Reading the Tea Leaves - Detecting Patterns in the Random (or not so.)

December
2006
Michelle Pilati, Executive Committee

I was going to begin with a dull title-"Revisiting Plenary", but then I realized I had so much more that I wanted to say - that there was a need to interpret the events of Plenary. We can't mention Plenary without noting some of the highlights, such as learning that the Chancellor has been hearing voices, the wonderful accommodations (once you'd figured out where the coffee maker was hidden), the diverse and informative breakouts, seeing our colleagues from across the state, and the almost book-end need for serpentine counts on Saturday, as we began with a 58-51 challenge of a ruling that was defeated and ended with one to merely check that we still had quorum. Towards the end, the visual daggers that anyone approaching the microphone got if they went to speak in favor of that to which there was no opposition could be both seen and felt.

The resolutions we considered were varied, but then there were an assortment that dealt with changes in Title 5. These were really of two varieties, "urgent" and "do we want to seek a change". (These are my words, my interpretation-please indulge me.) The urgent ones were those that dealt with areas in Title 5 that the System Office is looking to change. Some need changes due to legislation and others need changes due to mass confusion. How we dealt with these is where I will direct my tea leaf reading in a moment. The other category involved, primarily, if and how we want to clarify the meaning of our degrees-should there be one degree or should there be statewide definitions of the AA and AS?

The pattern that emerged was one of an interest in continuing to improve the quality and the meaning of our degrees. The body voted in favor of requiring a C in all courses "required in the area of emphasis/major for an associate degree and System Office approved certificates" (14.01 F06). We opposed the so-called "general education" compilation degrees, affirming the belief that an associate degree without an area of emphasis (i.e., a "major") devalues the concept of our degrees (13.08). We also took a position on course repetition (discussed below). These subjects are all found in areas of Title 5 that are currently under revision and Academic Senate needed a position. As a consequence, breakouts were conducted on the topics and, on Saturday, we voted.

Other noteworthy resolutions asserted the need to bring "hybrid" courses through your local distance education approval process (11.02), established our support for local determination of course repetition policies given some basic premises defined in the 2nd "whereas" (9.11), and encouraged the development of local processes to ensure the integrity of courses taught in reduced timeframes (9.01). In addition, we voted to recommend eliminating the word "Transfer" in degree titles as it may mislead students (9.02).

I'm the ultimate geek-I love Plenary; I love being in a room with people who care about our students and colleges, and I love seeing what I saw on Saturday. We are continuing to ensure that our degrees have meaning and that faculty assert their primacy in curricular matters.

As we all know, curriculum really is the most important behind-the-scenes responsibility that we have-and if we aren't watching over things, who will do it?

As our administrators seek to increase those FTES, we have to be vigilant to ensure that our curriculum is not being trampled upon in the process.

So, what I see in the tea leaves is that the founding principles of the Academic Senate are alive and well-and motivating all of us locally to step up and "do the right thing". We stand for integrity and for ensuring student success. At the same time, the need for the Academic Senate to evolve and do things better was also evident. We need to clarify the process for recommending changes to Title 5 regulations-for ensuring that local senates have ample time to consider any areas that are being revised. Historically we did not have a role in such things-they were brought before Consultation Council before we even knew what was happening. In this new, more collaborative era, we need a mechanism to ensure that we can take positions in a timely manner. While the resolution asking for this was deemed "non-urgent" on procedural grounds, its significance was not lost and SBS (the first s is for serpentine..) should be thanked for making an important point.

I do hope all this rambling made some sense-I think it takes several weeks to fully debrief from session. Right now my head is full of the resolutions that were passed and failed, the conversations that transpired over a very-full three days, the words of our keynote speakers, and images of chocolate fountains cascading over bits of fruit. Now we need a radical solution to the age-old problem of the calorie-laden sedentary nature of our Plenary sessions. There's one for Mr. Chair to consider.

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.