From the President’s Desk: Governance in the New Normal

November
2021
Dolores Davison, ASCCC President

As faculty are returning to their classrooms, meetings, and other activities, the most consistent two refrains the ASCCC has been hearing are “we’re so happy to be back” and “we’re exhausted.” Faculty are facing a lot right now, and so, first, thank you.  Thank you for all you have done over the past eighteen months from the start of the shut down, and thank you for all you continue to do for your colleges, your colleagues, and most importantly, your students. While some light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel—and hopefully not a train—some significant challenges are still facing faculty leaders throughout the system.

First, and perhaps most pressing, is the return to campus and what roles faculty are expected to play.  To be clear, the colleges are not re-opening; they never closed.  Instead, campuses are beginning to offer in-person classes, with many at varying levels of implementation. In a poll that the ASCCC conducted at the beginning of the fall term, colleges reported returns to campus ranging from 20% to 80% of classes in person.  At some colleges, local academic senates have been asked to participate in discussions regarding the return to campus, including questions around what percentage of classes should be back in face-to-face format, whether specific disciplines should be allowed back before others, the roles that faculty should play in the cases of vaccine or mask requirements, and what role faculty can play in terms of enrollment management.  At other campuses, this discussion has been entirely between collective bargaining units and the administration.  As with so many activities on college campuses, this decision is largely a matter of local preference, and, while the ASCCC has not taken an official position on the role of local academic senates in these dialogues, student preparation and success do fall within the academic and professional matters listed as the academic senate’s purview under Title 5 §53200, and thus involving the academic senate in these discussions is certainly appropriate.

At the recent California Community College Association of Occupational Educators conference, many administrators and faculty spoke of the challenges of remaining on campus following the start of the pandemic and lessons learned through those experiences.  At many campuses, CTE faculty were the first to return to in-person instruction, and thus they can be valuable resources about what is needed or can be done to ensure that a return to in-person classes is done safely and meets the pedagogical requirements of each discipline. 

A second issue regards in-person meetings on campuses.  Most faculty leaders are aware that the governor signed AB 361 (R. Rivas, 2021), which extended provisions that allowed for suspension of portions of the Brown Act through January 2022.  Many district governing boards have elected to return to in-person meetings. As of this writing, the Board of Governors has not announced the format for its November 2021 meeting, as AB 361 also extended provisions for the Bagley-Keene Act, which is the open meetings act that the Board of Governors must follow.  Local academic senates—as well as their committees including curriculum, program review, and others—fall under the Brown Act and need to follow the provisions of the act to remain in compliance.  For more specific information about the Brown Act and local academic senate responsibilities under the act, please review the Powerpoint that was used at the Faculty Leadership Institute in June, 2021, which is available at https://asccc.org/content/general-session-3-brown-act.

The final, and perhaps most long-term piece that is being discussed on campuses, are efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion.  The Chancellor’s Office’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Implementation Workgroup is in the last few months of its work, and faculty will hear about some of their efforts at the Fall Plenary Session as well as system webinars and other events taking place throughout the year.  A focus on the ASCCC work in this area has been around evaluations: not just tenure evaluation, as was the original focus of the plan, but an examination of the evaluation processes of all district personnel on college campuses and in local districts. California Education Code §87663(f) states, “In those districts where faculty evaluation procedures are collectively bargained, the faculty’s exclusive representative shall consult with the academic senate prior to engaging in collective bargaining regarding those procedures.”  However, districts are made up of more than just faculty, and if DEI efforts are going to be successful, then all people employed at the colleges need to be engaged in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition to the work of the DEI Implementation Workgroup, work is also being undertaken in the Chancellor’s Office’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee to revise the EEO and Diversity Best Practices Handbook, which was originally published in 2016.  The expectation is that the new handbook, which should be available in spring 2022, will provide additional guidance to districts around ways to incorporate DEI and anti-racism efforts into hiring practices for all groups on campuses and in district offices.  The ASCCC has also created modules around recruitment, hiring, and retention that continue to be updated with contributions from many practitioner partners, including human resources officers, the Community College League of California, and chief instructional and student services officers.  Those modules are available in Canvas and can be found at https://ccconlineed.instructure.com/courses/5733/modules.

One of the general sessions that will be conducted at the Fall 2021 Plenary Session is an event created to honor faculty leaders.  While this session will include honoring past members of the ASCCC Executive Committee, it is also intended as a recognition of the work that all faculty have done over the past two years.  The ASCCC hopes that you will join us, whether in person or virtually, and celebrate all the hard work engaged in by faculty colleagues across the state.  We look forward to seeing you then.

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.