Promises to Keep

May
2005
Kate Clark, President

Waning hours of officedom for academic senate leaders usually involve bittersweet moments: to tossing of redundant files and other housecleaning chores, the final bits of wisdom to savor or to share with successors, the enumeration-sometimes in formal reports-of what was accomplished and what could not be accomplished despite one's best efforts. Most poignant of all, we consider the promises we made.

Sometimes we utter promises on behalf of our constituent groups: promises as a local senate to review our administrative retreat rights or to formulate a task force to reconsider hiring priorities or the nature of our AA and AS degrees. For the past four years, the Academic Senate has also made explicit its promises. On the basis of the resolutions passed, and in light of circumstantial demands, the Academic Senate's Executive Committee has formulated and adopted its promise1 to you all: a statement of goals and plans of action.

This year we identified three arenas that encompassed our efforts. We promised that we would

increase and make more visible our service to local senates;

strengthen our leadership in academic and professional matters on your behalf; and

provide leadership and professional development opportunities to faculty and other constituent groups.

In the annual reports of Executive Committee members to be adopted in August and then posted on our website, you will see how each committee individually contributed to these broad goals and the various objectives under each.

Immediately, however, you might recall some of these elements I will discuss in my President's annual report: our ASCCC membership flyer with its detachable card; the ever-improving website that links all faculty to our activities and publications; my visits to 46 of your campuses-all to make more evident our service to and our desire to serve you.

As an expression of your academic and professional interests, the Academic Senate this year achieved a long-sought objective-a state-level curriculum advisory committee to the system's Vice-Chancellor of Educational Services. We also insisted upon our significant role in system-level budgeting (the new funding formula) and planning (the System's Strategic Plan initiative), in examination of long-held goals (the 75:25 Task Force), and in two forthcoming working groups that will examine non-credit standards and funding.

Finally, as an article in this Rostrum reminds readers, we continue to offer challenging plenary sessions and institutes (curriculum, leadership, vocational leadership); we are exploring creating a teaching institute to further your professional development, even when the Legislature or our administrations are unwilling to fund such necessary ventures.

On a personal note: I've promised that on behalf of our organization, we'd look again at the 50% law. I've worked at it, chipping away for the two years of my tenure.it's a problem I have been tackling with a small group, but it's not a problem solved. Yet. I have until July 1, and I intend to use that time, just as all academic senate leaders must continue to lend our energies to the projects that have our personal commitments, regardless of the calendar.

Sometimes we've made promises to our colleagues: to work more creatively to diversify our faculty ranks, to protect their programs, to persuade more faculty in career and technical education fields that their participation in college and district governance and on regional and state advisory boards is critical to the health of their programs. We promise to serve in the field and to return to campus laden with information that will render our college more vital and vibrant. Sometimes we become the shunned and harried prophets in our own land, but we continue to serve as harbingers.

The ASCCC's promises to our colleagues-the promises the delegates exact from us each year, endure-some are on-going, some are fulfilled, some require the persistence of many. Each session, you are provided an update of the actions we've undertaken to fulfill the obligations of our resolutions. It's among the mechanisms you have to hold us accountable-I hope you'll read them and the annual reports to ensure that we're doing what you have called upon us to do.

Sometimes we also make promises to students: that as a senate we'll provide them with the credit coursework and the mentorship their student governments so often need, and that we will offer them the protection our tenure affords them-to buffer them from the undue influence of administrators or staff. As long as we have students who believe the federal government should censor newspapers or that tenure is unnecessary, we have work remaining. Further, we've promised our students that we'd do everything within our power to assist their plans to transfer to programs of high quality.

The ASCCC has encouraged statewide student leadership, welcomes the student voice at our Executive Committee meetings, offered seminars in participatory governance for their leadership credential, and will pursue in the coming months a comprehensive response to the CalSACC/Student Senate schism that has emerged in the past few weeks.

Some of our promises to those who mean most are hardest for us to keep-and not for lack of trying on our part. Our efforts to address the CSU departure from CAN, for example, are exerted because we fear that students across the state will be further confused and perhaps ill-served by the new CSU LDTP (Lower Division Transfer Pattern) plan; our involvement in the community college response to articulation uncertainties and partly motivated by our students' frustration and because our community colleges are being held responsible for the enrollment management diciscions of baccalaureate-degree granting institutions. In 2003, California community colleges prepared approximately 120,000 students for transfer; only 70,000 were accepted by UC and CSU, with perhaps another 20,000 enrolling in private or public out of state institutions. Translation? Tens of thousands of students who dutifully prepared, believed they were transfer ready, had every intention of transferring. were denied that option. That was a promise we made in good faith that suddenly became beyond our ability to fulfill, and we're saddened. But we are neither silent nor passive.

Our Executive Committee has also worked with Chancellor Drummond and his administrators to consider promises they make on behalf of students. Their Memorandum of Understanding reached with National University seeks to ease the transfer issue I have just discussed. But other MOUs now being crafted may address a political moment but not offer the most useful academic and career opportunities for our students. While we continue to work with the System Office, each local senate must be intimately involved when its own college administrators attempt to craft private agreements with transfer institutions that have direct bearing on our resources, our programs, and our reputation.

On a personal note: I have stated publicly and personally-not as an Academic Senate officer but as an individual-that I would continue to advocate for on-going funding that once came from CAN to support local transfer and articulation training and development. And I will continue to lend my energies and efforts to "fix" this mess in a way that best serves our students. I also indicated that someday I'd write an article about these MOUs and private agreements-seeking out noble examples that truly serve students and increase their affordable options, and raising questions (as a recent resolution does) about the efficacy of some plans. That's a promise I won't keep here-it's an intention I'll pass on to my successors, something on the Presidential To-Do List that is assigned to the office, not the individual.

And sometimes we've made promises to ourselves: promises to become more effective peer evaluators as another article in this Rostrum discusses. We may also have promised that each year we would identify someone we'd be proud to serve with, to by led by, to work under. We would exercise patience, or perhaps we would merely exercise. One local senate president, apparently somewhat embittered by his senate experience, commented that the only thing one has to gain by being local senate president is 15 pounds. I truly hope he didn't mean it. I concede readily that the fifteen pounds can be a burden. But the work to take off that weight after our year(s) of service has already been rewarded by the small victories we experience, the new respect we have for faculty we'd not have encountered otherwise, and even the new wisdom to shy away from faculty whose primary function in life seems to be to make others miserable. We have gained a larger picture that makes it impossible for us to be PCP (parking lot classroom-parking lot) faculty. Today we know better. I know better.

On a personal note: I promised myself I would help to build the leadership skills of my Executive Committee members when they showed interest in doing a job well or seemed they could use a hand or personal encouragement. It's an important promise to them and to the organization; but they can better measure how I have or have not fulfilled that promise. And now? I promise to lose 15 pounds-exercise more and eat regularly and be grateful everyday for the experiences I have had within the ASCCC and the resultant opportunity to work with all of you. But (I apologize to Mr. Frost for invoking him once more and to the reader who suspected all along that I would), I still have promises to keep and some miles to go before I sleep.

1 The ASCCC 2004-05 Strategic Plan can be found at http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/ExecCom/Strat.htm

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.