Serving Faculty, Students, and the System: Participating and Learning with the ASCCC
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) is now 50 years old—younger than some but older than many faculty that are currently involved with the organization. The success that the Academic Senate has had as a resource for faculty and as a state-level voice on academic and professional matters during its first fifty years is solely due to the contributions of faculty throughout the state. When individuals consider service with the ASCCC, many questions, as well as hypotheses, arise regarding how one becomes involved. Whether one desires to attend an event, serve on a committee, present at an institute or plenary session, or be elected to serve on the Executive Committee, the definitive answer as to how to do so is sometimes rather elusive.
Serving as a representative of the ASCCC at the state level can fulfill local professional development requirements and is an opportunity to be a voice for the 60,000 faculty in the California Community College system. By submitting an application for statewide service, faculty can volunteer to be considered for ASCCC standing committees and taskforces, Chancellor’s Office committees and taskforces, and service on other initiatives as they arise throughout the CCC system. In 2017-2018, the ASCCC made a total of 219 appointments; in 2018-2019, the number of faculty appointed increased to 264. In addition, more than 930 faculty members are currently active participants in the Course Identification Numbering System (C-ID) as either course reviewers or faculty discipline review group members. Local senates were contacted by the ASCCC to determine their eligibility of service and the faculty were subsequently confirmed for statewide service.
Recently some discussion has taken place regarding the rules for Executive Committee elections. Questions have been raised about whether current election rules and processes keep certain groups of people off of the Executive Committee. The answers to such questions are difficult to determine with certainty, but, as discussion continued, the question became whether the concerns are really about the election process or about how to get involved with the ASCCC. Volunteering for service sounds easy on the surface: submit an annual statewide application to serve on a committee or run for the Executive Committee. However, sometimes the real issue is whether one is in the right place at the right time. The applicant must be available when called and must have the time available to meet the needs of the opportunity. The ASCCC must also have a role that is a match for the applicant’s stated interests or expertise. The ASCCC leadership works hard to examine and consider all of the annual applications for statewide service, comparing the positions that need to be filled with the areas of interest and expertise stated by applicants. Of course, the organization is always interested in finding ways to improve this process.
Appointment to a committee, task force, or other effort needing faculty input is a terrific place to begin service with ASCCC. Some requests for faculty appointments are very specific, such as a need for representatives from certain disciplines or for faculty from a certain college demographic like rural, urban, north, or south. Other requests are more general, such as simply that three faculty are needed. With every committee or task force needing appointments, the ASCCC attempts to provide a diverse sampling of representative faculty, taking into consideration elements such as gender, ethnicity, culture, location in the state, size of college, discipline expertise, and degree of previous experience with academic and professional matters locally and statewide. Appointments are made using the information provided in the application for statewide service. An applicant should make certain to provide enough information, especially with the open-ended fields: Local Senate Experience, Areas of Concern/Interest/Expertise, and Qualifications. As applicants consider potential areas of service, they should remember that most ASCCC committees have a maximum of 6-8 members, while many Chancellor’s Office groups only have 1-3 faculty members, and some committees are in high demand, such as Curriculum. To first get involved in state service, interested faculty may wish to consider some of the less time-consuming committees as a potential starting point if they align with the faculty members’ qualifications and interests.
Another important element of the application and appointment process is that all appointments are vetted with local senate presidents, who occasionally are caught off guard and may not feel that they know a faculty member well enough to recommend him or her for statewide service. If a faculty member is submitting an application to serve, he or she may do well to connect and communicate with his or her local senate president, especially if the president may not already know the applicant well, and let the president know of the individual’s interest in serving with ASCCC.
In addition to standing committee, task force, and initiative work, other opportunities also arise at various times. For example, the ASCCC needs faculty to serve on C-ID Faculty Discipline Review Groups (FDRG), and to serve as liaisons between their colleges and the ASCCC on topics such as guided pathways, career and technical education, legislation, noncredit, and open educational resources.
