July's budget uncertainties have lingered into our California fall, translating into general hesitancy and an Indian summermalaise as we (and the nation, it seems) awaited the results of the recall: some budgetary demands would be postponed until subsequent years, Master Plan bills would hibernate until their second year began in January, and our campuses lit bonfires that consumed discarded fiscal advice, full schedules of classes, and commitments to parttime faculty. Yet, our circumstances also lit fires across our system: we drafted strategies to capture our fair-share of the Prop 98 split, to make clear our students' plight, and to unify faculty, staff, administrators, and local communities in support of our community colleges. Thus, though politics and funding levels were moribund, faculty energies since spring have been running at heart-stopping speed: we have been working to preserve our principles.
Access and Quality of Education
Even early in the summer, the threat of higher fees impelled many new and continuing students to seek out our offerings over the summer months before the bargain rates disappeared; regrettably, many colleges had curtailed their summer school class schedules or abandoned summer offerings altogether. Faculty faced, even then, the tension between our desire to serve all comers and our need to retain instructional quality by limiting class size; we were also caught in the balancing act between offering most-needed courses versus the broad range of courses-often less demanded-that are required of transfer students or workers seeking to upgrade skills.
We do not yet full know the consequences of increased student fees, despite our reminders of historical declines in access to underrepresented groups when raised fees and reduced general revenues combined in the early `80s and again in the by Kate Clark, President early `90's.1 Even prior to the raising of student fees, FTES numbers declined in Spring 2003, the first time in 15 fall-spring terms that we have experienced a decline. The Academic Senate hopes to work with the Chancellor's Office this year to identify the student populations most impacted and to hypothesize reasons for the declines of spring-and perhaps this fall. Our principled commitment to access, as I discuss elsewhere in this publication, is under scrutiny; our commitment to quality may be under siege as well.
Employment, Transfer Issues, and Curriculum
Assaults on instructional quality are also felt on the outer bastions of our institutions' programs, especially those lobbed by well-intentioned legislators or commissioners whose understanding of curriculum and transfer is somewhat incomplete. While I don't want to belabor the fortress metaphor, it is true that occupational programs (e.g., nursing and administration of justice), leaders of innovative efforts (e.g., teacher-reading projects leading students to transfer into UC/CSU credentialing programs), and providers of student services efforts (e.g., UC's Dual Admission Program) are feeling somewhat besieged. As our local control over our own curriculum and student support becomes increasingly regulated by legislation or by institutional decisions on the UC and CSU campuses, we feel less in control of our own destiny and less able to assist our students in pursuing their own.
Nonetheless, our ICAS (Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senate) partners assure us that faculty primacy over our curriculum is essential if UC and CSU faculty are to have faith in the quality of our students' preparation; and business leaders insist that, in tandem with ensuring job-specific skills, we offer a general education that prepares potential employees for the critical reading, writing and thinking necessary for the workplace. Clearly, providing all for everyone is an increasingly challenging task.
Full-time Faculty Hiring Obligations
Last year the plenary body repeatedly expressed its views about our need to hold firm in the face of efforts to erode full-time faculty hiring for this current year. As an Executive Committee member, I urged flexibility to provide some room for compromise during discussions with other system leadership, believing that half a loaf was preferable to none. Nonetheless, the resolution process shaped our public statements in Consultation and before the Board of Governors. Yet despite the adamant voices from the floor, local senates from college after college conceded their support to their districts' request for a temporary waiver for full-time hires. While your Academic Senate representatives demurred to these local perspectives, the seeming inconsistency between the plenary's view and the local decisions raised questions about whether we truly represented the statewide faculty view. At the Chancellor's Leadership Conference, October 2 in Sacramento, many district representatives excoriated the system's state leadership for compelling districts to hire new faculty and to retain their 50% obligation in the face of declining revenues. These debates will not subside during this year, and faculty-fully committed to the 75/25 mandate and to ensuring equitable working conditions for part-time faculty colleagues-will have to measure the greater, long-term principles against short-term, local measures.
A Principled Perspective
As fiscal constraints, nervous electorates, and ambitious politicians seek to nibble away at our dearly held principles, we cannot be afraid to reexamine where we have been, where we hope to go, and what alternative routes might get us there. That, indeed, becomes our challenge this year: it is not inconsistent of us to rail against accreditation standards that require excessive resources without demonstrable benefit to student achievement, and at the same time, work collectively to ensure that faculty retain control of any research agendas and faculty determine how research results might best be employed to improve the education for all students. It is not inconsistent of faculty to examine the consequences of providing so much to so many (after all, Tidal Wave II is splashing around out there somewhere). And it is not inconsistent of faculty to work with legislators now to generate affirming, lasting, hallmark legislation of the sort that ensconced the 1960 Master Plan and that was modeled in AB 1725.
Ultimately, our task as faculty is to ask, "When does compromise begin to compromise-when does the ability to reshape our direction without abandoning principles begin to erase those principles themselves? When does the greater good offset the immediate gains? When does the spirit of giving result in a diminution of the gift?" It is the asking of these questions-and the seeking of responses-that must, and will, engage us this year and result in a principled and defensible perspective.
1 For a more full discussion of this historical overview, see the document prepared as background material for the September Board of Governors' Study Session on Access: California's Investment in Public Education: A Look at the Past Three Decades, Tom Nussbaum, September 2003, available at http://www.cccco.edu
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