The Appointment or Selection of Faculty to Short-term, Non-teaching Tasks - Why did HE get that position?

Mount San Antonio College, Education Policies Committee

While there are many policies and procedures that we take for granted and others that we don’t really care about, knowing the who, how, what, and why of the selection of faculty for various tasks is an academic and professional matter. And a matter that local senates should play a significant role in determining.

Among the resolutions produced and debated at the Fall 2007 Plenary Session was one that described the varying methods by which faculty are assigned to non-teaching tasks and the need to establish local processes for such appointments, as well the need for development and dissemination of effective practices. This brief article is intended to address the intention of the resolution. Resolution F07 1.02 reads as follows:

Whereas, There are multiple methods by which a faculty member can be assigned to short-term, non-teaching work such as Student Learning Outcomes or accreditation coordinator, or grant director;

Whereas, A recent Academic Senate survey indicated that districts and colleges employ different methods of assigning faculty to these tasks such as appointment by the local academic senates, or by the administration, or by a competitive process; and

Whereas, The handling of these appointments has diversity, equity and fairness implications in the decision-making processes of a college or district;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges further research and disseminate information about the appointment or selection of faculty to short-term, non-teaching tasks; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommend effective practices for assigning faculty to short-term, non-teaching work that are fair, open, transparent and compliant with Title 5 Regulation §53202.

The resolution points out that there are different methods used to select faculty for reassignment positions and the need for the appointment process to be reasonable and unbiased. Local senates should consider appointments to non-teaching tasks in the same way that faculty are appointed to committees. This process may vary by college but the Title 5 regulation is very clear: "The appointment of faculty members to serve on college or district committees, task forces, or other groups dealing with academic and professional matters, shall be made, after consultation with the chief executive officer or his or her designee, by the academic senate. ...the collective bargaining representative may seek to appoint faculty members to committees..." (Title 5 §53203).

While a single process may be effective for one college, it may not be for another. With 112 colleges and 112 cultures, there is no “best” practice – so a variety is offered here for your consideration.

Consider the different types of non-teaching appointments that may be made by colleges. Appointments under the purview of the local senate may include committee chairs (e.g., curriculum), department chairs, or coordinator of a discipline-specific program or a campus- wide program such as Teacher Prep or Study Abroad. The length of the appointment is also a point of discussion. Appointees may have an established period of time, thereby providing the opportunity for new faculty to take on the challenge of a non-teaching task. Some appointments may include compensation, while others do not. The local senates should work with the bargaining agent to ensure that compensation and job duties are clear, and that the process for each appointment is embedded in administrative procedure.

For example, it has long been the practice at one college that the senate makes the appointments for senate committee chairs and coordinators of campus-wide activities (e.g., SLO Coordinator, Basic Skills Coordinator). The bargaining agent has outlined the process for electing department chairs and includes all compensated non-teaching tasks in the faculty contract. Although deans have right of assignment, discipline-specific appointments (e.g., Director of Clinical Programs for Radiological Technology) are determined through collegial consultation with the discipline faculty and their dean.

When there is no clearly defined process in place or an established process is not followed, selections may appear to be biased. An accusation can be raised against selections made of a few “favorite” faculty or non-controversial faculty, or even faculty that are not in a position to defend academic and professional matters because of their probationary status. A local senate should want its faculty to have the support they need to do their non-teaching tasks. A process that is not transparent and documented may result in the selected faculty having difficulty in garnering support for their work by other faculty. The ultimate goal in selecting faculty for non-teaching tasks is the same as with any hire – you want the best person for the job. If your process is unclear, non-existent, and/or ever-changing, how can its effectiveness be determined? Clearly documented processes protect the faculty selected for such positions and model the approach that should be taken with all hires and assignments.

It is clear that the process can appear to be biased if an established procedure is not followed but another matter of importance is the position itself. Non-teaching assignments provide unique opportunities for faculty to expand their skills by serving in largely quasi-administrative roles, gaining a flavor of the administrator’s life. After participating in a non-teaching role, the faculty member often has the opportunity to see the “bigger picture” of the college organization and has greater opportunity for networking with campus staff outside of their discipline. Therefore, it is crucial that the non-teaching tasks (the job) should be clearly defined, with appropriate expectations. The local senate may want to ask their bargaining agents to negotiate compensation or place the positions in the contract. Placing the positions in the contract or having the job duties outlined will prevent administrators and faculty alike from creating positions that are best suited to other job classifications.

Consider the following scenarios and how appropriate policies, procedures, and job duties may have prevented them.

Scenario one: A faculty member has received a lot of student complaints; the dean instead of dealing with the student complaints directly offers the faculty member the opportunity to run a particular campus-wide program to reduce his time in the classroom. When the local senate objects to the lack of process, the administrator insists the opportunity will be open to all faculty but it is not, leaving faculty frustrated and unwilling to work collegially with the appointed coordinator of this important campus-wide program.

Scenario two: The Curriculum Chair is appointed by the Vice President of Instruction because she believes that a faculty member from a particular discipline is better suited for the position than any other faculty. The opportunity is not offered to faculty from other disciplines. The faculty from the anointed discipline feel obligated to take the position while other interested faculty are not even considered.

Scenario three: Consider that a recently hired counselor is given a plum assignment with 20% reassigned time by the Dean. The other counselors are frustrated that they didn’t have a chance to apply for this position. Resentment builds between the new counselor and more senior colleagues.

At some colleges, the job descriptions of non-teaching opportunities are sent to all faculty each year, when developed or when vacant. Faculty and management participate in the selection process. At one college, for example, the Vice President of Instruction (VPI) wrote up the job description for a Program Review Coordinator and the local senate president reviewed and approved it. The position was opened to all faculty and then the VPI and the senate president consulted collegially on the applications, interviewing the candidates, and making the selection. The VPI deferred to the senate in the selection process. Likewise, at another college all faculty are given an opportunity to apply for any open non-teaching reassignment. The senate president appoints after consultation with the mutual agreement council and approval of the senate executive board. The appointments then need to be confirmed at the full senate.

At another college, the local senate has established procedures for selection of chairs/coordinator for academic senate committees. The process is standardized and all faculty may apply. At another, the senate has established procedures that include the senate executive committee interviewing all candidates followed by confirmation of the full senate. The coordinators/chairs are limited to two successive three-year terms. One positive element of this process is the opportunity for new coordinator/chairs to shadow the current faculty for one year prior to beginning their non-teaching position each fall.

At all the institutions referenced, the duties, job descriptions, and time of service are clearly defined. This is important so that faculty and administrators can have clear expectations about the non-teaching assignments.

Your local processes should not be a mystery and should be written into an Administrative Procedure or other documentation that is agreed upon. Who may be appointed and for how long are elements of the process that need to be decided locally. Limits to appointment may be negotiable, so local senates should consult with their bargaining agents. For example, the local senate may want to consider putting a time limit on the service (e.g., one year, three years) or limit the amount the reassignment (e.g., 40%, 80%). The local senate may want to discuss the philosophy behind taking faculty out of the classroom, counseling office, or library when student access to full-time faculty is limited. Local senates should also consider whether part-time faculty have the opportunity to participate in reassignment or non-teaching tasks.

Bottom line--have a process established in writing. Faculty need to have the opportunity to participate in non-teaching assignments. Faculty bring a wealth of expertise to these assignments and faculty primacy in these appointments makes for a better institution.