Sav(our)ing the World: A Triptych of Faculty Service

September
2005
Greg Gilbert, ASCCC Secretary

I awake each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan my day. - E.B. White

Let me begin with the obvious: teaching is a time-consuming profession. Full-time faculty devote, on average, 50+ hours per week to course preparation, instruction, assessment, office hours, and professional service. And parttvime faculty donate all of their institutional work, everything except the hours spent in the classroom. Ours is a profession of service and each morning, we awaken to a world that calls us to "savour" and to "save." The following three examples will illustrate.

Compton College: A Renaissance in the Making

I recently spent a flex day at Compton College, and what a wonderful and informative experience that was. Most importantly, the world should know that Compton's accreditation crises originated well beyond the pay grade of their local faculty. Let me phrase this in another way, and in bold print: compton's academic senate and faculty are precisely what is right with compton!

Here's what I found at Compton. I spent the day with faculty and staff who exhibited the kind of enthusiasm that you would expect to find at a start-up college. At last, they know that they are being listened to, that their needs for proper funding, for professional development, and for resources are finally being addressed. At last, they are moving upward on the 50 % law, their local senate is finally having its funding requests for professional development activities honored, and their former administrators are just that, "former." even though the faculty have had to work in relative isolation and without the proper resources, they have remained active at their curriculum committee, in establishing course outcomes, and they are out meeting with their community at local churches and organizations and telling anyone who will listen that quality education is alive and well at their college. On the day that I was there, enrollments were going up, and there was a positive feeling of expectancy among the faculty and staff. Frankly, I believe that we will all soon agree that Compton College is among the most exciting places to teach and to take classes within our community college system.

In addition, not only has the local senate and curriculum committee upheld the integrity of the instructional side of the house, they have invited a team from the State Academic Senate as a resource while completing their program outcomes and aligning them within course outlines-work that is already ongoing. Next March the Commission will visit Compton once again, and what they decide is anyone's guess . These decisions, like the problems that created this crisis in accreditation, are all well outside of faculty control, but of this we can be certain: Compton's faculty, their senate and their curriculum committee represent the very cornerstone of why AB1725 and primacy in academic and professional matters must remain within the province of local senates.

Our ability to serve our students is contingent on these rights and supported by our active involvement with the Academic Senate.

In that regard, please remember that the Academic Senate is here for you and will provide help at the local level, in conjunction with the Community College league of California, when technical assistance is requested. There are four forms of technical assistance, and you may want to review them at academicsenate.cc.ca.us. Just click on "resources" and "technical assistance" to learn more. In the meantime, if you have an opportunity, send a note of encouragement to our colleagues at Compton; let them know that you are with them.

Pasadena City College Gets It Right

(with Lay Dabelow, Pasadena City College Senate President)

At Pasadena City College (PCC), a pro-student thread that ties the faculty together is a focus on student success.

when visiting pasadena City College, the first thing one notices is the banners around the campus and along Colorado Boulevard saying, "student success, our first priority." at PCC, they walk the talk. Case in point: at Pasadena, thanks in part to a proactive administration, PFE funds are not used to build buildings or to hire new faculty; rather, the money is used in the way that the state academic senate and pasadena's local senate recommended, by keeping the funds external to the budget and devoted strictly to teaching and learning by investing them in student success.

A division dean and the local senate president co-chair the PFE committee that oversees the allotted $4,500,000. Funds are distributed in response to grants that are submitted mostly by faculty but also by such groups as the Classified Senate for staff development. Some direct positions have been subsidized to match existing funds, as with the director of MESA (Math, English, Science Achievement), and directed primarily at underserved segments of the population in those areas. Another example is the funding of a grant to a jazz musician who teaches history and puts on a jazz concert each year, related to african-american history. A further example is Writing-Across-the-Curriculum (WAC), which is an ongoing program. Funds have gone to student success in the form of a summer institute and also to staff development that offers workshops and allows professional development credits. Finally, every pfe grant must report on the number of students served in a manner that follows the PFE guidelines.

