What is Needed to Realize the Vision of AB 1725?


Many think of AB 1725 primarily for its enactment of "shared governance" and the strengthening of the role of the academic senate, which was discussed extensively in this column in the last issue of the Rostrum. It is all too easy to forget the sweeping nature of the reforms of this landmark legislation. A brief article such as this cannot hope to touch all those points, but I have chosen a few for which I feel additional steps must be taken to realize the vision of AB 1725.

Faculty Development

The legislature recognized the importance of faculty development in its intent language:
"Community colleges have less resources available for faculty professional and intellectual development than do other segments of the system of higher education, and this disparity may become a substantial barrier to the future recruitment of quality faculty. Yet, faculty in the community colleges should be no less intellectually engaged than their colleagues in the other segments. Their primary commitment to teaching makes it imperative that they have a vibrant and rich intellectual life. AB 1725, Section 4(j)."

Ed Code 87150-4 established the Faculty and Staff Development Fund and the legislature has annually appropriated $5 million. The intention of AB 1725 was that funding for staff development would grow from 1/2% to as much as 2% of the system budget, which today would equate to $100 million. The Ed Code also requires a campus committee to assess needs and develop the staff development plan.

Today we struggle to meet the most basic training needs of faculty, still with the annual seed money of 10 years ago. Emerging industries, state-of-the-art technical programs, and infusion of technology all await sufficient support of faculty development. Districts consider the state allocation a ceiling, contributing little of their general apportionment dollars. In fact, it is not uncommon for districts to skim off staff development funds for district-identified special staff development projects, ignoring the requirement for committee involvement. Years-old plans sit in the Chancellor's Office gathering dust.

What is needed to realize the vision of AB 1725?

Local funding of staff development has failed in a climate that only rewards enrollment. The Ed Code should be strengthened to require academic senate-developed plans and adequate funding: a 1/2% statutory set-aside with local district 1:1 match, including faculty development budget processes developed by mutual agreement between the governing board and the academic senate. State level training programs should provide specialized training to college faculty and staff, especially for staff development coordinators who need the expertise to make best use of local funds. These state training programs should be state funded and developed and operated by the state Academic Senate and 4CSD, the California Community College Coordinators of Staff Development.

Full-Time Faculty

The Legislature recognized the essential nature of a core of full-time faculty:
If the community colleges are to respond creatively to the challenges of the coming decades, they must have a strong and stable core of fulltime faculty with long-term commitments to their colleges. There is proper concern about the effect of an over reliance upon part-time faculty, particularly in the core transfer curricula. Under current conditions, part-time faculty, no matter how talented as teachers, rarely participate in college programs, design departmental curricula, or advise and counsel students. Even if they were invited to do so by their colleagues, it may be impossible if they are simultaneously teaching at other colleges in order to make a decent living. AB 1725, Section 4(b)

To enact this vision Ed Code Section 87482.6 states the intent of the Legislature to achieve 75% of hours of credit instruction taught by full-time instructors. $140 million in program improvement funds were appropriated during the two years immediately following passage of AB 1725 to actualize the formulas in Ed Code 87482.6, but nothing since! In fact, during the recession of the early '90s, dependence on part-time faculty increased.

What must be done to realize the vision of AB 1725?

Legislative intent has not been enough. The Ed Code should be strengthened to require a percentage of the annual community college appropriation to be used to increase the number of full-time faculty. A 1% annual increase, approximately $50 million compounded each year, could add over 1500 full-time positions annually and achieve the 75% standard within 6 to 8 years. The standard of 75% fulltime faculty continues to be reasonable, as does the legislative intent for the use of parttime faculty:

Decisions regarding the appropriateness of part-time faculty should be made on the basis of academic and program needs, however, and not for financial savings. AB 1725, Section 4(d)

We must continue to assert locally that this is the only standard by which hiring of part-time faculty is permitted.

Hiring and Affirmative Action

The Legislature recognized the importance of the faculty role in determining the qualifications for hire of their new colleagues and the importance of the diversity of our future educators.

The state should provide the community colleges with enough resources and a sufficiently stable funding environment to enable them to predict their staffing needs and to establish highly effective hiring processes. [This subsection goes on to specify the essential elements of that process including the role of faculty and administrators, the need for good planning and recruitment, clear and complete job descriptions, affirmative action training, diverse selection committees, and the necessity to normally accepting the hiring recommendations of faculty.] AB 1725, Section 4(t)

It will be imperative for the faculty to be sympathetic and sensitive to cultural diversity in the colleges especially when the student body is continually changing. One means of ensuring this is for the faculty to be culturally balanced and more representative of the state's diversity. AB 1725, Section 4(a)(3)

No single approach to hiring faculty can guarantee attainment of the colleges' affirmative action goals and consistent selection of qualified individuals. Nevertheless, any hiring process adopted by a college should require the joint and cooperative exercise of responsibility by the faculty, administration, and board and should reflect the differing source of each participant's authority and the kind of responsibility that authority conveys. AB 1725, Section 4(s)(1)

Ed Code Sections 87001 and 87355-9 establish the process of minimum qualifications for hire, replacing the credential system. Sections 87102-7 establish affirmative action and the Staff Diversity Registry and Fund. Section 87360 gives the requirement for local governing boards to develop hiring criteria, policies and procedures jointly with the academic senate.

