Reassignment

March
2009
Wheeler North, Chair, Relations with Local Senates Committee

Resolutions 1.03 F05 and 1.02 F07 (available on the Academic Senate website at http://www.asccc.org/resources/resolutions) seek to examine and research reassigned time issues. In the former resolution the Senate was asked to survey the field, which has been done annually for several years, and report; in the latter it was asked to do further research and expand upon this; and both resolutions emphasized the need to determine best practices. The purpose of this article is to start the conversation by introducing these issues based upon some initial survey data.

Reassigned Time: What is it, who gets it, when and how do they get it, and how much do they get?

I'll partly answer the first and the last together. Full-time faculty are contracted to teach based upon formulas of teaching or non-teaching time that represent a "full" load. All or part of this can be reassigned, which is reassigned or "release" time. It appears that most, if not all, districts provide for faculty to work in capacities beyond 100% where some or all of their load may be either teaching or non-teaching duties. Many districts reference this in terms of percentage, but some use other nomenclature such as hours of Full Time Equivalent-Faculty (FTEF).

The Academic Senate regularly conducts a profile survey of local senates seeking answers to questions about senate composition, including some inquiries about reassigned time. This data exists in several sets over several sampling periods. It is also important to point out that these datasets are fairly small. The earlier dataset includes 10-40 respondents over several annual sampling periods, and the latest sample, from September 2008, includes 56 respondents. So the percentage values likely do not reflect the whole (all local senates in the state) with detailed accuracy, but these datasets do provide a place from which we can begin a discussion and build a case for more research.

In looking at the data it is fair to say that community colleges are very divergent in how they implement non-classroom and non-teaching load allocation given their extreme institutional diversity across the state, but the data reflects that most colleges support their local senates with some reassigned time; 92-96% of respondents affirmed this.

The "who" question, while also showing our diversity, was partly answered by these datasets. Reassigned time at colleges variously includes the senate president, vice president, curriculum committee chair, other senate officers, SLO coordinator, staff development coordinator, professional development coordinator, and the planning and budget committee chair. Obviously this short list misses a few positions. High on the missing list is support for faculty accreditation (co)chairs. Also missing are positions such as honors coordinator, affirmative action officer, academic affairs (co)chair, and a host of other specialized, often temporary reassignments such as grant coordinators.

Then there are some jobs which, while called reassigned time, are better described as regular non-teaching or non-classroom loads such as department chairs, work experience coordinators, campus newspaper coordinator (or other director type role such as running a radio station, physical education or sports events, or maintaining certification and records-Federal Aviation Administration, administration of justice, nursing, etc). This also gets confusing in areas such as student services where a non-classroom load may be spread across counseling, DSP&S, and EOPS duties in partial loads. Traditionally these are not considered to be reassignments because of the requirements for qualifications in these specialized areas. But these tasks may be partial loads in smaller colleges and thus perceived as reassignments.

Now for the challenging questions-when? How is reassigned time determined and how much is allocated for these reassignments? In responding to the latter anecdotally, most who have taken on these roles would agree that the amount of time reassigned does not cover the actual time we spend doing those tasks. Are there a few who take advantage of this? Probably, but it is likely a small number, and the most effective way to resolve these situations is to have a formal process for determining who gets the reassignment and how they are evaluated.

In many cases these reassignments are determined by position and are often contractually specified or endorsed by policy. A local senate may receive reassigned time contractually (52% of respondents). Often Board policy will define specific roles/reassignments. Department chair reassignments are almost always defined contractually, whereas Board policy may define requirements for affirmative action officers or equal employment opportunity representatives who would be temporarily reassigned for complaint investigation or employee hiring duties. Local senate bylaws might define reassignment expectations either in hard numbers or by defining duties for each position.

Then there are a host of reassignments where the person selected is chosen because of an election, expertise, or seemingly by magical ascension into the role.

Because of the extremely complex interaction of various ways these positions are filled; how long assignments last; the qualifications needed for different reassigned positions; various constraints like budgets, policies, contracts and staff availability; the never ending tidal wave of time critical "fires"; and the brute human factor of being an intensely energetic society of colleagues, there is no way to develop a single formula that will fit all cases for allocating or filling reassigned time. How do you juxtapose a long-standing philosophy that senates appoint faculty against the time honored tradition of hiring by committee when policy and contract aren't clear, the job needs to be filled yesterday, and it is not clear if this is a hiring or an appointment?

In the interests of fairness and equity, policies and procedures need to be worked out where they can. But also in the interests of functionality, flexibility needs to be tolerated. Sometimes we just don't know, or didn't see that something was coming, or had no appropriate applicants and still need to forge ahead or "lose everything." But one way to accommodate both interests, even when they do contradict, is to ensure there exists an effective evaluation process that is appropriate to the reassigned time being allocated. In so achieving this, when mistakes happen-when a person is mismatched to a job or role, or is in need of guidance or empowerment, or the role itself is badly designed-an effective evaluation process will remediate the situation.

As well (to directly address the white elephant in the room) some faculty may feel that some reassignments are based upon favoritism. Effective evaluation of all personnel, as well as effective institutional self studies called for by our accreditation standards, should reflect awareness of and correction for these behaviors in a positive manner. Let's face it, we're all human. When tasked with getting something done we are likely to go to those we know will get it done, particularly if it is of a critical nature. "Process patience" is a tough thing to master for many, but so too is tolerance. This is where a second good rule of thumb is "don't go it alone." Anytime someone is being designated for reassignment through an appointment process, the decision-making should be inclusive. Get other perspectives, solicit input, make sure all who should be interested are aware of the opportunity and be inclusive of diverse reasoning for why a particular person should be appointed.

To sum up this initial dialog, the topic of reassigned time is very complex. It happens uniquely in every institution and often in each instance of implementation. It could be argued that how we go about making these decisions in part defines, or at least reflects, the culture and spirit of our institutions. The Academic Senate's Educational Policies and Relations with Local Senates committees are tasked with these activities and will be doing further research to begin discussions of best practices commonly used.

The results of the Local Senate's composition surveys can be found at the following link: http://www.asccc.org/surveys/Surveys.htm

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