When I first started thinking about this article, I tried to determine what it should be titled. “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been” immediately came to mind. Perhaps “The Long and Winding Road” or “The Never-Ending Story” would make sense as well, but nothing really stuck. It is difficult for me to believe that this is the last regular Rostrum article I will author as a member of the Executive Committee. For the last twelve years, I have served as a member of the board, going from North representative to Area B representative, and then secretary, vice president, and now president. I hope the readers will forgive a bit of presidential privilege as I reflect on the ASCCC, my service to it, and what has happened over the past dozen years.
The year I was first elected to the board, 2010, was a watershed year for the ASCCC and for the California Community Colleges system. Concerns about accreditation and the actions of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges were an important issue, as the resolutions from both spring and fall demonstrate. The ASCCC bylaws were changed to allow for the creation of caucuses, and multiple resolutions were passed about matters that remain at the forefront for the ASCCC, including the use of noncredit, involvement of part time faculty in senates, and use of technology for ASCCC voting. The most significant resolutions were those around the creation of the associate degrees for transfer (ADTs) and their impact for the colleges through SB 1440 (Padilla, 2010). At the time, great concern existed about the ADTs and the effects they would have on students, degrees, and local colleges, and I remember listening to the debates about the legislation and the potential impacts. The legislature clearly heard these concerns, as the ASCCC was notified that the bill was being amended on the Thursday of the spring plenary session, which led to a rapidly crafted resolution through which the ASCCC withdrew its formal opposition to the bill. Clearly, conversations with the legislature were something the ASCCC had to engage in as the legislative attempts to govern how the colleges operate increased.
Those conversations continue today, as colleges see the ADTs’ successes but also their failures, especially in impacted disciplines and in transfer to colleges that are at or beyond capacity. The recent legislative efforts to address this situation, including AB 928 (Berman, 2021), may help with some of the issues, although the problem of capacity is something that requires efforts from the UC and CSU systems rather than just those of the community colleges. Given the numbers of students that have been able to use these degrees to transfer to the CSU, transfer is clearly not broken, as some groups have claimed, but work remains to be done to make transfer more efficient and more effective. Hopefully, the work of the AB 928 Intersegmental Implementation Committee, which will begin meeting this spring, will help with those matters. Nevertheless, difficult conversations with the legislature, no matter how occasionally frustrating, must continue.
Many of the resolutions passed in the 2009-2010 academic year continue to have an impact on the community college system, so much so that an appropriate title for this section of this article might be “Groundhog Day.” From concerns about the usurpation of academic freedom to changes to the mission of the California Community Colleges, the themes captured in the resolutions from 2010 mirror many of the themes of today, but with some notable changes. While concerns about the ACCJC dominated much of the conversation for multiple plenaries, the ASCCC and the ACCJC have successfully partnered for accreditation institutes over the last several years and continue to work closely together. Webinars on academic freedom are being held in conjunction with the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC). The ASCCC has created a part time committee, an online committee, and a legislative and advocacy committee in the years since 2010, all of which have focused on the academic and professional matters that are of importance in those areas. We have begun using electronic voting for both our resolutions processes and our elections, and we have significantly increased our federal and state advocacy around legislation, all resolutions that were passed in 2010. Our work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism has rightfully taken on an urgency in the past two years, and the system has made strong strides in the areas of EEO regulations, hiring guidelines, and evaluation processes that will bring about positive impacts for years to come.
While areas of concern around the mission of the community colleges still exist, we are continuing to work with faculty across the state to address these matters and with the Chancellor’s Office to mitigate some of the most problematic areas.
While many of the matters that the ASCCC has been dealing with have been ongoing, a few new ones have become prevalent in the past few years. The introduction of baccalaureate degrees is one of these. The ASCCC opposed the baccalaureate degrees initially, fearing mission creep, but once they became law, the ASCCC became involved in the creation of these degrees and took a position of support for the expansion of these degrees in fall 2019. Another more recent issue is the creation of an ethnic studies graduation requirement, which was created through regulation rather than legislation, marking an important change for the California Community Colleges system and one that has been long overdue.
The relationship between the Chancellor’s Office and the ASCCC is another area that has seen significant changes. Like so many college administrative structures, the Chancellor’s Office has seen personnel shifts, reorganizations, and a myriad of other changes, including the lack of in-person meetings for nearly two years. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to participate with Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales and Student Senate President Gerardo Chavez on the Student Centered Listening Tour visits, on which we were able to hear directly from students about their concerns. The ASCCC has been fortunate to maintain a strong relationship with the CO throughout these times, and I am grateful to the entire chancellor’s office team for their partnership, especially in these past two difficult years.
At a recent meeting, I mentioned that people have taken to calling me “The Pandemic President,” and that statement is not far from the truth. From my election in April 2020 to the present, the pandemic has shaped colleges, relationships with students and among faculty, and the work that the ASCCC does. This period has been a challenging and in many cases frustrating time to be in leadership, but rising to the challenge has been invigorating though, honestly, often exhausting. I have taken my cues from all of the local senate presidents and campus leaders who have been persevering through these times, and I am in awe of their strength, their courage, and their determination to do what is best for their campuses and their students even in the face of almost insurmountable challenges. I thank them for all they have done over the past two years; it will not soon be forgotten.
While on the message of thank yous, one in particular has to be made as publicly as possible. Being a local senate president is a tremendous amount of work, and being the ASCCC president is no different, but as local senate presidents know, that work is lightened when one has a strong team. I have had the great fortune to work with wonderful people over the past twelve years, including great officers, terrific boards, and a spectacular office team. During my presidency, I have also had the great fortune to work with the most amazing executive director that anyone could ask for. We simply could not have accomplished the work that we have done in the past two years without the professionalism, dedication, and kindness of Krystinne Mica. The ASCCC as an organization is incredibly fortunate to have her on our board as the ED, and I personally am more grateful for her than one can possibly express with words. So, simply, thank you Krystinne for enabling me to do this job to the best of my abilities and for keeping me on the right path while making sure that I retain my sanity.
I have reached the end of this article and am nearing the end of my term, and as I prepare to chair my last plenary and step off of the Executive Committee, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the President of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges for the past two years. Thank you to all of you who have made this trip one to remember.