of policies that oversee such processes. In all instances, faculty hires must demonstrate sufficient subject area depth and breadth of general education knowledge. We are, after all, colleges.

Where minimum qualifications, equivalencies, and hiring are concerned, it is essential that local senates step forward.

Because it is possible that conducting audits will in some instances cause difficulties with long-term hires, teaching assignments, and the ability of the institution to cover certain courses, faculty should work as closely with their administrative partners as possible to assure that the institution is united in its resolve to come into compliance with the law. Where questions arise, senate leaders and administrators should feel free to contact the Academic Senate (Dan Crump, Chair of Standards and Practices, Crumpd [at], 916-484-8167).

The importance of having fully qualified faculty in our classes cannot be overstated, regardless of the course, because the reality is that all subjects are cross-curricular. Whether we are discussing physics in the automotive lab, anatomy in a physical education class, or information competency in business administration, it is the role of the teaching professional to raise the discourse in any subject area to include a larger understanding of the world. When we properly qualify and place faculty in our institutions, we strengthen the ability of our colleges and the System to meet their missions.

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.