For those who wish to become more deeply involved and committed, another service opportunity to consider is as an elected representative, a member of the ASCCC Executive Committee. Many, but not all, Executive Committee members first connected with the ASCCC by attending an ASCCC event as a local faculty member, including as aspiring leaders, curriculum chairs, senators, or senate presidents. After attending ASCCC events, they submitted an application for statewide service and, over a period of years, may have served on one or more ASCCC or Chancellor’s Office committees and task forces in addition to local leadership positions. An interest in doing more to serve and engage in a statewide position led them to an interest in serving on the ASCCC Executive Committee.
Members of the ASCCC Executive Committee are elected by delegates at the spring plenary session each year. In order to be elected, one must run for a position. The Executive Committee is composed of fourteen elected representatives and the executive director. Four of the elected representatives are officers: president, vicepresident, secretary, and treasurer. These positions are elected annually, and only the president position has a term limit: two years. As with a local senate, officer positions have slightly different specific responsibilities, but all Executive Committee members share efforts to more generally communicate with, promote, and support faculty.
The ten non-officer positions are broken down into area representatives (from areas A, B, C, and D), north (A and B) and south (C and D) representatives, and atlarge representatives. The primary difference between the types of representative positions is who elects the position: delegates from a specific area, north only, south only, or all delegates. This guarantees at least some representation from across the state. Otherwise, each of these positions functions in similar ways in doing the work of the Executive Committee. The only positions that have specific responsibilities tied to them are area representatives, whose additional responsibilities are related to coordinating and facilitating area meetings and area-specific communications. Other than this exception for area representatives, the assignments for Executive Committee members are based on each member’s available time, areas of strength, and areas for growth, not on the specific position held. Representative terms are two years, with no term limits, and with half of the positions being elected each year to stagger terms.
Running for an Executive Committee position involves filing paperwork, attending an information session at the spring plenary session, and delivering a candidate speech. This process can be incredibly daunting for many, especially the speech, and the ASCCC appreciates all who have volunteered in this capacity. Candidates must then wait through the election announcements during the resolution voting session on the Saturday of the plenary session, which can also be a stressful experience. ASCCC elections also include a process known as “trickling”: elections are held in succession so that a candidate who is unsuccessful in running for one position may then, if he or she is eligible, place his or her name on the ballot for the next or for a later position. Some candidates, including some who would in later years become ASCCC presidents, have run unsuccessfully for as many as four or five positions on the same day before being elected. Proponents of the trickling process argue that it creates a perception of a better chance of being elected given that one is not limited to a single election if one is not successful at first. Opponents say the trickle creates a disincentive to run once potential candidates realize that those unsuccessful for the early positions may opt to trickle and compete for positions elected later in the day. Proponents suggest the trickle allows delegates to consider election of the best combination of candidates to comprise the Executive Committee and how they will work collectively to perform the work of the body; opponents argue it would result in a stronger slate of elected members to have candidates run for one position only. No matter what one believes about the trickling process, it has been a part of ASCCC elections since the 1980s and makes ASCCC elections unique.
Successful candidates may be elected for a variety of reasons. Some succeed based on their reputation with local or area colleagues, some due to their work on ASCCC committees, and others based on relationships they have nurtured over multiple ASCCC events. The delegates of the plenary session make the final determination. The following points offer some good advice for faculty who wish to run for a position on the Executive Committee:
- Examine what drives you to volunteer in this way. Be sure it is a commitment to service and professional development of both yourself and your colleagues.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to grow.
- Make yourself accessible to others. Meet people.
- Find your inner gregarious self. Network at ASCCC events.
- Capitalize on your strengths and understand your areas of growth.
- Be prepared to lose, at least at first.
- Be prepared to work hard if you win.