The minimum qualification system has generally worked well. The state academic senate oversees the update of the disciplines list on a three year cycle, next to occur in 1998-9. Local hiring processes generally work well, although friction occasionally develops over appropriate roles of faculty and administrators. Local academic senates should keep hiring practices current and assure that they are followed.

Progress on diversifying our faculty has been less than satisfactory. It appears that the AB 1725 goal for the diversity of our faculty to reflect that of the general population by 2005 [Ed Code 87107(a)] will not be reached. The passage of Proposition 209 has created a reactionary climate which may further hinder progress on diversity. However, our Title 5 regulations on affirmative action, recently modified with the participation of the Academic Senate, do much to insulate our system from the ravages of Prop 209 and still leave many tools at our disposal.

What is needed to realize the vision of AB 1725?

Faculty are still empowered, under our local policies, to make recommendations for hiring of our new colleagues. Each local academic senate should publicly recommit to diversity and vigorously pursue the statutory hiring requirements. The intent language of AB 1725 Section 4(t) should be enacted into Ed Code. This would go a long way towards assuring that local hiring processes are strong and effective. The requirements for technical assistance and compliance monitoring by the Chancellor's Office, as stated in Ed Code 87104, should be followed to the letter. In addition, a complaint process should be initiated so that violations of law and regulation which occur in local districts can be investigated and resolved in a timely fashion. This process should include a visitation team broadly inclusive of constituencies, especially the Academic Senate. The statutory authority given to the Board of Governors to withhold funding in cases of violation should be taken seriously.

Peer Evaluation

The Legislature recognized that the professionalization of community college faculty included the need for us to uphold the standards of faculty ourselves:

A person should be granted tenure as a faculty member only after it has been determined through a process of evaluation that he or she is, and will likely continue to be, a positive asset to the community college. In other words, the award of tenure should be an affirmative act, rather than the result of default.

The faculty's inherent professional responsibility to ensure the quality of their faculty peers requires faculty review to be at the heart of the evaluation process leading to tenure decisions. AB 1725 Section 4(w)

Ed Code Section 87663 lays out the evaluation process and recognizes that it is within the scope of bargaining, with consultation with the academic senate needed. Contract (probationary) employees are to be evaluated each year, regular employees every three years. Peer review is required, and must be by departmental or divisional peers of diverse backgrounds. The intent is to include student evaluation "to the extent practicable." Probationary faculty have the right to "clear, fair, and equitable evaluation procedures" to "ensure good-faith treatment without according him or her de facto tenure rights." Governing boards are to have written evaluation procedures for administrators which include faculty evaluation "to the extent possible."

While peer review is strong and vibrant on some campuses, others are far from the professionalism envisioned in AB 1725. Some state faculty union representatives decry the need for faculty to do "administration's dirty work" and call for faculty to stop participating in evaluations that can lead to termination. In fact, many faculty feel uncomfortable in this role.

A recently introduced bill, AB 1647 (Scott) calls for broadening the "incompetency" criteria for terminating tenured faculty to "unsatisfactory performance." This change would confuse the evaluation process with the termination process and would clearly be contrary to the vision of AB 1725:

The specific purposes for which evaluations are conducted should be clear to everyone involved. This requires recognition that the principal purposes of the evaluation process are to recognize and acknowledge good performance, to enhance satisfactory performance and help employees who are performing satisfactorily further their own growth, to identify weak performance and assist employees in achieving needed improvement and to document unsatisfactory performance. AB 1725 Section 4(v)(4)

A national debate continues over tenure, with outside organizations such as the Citizens Commission for Higher Education characterizing tenure as a job security program rather than as protection for the free pursuit of excellence with the academy.

What is needed to realize the vision of AB 1725?

First, we must recommit ourselves to evaluations of probationary faculty to assure that our colleagues maintain the highest standards for those who become tenured in our profession. If we do not protect the integrity of our profession, in the way that physicians and attorneys see their role, we will provide ammunition to those who seek to destroy tenure. Senates and unions should work together to provide meaningful training to those who evaluate probationary faculty. Staff development resources should be earmarked for those who need to enhance skills at the direction of the evaluation team.

Tenured faculty should continue to benefit from reviews of their work by their colleagues. Likewise, those who have become incompetent or unable to perform their duties should, after complete due process, find other employment. However, those are two separate and distinct needs. Clarifying language should be sought in the Education Code to crystallize the vision of AB1725 that peer evaluation of tenured faculty is for the purpose of improvement and improvement alone! Such language should clearly distinguish the due process for competency review, stating that such reviews take place only under conditions negotiated locally, such as substantiated complaints of ineptitude at or avoidance of one's duties.

The enhancement of the professionalism of community college faculty, which took a major leap forward with AB 1725, must remain an on-going process. Every one of us, every day of our professional lives, feels the demands of one of the most challenging professions one can undertake: education. We deserve no less than complete professional recognition for that critical task.