Approximately one-fourth of the 2005-2006 PFE grant allotment is dedicated to new strategies in support of student equity, among other issues.

Clearly, faculty will get it right, given the opportunity, by putting students first-and, in this instance, we see a wonderful demonstration of how faculty's central relationship to instruction and students is key to their shared success at PCC.

Faculty Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Coordinators Gather at Berkeley

This past august, 60-plus faculty SLO coordinators and a smattering of instructional administrators from approximately 31 different California community colleges attended an assessment conference at UC Berkeley entitled, "doing assessment that matters." Organized by faculty in conjunction with the research and Planning Group of California Community Colleges (RP Group), the conference featured the senate's most recent paper on accreditation, Working with the 2002 Accreditation Standards: The Faculty's Role and represented in all instances the Senate's principles regarding accreditation.

Most noteworthy at this conference was how many faculty members were willing to sacrifice the end of their summer to sharing dorm rooms and devoting five days to workshops on accreditation. What soon became clear is that while some colleges began at the institutional level and established a mission and core competencies as guides for course and program level discussions, others worked from the course-up with equal success. What underscores the viability of such varied responses is the dialogic component entailed in establishing SLOs. Each college approached accreditation according to their unique local culture, but they all centered their processes on dialog and the recognition of local senate primacy in how SLOs will be developed and used at their colleges.

In a follow up report on the conference, written by Janet Fulks and Kate Pluta of Bakersfield and Marcy Alancraig of Cabrillo, they stated that, "the results were somewhat surprising. In keeping with the Academic Senate recommendations, most of the colleges attending had identified a faculty leader as a campus assessment chair, with reassigned time. Many institutions had been deeply involved in researching assessment and training their faculty in preparation for a campus-wide strategy." The report goes on to say that "most schools spoke eloquently about the struggle to fund these outcomes and assessment activities, particularly when it involved assessment coordinator reassigned time, stipends for pilot projects, and training. The participants agreed that inclusion and payment of adjuncts for their training and time, was essential."

At the end of the report, several principles were offered as a result of the dialogue that went on at the conference:

"1) This process requires cooperation between faculty, administration, research staff, and classified-all have important roles.

2) Successful implementation is dependent upon faculty involvement and leadership.

3) Academic senate leadership is essential, particularly in sustaining the process over the long term.

4) Healthy efforts are characterized by involving many people and many conversations in the planning; this includes instruction, student services, and other support areas of the college.

5) Agreement on assessment principles and purposes can help campuses respond proactively to areas of concern, such as how the data will be used and what the impact of assessment will be, if any, on individuals.

6) Successful strategies center around the existing campus culture and use of governance processes that already work to enhance campus-wide success.

7) Keep it simple. This is a learning process and the simplest attempts yield useful information. Start simple and enjoy the process."

The faculty and members of the rp group deserve our heartfelt gratitude, having worked so diligently to assemble and host this conference and, particularly, for their earnest support of Academic Senate's principles with regards to accreditation. While the Academic Senate continues to take issue with the Commission's introduction of market place ideologies into accreditation, their insensitivity to local bargaining rights, the enormity of the new standards as an unfunded mandate, and their blatant disregard of individual rights of privacy, and so much more, we encourage faculty involvement at all levels of the accreditation process. If evidence related to quality education can truly direct resources, and if faculty involvement at local colleges, on visiting teams, and at the Commission can help set the course for an accreditation process that is truly in the service of instruction and student equity, we should seize the opportunity-and that is precisely what I saw at "Doing Assessment that Matters" this summer: faculty seizing the initiative.

It should be apparent to anyone reading these vignettes, that faculty are doing great work on behalf of students and the preservation of academic quality. Their stories are but a small sample of what is happening every day throughout California. These examples are provided here to illustrate that we are part of a grand network of colleges and colleagues. So while we are all "saving" and "savouring" the world each day, remember that we are not alone. Your State Academic Senate is the largest post-secondary organization of educators in the world, and your stories are our stories-all of ours.

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.