The Executive Committee is a working, volunteer board that requires travel along with the sacrifice of both personal time and the predictable, set schedule of a faculty member who teaches full-time. Minimum requirements for being an Executive Committee member include attending all Executive Committee Meetings—monthly two-day meetings held on Fridays and Saturdays—as well as Spring and Fall plenary sessions and the Faculty Leadership Institute in June. At the front of the ASCCC Executive Committee agenda, Item I.E. is the calendar of events for the year. In addition, each Executive Committee member is responsible for submitting Rostrum articles four times per year, planning and presenting at breakout sessions during the plenary sessions and the Faculty Leadership Institute, submitting, reading, and providing feedback on agenda items, and chairing or serving on one or more ASCCC committees or taskforces. Depending on the Executive Committee member’s local responsibilities and other obligations, additional responsibilities may be assigned. These responsibilities may include serving on or co-chairing CCCCO committees or taskforces, serving as a liaison with other system partners, and serving as a representative to other educational systems or other groups as needs may arise. Responsibilities of ASCCC committee chairs may also include working with their committees to respond to past resolutions or preparing an institute or regional meetings, which means deciding on and coordinating the format, breakouts, and presenters.
The ASCCC is a 501(c)6 nonprofit professional organization, not a college or district. The board, or Executive Committee, is a volunteer board under the provisions of this classification. Those who serve are volunteers that participate in professional activities on behalf of all faculty. While Executive Committee members have no guarantee of compensation or release from their contractual obligations to their college district, some reassigned time is generally provided based on the member’s assignment and the current financial situation of the organization. Executive Committee member duties may take place when their colleges are not in session; such service is necessary, as the work of ASCCC continues throughout the year, and is important in order to accomplish the purposes and goals of the organization.
The ASCCC has worked hard to be in a financial position that recognizes that the quantity of its work cannot be completed only on a volunteer basis, particularly given that every faculty member has contractual obligations to fulfil to his or her district. Executive Committee members receive reassigned time based on the type of assignment and availability of funds to backfill part of their contractual obligations during their contract year, though this amount varies widely based on the economic position of state funding and grant opportunities. Most members are still responsible for some duties to their district.
Serving as an ASCCC volunteer or Executive Committee member can be very rewarding and an excellent professional development opportunity for interested faculty. A great deal of satisfaction comes with learning more about issues affecting colleges, faculty, and students statewide, learning about statewide issues or regulation changes and how they apply to one’s local college, working with colleagues across the state on committees and through ASCCC events, interacting with Chancellor’s Office staff, preparing for and presenting at ASCCC events, and making a difference to other faculty, to the system, and ultimately, to students. Faculty who serve with the ASCCC can benefit both personally and professionally.
Faculty who have not participated as an ASCCC volunteer yet and are interested should complete the Application for Statewide Service. Applicants should remember to thoroughly describe interests and talents. If an applicant is not selected the first year, he or she should fill out the application again; different needs and opportunities arise each year. The peak period for applications is in May and June before appointments begin to be made in July. Interested faculty should engage in breakout sessions at ASCCC events and introduce themselves to Executive Committee members.
Those who have participated as an ASCCC volunteer in various ways, aspire to serve on the Executive Committee, and can commit to the time obligations should consider running for a position. Potential candidates should let people know they are interested in serving. One should not fear losing: just running can actually be a great first step to inform delegates that one is interested in serving, and they will notice candidates more in breakouts, at meals, and at events and may well remember them in the future. Interested parties should feel encouraged to talk with a sitting or past Executive Committee member for information and advice. Above all, potential candidates are encouraged to engage with other attendees at ASCCC events and by other means; delegates are more likely to vote for people they know.
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has had tremendous impact over its first 50 years because of the efforts of faculty from all around the state. Faculty members who want to learn more about academic and professional matters, want to get further involved beyond their local campuses, and want to work hard and make a difference as part of ASCCC’s next fifty years should consider being ASCCC volunteers. Service with the ASCCC is one of the greatest opportunities one can have to learn, to grow, and to serve other faculty, students, and the community college system as a whole.
Faculty Application for Statewide Service can be found at https://asccc.org under Resources: https://asccc.org/content/faculty-application-statewide-service
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.