A Principled Perspective: Something to Act Upon Or, Making a List and Checking it Twice


I confess: when it's time for me to grade that daunting stack of essays, or more recently, to compose a Rostrum article or a topical Update for the field, I'm very likely to have a sudden urge to rearrange my closets or refinish doors to the deck or even luxuriate in a lavender-scented tub. I rationalize, telling myself that I'm musing, or planning, or composing in my head. In truth, I'm hoping that something better will intervene, something more urgent or more definitive or more brilliant. Alas, not so: it never happens, and I am left with the honest job I still have before me.

Our experiences at this Fall's plenary session continued to remind me and other participants that now is the time to banish procrastination, to act. This Rostrum, in fact, is filled with pragmatic suggestions to local senates on how to throw off the malaise that has beset us this year and to tackle that list of chores before us. Perhaps you will approach it with the "moral outrage" that Ian Walton suggests, or the collaborative spirit Peter Haslund's plan depends upon, or with the dogged determination necessary to follow Leon Marzillier's advice. Perhaps you will be inspired by an overarching vision such as Greg Gilbert describes or by a nagging curiosity motivating Shaaron Vogel's warnings. Perhaps you see a need to (re)assert faculty roles in establishing equivalency (as Mark Snowhite and Jane Patton demonstrate), in stimulating ongoing faculty development (as Bev Shue and the Michelle Pilati suggest), in fostering student success (as Dan Crump argues). But act, we must.

And so, I have made my "To Do" list-amidst cleaning my closets and refinishing the doors. For example, I believe academic senates must be as explicit about the direction we will pursue, as the direction for the system we wish to preserve. Therefore item #1:

Present to the Academic Senate Executive Committee a draft of a strategic plan to give shape, direction and urgency to the activities prescribed by resolutions; share the adopted version with the field. (January 2004)

This action emerges belatedly in my presidency, I am the first to admit. At our plenary session, I suggested those pretexts that ostensibly prevented earlier action-a tardy budget, the final budget itself, the recall, the inauguration. But we agreed those were mere pretexts. Even now, failing to articulate a vision and to persuade other Executive Committee members to share and to illustrate that vision would be a greater defect in my leadership; failing to encourage and foster their creative energies would be a deprivation to the field.

Further, because the Academic Senate has long believed that unified faculty voices are more effective and more persuasive, particularly in times of crisis, I have added another item to my list:

Solidify relationships between the Academic Senate and each of its CoFO partners. (Beginning in December 2003)

A plan and support to enact its elements are the blueprints and the contractors to build and reinforce the Academic Senate for California Community College.

That is the beginning of my list; I invite you to use this holiday period to generate one for yourselves -all based on the values we cherish and the principles the Academic Senate has proclaimed through its speakers and presenters, in its papers and resolutions over the years. What might you place on your list? This Rostrum, as you will discover, suggests a number of significant actions you may wish to add to your task list. At the 2003 Leadership Conference, I suggested a range of activities that, given present statute and regulation as well as professional desire, you are obliged to fulfill. For the approximately 56,625 faculty in the California Community College system who were unable to attend this event, let me provide a brief summary and augment it with several recently expressed concerns.

Hiring of new faculty:
Do you understand your district's Full-time Faculty Hiring Obligation Number? Are you engaged in dialogue with your administration about potential hires? Have you identified positions deemed critical or part-time faculty positions to be (re)filled? Even if you will not be hiring, have you reviewed your hiring policy and practices lately, particularly to see how they incorporate recommendations of the new equity plan? What sort of orientation program do you have-or could you have-for newly hired faculty? What is the role of faculty in administrative hiring and evaluation? When did you last review your district's administrative retreat policy? Do your recruitment statements reflect minimum qualifications as published in the most recent 2003 document?

Maintaining Instructional Integrity
Responsibility for Standard Regarding Student preparation and Success, Degree and Certificate Requirements:

Has your local senate -including faculty from multiple disciplines and counseling-sponsored a full and vigorous discussion of requests to raise the levels of math and English required for graduation with an AA or AS? Are your faculty participating in the IMPAC (www.cal-impac.org) discussions for their disciplines or maintaining vigilance on how these discussions will affect their curricula? Similarly, are your faculty aware of the CSU discussions regarding teacher preparation and how new frameworks and regional discussions for transfer will impact their course content? Do your FSAs reflect emergent or current needs? Have you begun to discuss local suggestions to modify the Disciplines List (to be subjected again to statewide review beginning in 2004).

Curriculum Committees: Have you reviewed the composition and procedures of your curriculum committee? Do those procedures enable your faculty to participate in oft-hasty decisions or the need to respond to "urgent" circumstances?

Program Development: Not uncommonly, some interpret this mandate as applying only to the creation of new programs or expansion of existing ones. However, program development must also entail the consolidation, suspension, or elimination (discontinuance) of programs.

