Principles and Pragmatism Once More: Three Educational Policy Breakouts

May
2005
Ian Walton, Vice President

Three 2005 Spring Plenary Session breakouts illustrated once again that the successful development and implementation of sound educational policy involves both principles and pragmatism.

TEXTBOOK ISSUES

This breakout centered on the paper Textbook Issues: Economic Pressures and Academic Values, which was adopted by the delegates during the Saturday voting session. The paper was inspired both by the recent, intense public debate about the rising cost of college textbooks and by faculty concerns about the textbook adoption process. Educational and ethical issues interact in a complex manner and significantly affect the cost to students for textbooks and other course materials. This cost, along with rapidly increasing fees, has become a major barrier to access for the very students that the community colleges most seek to help.

Educational Policies Committee member Karolyn Hanna summarized the content of the paper and highlighted ways that individual faculty members could help to reduce the cost of textbooks while still protecting their academic freedom to select the educational material most appropriate for their class. Alisa Messer and Paul Setziol then guided participants in a lively, interactive role-playing session to explore how such conversations might unfold at a local campus.

Like many Academic Senate papers, Textbook Issues lays out the fundamental principles that frame the issue, but the day-to-day implementation of changes and solutions has to happen at the local campus level. In this case not just local senates must participate, but all faculty members who make textbook adoption decisions must re-evaluate their choices in a larger context. Please help us to share these ideas.

The paper will be available soon on the Academic Senate website at http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us, and in paper form at your local academic senate office on campus.

THE ASSOCIATE DEGREE

This breakout continued a discussion that began at Fall Session concerning the meaning of the associate degree in the California Community College System and the requirements and regulations that control them. The discussion was initially prompted by external pressure such as the desire of the California State University Chancellor that we create a "one size fits all" transfer degree and also by internal pressures to increase degree and certificate production in response to Partnership for Excellence and other accountability measures.

Participants were presented with a range of possible options that varied from "do nothing" to significant changes that would alter the authority of local academic senates to set degree requirements. Presenters Angela Caballero de Cordero, Paul Setziol and Zwi Reznik joined participants to make eloquent, impassioned arguments for a variety of actions. Once again these debates contained elements of principle and pragmatism such as:

Principle: The associate degree is our degree. CSU should not impose requirements for a transfer degree any more than we would tell them what to put in their Bachelor's degree.

Pragmatism: But if the local requirement that determines whether a student receives an associate degree or not is perhaps a single course such as lifelong learning or physical education, are we not better to create a degree option that validates the two years of college level work that the student did in our institution?

Principle: It's wrong to create a separate vocational associate degree because it needlessly tracks students and could be viewed as a "second-class" degree. Vocational students deserve the same general education experience as all other students.

Pragmatism: A degree is valuable to students in terms of employment opportunities and salary. It should be possible to create a degree that combines appropriate general education and a vocational focus.

Questions considered by the participants included:

1) Do you feel the current lack of uniformity in associate degrees is acceptable for California community colleges and needs no changes?

2) Do you feel that it would be beneficial to introduce minor changes to Education Code/Title 5 to make associate degrees more uniform statewide (e.g., uniform use of AA and AS with names of particular majors)?

Note: Making this mandatory would somewhat reduce local senate autonomy regarding naming and offering associate degrees.

3) Do you feel that major changes should be introduced in Education Code/Title 5 to make associate degrees more uniform (e.g., statewide coordination of actual degree requirements)? Note: Making this mandatory would considerably reduce local senate autonomy regarding degree requirements.

4) Do you believe that current Education Code/Title 5 language prohibits the use of a transfer degree (because of the lack of a major) and that colleges currently offering this degree should be required to stop?

5) Do you feel that Education Code/Title 5 changes should be introduced to formalize a transfer associate degree (with a distinct name) that local colleges may offer?

Note: This change would require conversation with UC and CSU faculty to be effective for students. Further, this could be an available option, adopted (or not) by local Boards (similar to adoption of plus/minus grading).

6) Do you feel that Education Code/Title 5 changes should be introduced to permit local colleges the option of offering a "vocational" associate degree (with a new name such as AVE or the existing AAS name, and with potentially different general education requirements)?

Note: This would be available as an option to be adopted (or not) by local Boards.

Participant responses showed considerable support for the minor changes but a division of opinion on major changes surrounding the transfer and vocational degrees. It is anticipated that Educational Policies Committee will continue work on a position paper to lay out a variety of options for the body to consider at a future plenary session.

75:25 TASK FORCE

The three faculty members of the Chancellor's 75:25 Task Force, Cathy Crane McCoy (President of CCA), Rich Hansen (President of FACCC) and Ian Walton presented a brief history of the 75:25 Title 5 Regulations and some of the district survey data collected by the Task Force this spring. This led to a discussion that ranged from strong faculty support for the principle that 75% of credit instruction should be taught by full-time faculty and that progress toward that goal is long overdue, to perhaps pragmatic echoes of the statewide CEO positions. How can we be expected to make progress without targeted funding? In this regard it is important to note that the Board of Governors goal of 75% predates AB 1725 and its promises of additional funding.

Survey data showed that there is enormous variability in district behavior over the past 17 years since AB 1725 inspired the current regulations. There are extremely few examples where a district failed to meet the mandatory compliance mechanism fondly known as the Faculty Obligation Number. But despite that high measure of compliance, some districts have maintained actual full-time to part-time ratios close to 75%; others have seldom exceeded 50%; and others look like a living example of chaos theory.

It was reported at the breakout session that several local academic senates experienced difficulty responding to the survey because they never received it, or they had only a few days to respond to their administration's comments. It is fair to remark that the timeline imposed by the Board of Governors is very tight. Local senates were encouraged to email additional responses directly to Cathy, Rich or Ian.

Since session, the Task Force has continued to work on their report to the Chancellor. It remains to be seen whether they can agree on a package of recommendations that will include both progress towards the system goal of 75% and increased flexibility for the Chancellor.

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.