On the first of these charges to faculty, what programs are you currently planning, using these periods of stasis to conduct all advance planning? What new courses are you readying for brighter days? How are you working with local employers, K-12 segments, and your own inventive faculty to create new programs and curricula to address local needs? How might programs of local worth be sustained and improved, despite arguments that budgetary expediency militate against retention?

As to the second charge, have you examined and revised as necessary your program discontinuance policy and its procedures to ensure students and the larger community are alerted and involved in those decisions? Further, do faculty have a significant role in determining which course sections will be dropped as class offerings are curtailed in each term? Equally important, do faculty have appropriate roles in determining which courses or programs should be offered again-and in which order-when times seem not so dire?

Program Review: Is your current program review process appropriate and functioning in a timely fashion? Does it provide information that might be used for accreditation purposes? Is it unnecessarily duplicative of reviews or evaluation done for other purposes (e.g., federal reporting, grant evaluation)? Has program review been decoupled from procedures for program discontinuance?

Faculty Roles in College and District Governance Structures and Processes for Planning and Budgeting Processes
The Academic Senate is in the process of submitting for approval revisions to its constitution and by-laws. Among the most challenging tasks senates face (and ironically, among the most divisive and time-consuming tasks), these periodic revisions are essential to clarify our responsibilities and designate those individuals or groups charged with their implementation. When were your constitution and by-laws last reviewed? Do they reflect or respond to the local campus culture? Is this a task for which you have sufficient energy to undertake at this time?

On a less arduous plane, have your processes for planning and budgeting been reviewed? Do you have uniform, predictable meeting times of task forces, committees, based on faculty availability, not administrative preferences? Do you have participation of all appropriate groups in various governance activities? Have you reviewed the statute on student participation and appropriately included them in the decision-making processes, particularly in areas of overlap with our 10+1 areas of delegated authority?

Do you have an effective communication mechanism to share ideas with all faculty? Do you have orientation strategies or handbooks for all standing committees so that new members, especially non-senate members, understand their role and obligations? Does your website reflect the most current submissions of minutes, agendas, announcements, or is it outdated?

Do you have a formalized process with your union? Does your senate or its designees meet regularly or at predictable junctures with representatives of your bargaining unit? Do you have a published strategy for bringing matters of concern to one another? Are you currently working with your bargaining unit, for example, to improve faculty evaluation and peer review processes-while building a firewall between accreditation dictates and individual faculty? (See F03 Resolution)

The Academic Senate is attempting to do a better job this year of explaining what seems to others as an ambivalence regarding the newly adopted ACCJC accreditation standards. Of the many resolutions the plenary body has passed on accreditation, some contradict others. Yet all urge us to express our outrage at the flimsy justifications for those standards and the process by which they were adopted, to protect the integrity of our curricular programs and student support services, to protect faculty and students from undue intrusion. In the December Rostrum article and in his presentations, our liaison to ACCJC has reminded us that despite our principled objections and our concerted efforts, the standards were adopted and now we are left to make them our own and to reflect our values while engaging in the accreditation process over which we have faculty are still to have primacy.

So when did you last review your processes for accreditation? For appointing faculty representatives? Do faculty or outside researchers determine what shall be measured and how? What role is promised you? Is your curriculum revision driven solely by the need to append "measurable student learning outcomes"? What qualitative measurements are you insisting upon to examine those elements most of us believe constitutes education as we would define it? Are vocational faculty (long time users of "student learning outcomes") sharing their practices with non-vocational faculty? And, as an extension, are vocational faculty attending to the questions of regarding use of qualitative data?

How are your faculty sharing with other faculty around the state your findings and observations about the accreditation process? Are you attending the Academic Senate's plenary sessions on this topic? Are faculty offered the opportunity to observe the "training sessions" offered by those in the emergent accreditation cottage industry? Administrators appear in droves; are your faculty also attending?

Faculty Professional Development
The lack of state funding for these much-needed efforts expresses legislators' misunderstanding and unwarranted hostility. At the state level, the Academic Senate will attempt to address those barriers in a more concentrated effort this year. However at the local level-and at a very personal level-we continue to need experiences that renew our commitment, that refresh our intellectual engagement, that restore our souls. Many of us are contractually obligated to engage in such activities, though there is no funding for conference attendance or for bringing speakers or presentations to our campuses. At the same time, what we choose to do voluntarily is no longer held to the stringent though perhaps appropriately narrowed precepts of what constitutes appropriate activities. Without funding, we are now freed to do other activities less apt to fall neatly into those categories of yore. We can have fun and still experience renewal, refreshed, and restored.

And what are you doing to continue such professional development? Don't be surprised if, after the holidays and intersessions, we ask you to report on your faculty's activities, to share with others your strategies for achieving the aims of this delegated authority.

That, then, should provide you with ideas to compile your inventory, reminding you of the principles upon which you and your senates may initiate action. Check your list, feel free to share it with me, and join us in San Francisco at the Spring 2004 Plenary Session "Acting on Principle" when our theme will embody this new collective energy and enthusiasm for the work we share.

Wishing you respite and relaxation, and a very long list!