On Saturday, April 11, at the 2015 ASCCC Spring Plenary Session, the delegates considered Resolution 1.06 S15, In Pursuit of a more Inclusive and Transparent ASCCC. The stated intent of this resolution was to create a process for the ASCCC that provided greater transparency and promoted more diversity regarding the manner in which appointments are made to Academic Senate standing committees, task forces, ad hoc groups, and Chancellor’s Office groups. The arguments made in favor of the resolution suggested that the current appointment process bypasses the Executive Committee by relying on the president and executive director to make most appointments, which the resolution asserts does not promote inclusivity or equity in all forms. While the discussion during the plenary session raised a number of valid questions, some of the information shared was incomplete or inaccurate. A more complete explanation of the ASCCC committee appointment process may help faculty leaders around the state to understand the demands and necessities of that process and the ways in which the ASCCC might more successfully promote transparency and diversity in this area.
The Current Process
As noted in the ASCCC bylaws, the Executive Committee approves all appointments to the ASCCC standing committees (Article V.1). Committee chairs are selected in April by the president in consultation with the executive director. The standing committee chairs then begin to recruit members for their committees using a variety of resources, beginning with a list of volunteers who have submitted the Application for Statewide Service that is available on the ASCCC website. At every Senate event during the year, through breakouts and other activities, faculty are encouraged to submit this form and nominate themselves for service. Other resources used by committee chairs to identify potential committee members include the Senate’s online directory, past committee members, attendee lists from Senate events, and personal contact. Once a list of potential committee members is identified, the chairs send their recommendations to the president and executive director, who review the lists to ensure diversity in all of its forms, ensure that those recommended have the necessary skills to perform the work of the specific committee, reduce duplicate nominations among the various committees, and address any known concerns regarding the nominees’ prior participation. Working with the chairs, the president and executive director suggest a final list to the Executive Committee for approval at the first Executive Committee Meeting of the academic year. This process has been in place with little variance for over fifteen years.
Appointments to task forces, ad hoc committees, and other bodies take place not only at the beginning of the year but on an ongoing basis. The Chancellor’s Office regularly makes requests of the ASCCC for faculty appointments, while immediate but temporary needs and demands that arise throughout the year may be met through short term groups created by the ASCCC or in collaboration with other bodies. When appointments to such bodies are needed, the ASCCC typically sends an email to the local senate president listserv requesting nominees for these groups in addition to again considering appropriate volunteers who have submitted the Application for Statewide Service. The president then determines the appointments to these groups in consultation with the executive director and the vice-president as noted in the bylaws (Article V.2). In addition, the president often seeks additional input from other members of the Executive Committee regarding potential appointees. However, the ASCCC bylaws do not require formal Executive Committee approval for these appointments, as the number and frequency of requests for faculty representation, often under substantial time pressure, would make such approval impractical and would inhibit the ASCCC’s ability to respond in a timely manner.
The ASCCC varies from this process only in the rarest of instances. On occasion an unusual situation may arise in which very specific expertise is needed to represent the faculty voice to other constituencies. A recent example of such an instance is the Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and the Economy. The faculty appointees to this task force needed to have not only a very specific area of professional expertise but also the willingness and experience to represent the faculty viewpoint and ASCCC positions to a highly select group of policy makers and other individuals from inside and outside the system. For this reason, the Academic Senate did not send its usual call for nominations on the senate president’s listerv but instead sought specific individuals known to have the necessary qualifications and skills for these sensitive appointments. However, a situation such as this in which the ASCCC deviates from its usual process is very uncommon, and under all usual circumstances the Academic Senate attempts to solicit interest as broadly as possible before making appointments.
In addition, faculty appointments to Chancellor’s Office committees and task forces and to other non-ASCCC bodies are subject to confirmation by the local senate president from the appointee’s college, who is contacted to verify that the person being appointed has the qualifications needed to serve on the specific group. The ASCCC believes that this local senate approval is necessary, as the local faculty leadership has direct experience with the potential appointee and should be able to provide valuable insight into his or her strengths.
Suggestions for Improvement
While the resolution presented at the Spring Plenary Session failed, the conversation caused the ASCCC leadership to realize that many of the delegates and local senate presidents present were unclear regarding the current process for making appointments. For example, the resolution suggested the creation of a form that would solicit information about nominees’ background and experience; however, the ASCCC already has a form that collects this information in the Application for Statewide Service. Likewise, the resolution called for appointments to be advertised via the local senate president’s listerv; the ASCCC regularly sends such requests for nominations to the listserv, but some local senate presidents seemed to either be unaware of the listserv or to have overlooked many of these requests for nominations.
The ASCCC hopes that the information provided in this article can help to clarify the details of appointment process for local senate leaders. Nevertheless, the current process can certainly be improved without putting unreasonable additional demands on local senate presidents, the Executive Committee, or the appointment process itself. Several positive and potentially productive suggestions were raised at the plenary session and at area meetings, including the following:
- Publishing an ongoing list of appointments as a regular feature of the Executive Committee agenda as an information item in order to inform all interested parties regarding recent appointments;
- Sending out an announcement to ASCCC listservs requesting nominations for service on standing committees and other expected bodies in May. This announcement would contain the most complete information possible regarding all of the committees, including their charges and a link to their pages on the ASCCC website;
- Exploring further avenues for recruiting diverse faculty to participate in leadership activities, as such service might then lead to an increase in the diversity on the Executive Committee. Such recruitment is already a conscious effort for the ASCCC, but this effort can become a greater focus in the coming year and moving forward;
- Increasing the frequency with which we send notices of opportunities for service to the senate presidents’ listerv;
- Expanding the call for nominees sent to the senate presidents’ listserv to include other ASCCC listservs more regularly, thus reaching a greater number of potential volunteers or recruiters;
- Through the efforts of the Relations with Local Senates Committee and in other ways, work to expand the reach of the senate presidents listserv and other listservs by encouraging not only all local senate presidents but other local faculty leaders to subscribe.
The ASCCC is dedicated to increasing the opportunity for all faculty to serve at the state level. We actively and regularly recruit faculty of all backgrounds, disciplines, and other perspectives, and we consciously attempt to make our committee and task force appointments balanced and fair. However, we welcome further suggestions to help us improve our processes. Both transparency and diversity are of great importance to our organization, and we would willingly consider any potentially productive means of improving our performance in these areas.
However, we cannot accomplish our goal of diversifying our appointments and ultimately our Executive Committee alone. Failed Resolution 1.06 S15 and the discussion that it engendered was a call to action for local senate leaders as well. In order to diversify in all ways the ASCCCs committees and task forces, we need a more diverse faculty statewide. For this reason, we need all local senate presidents to address these same issues on their campuses by involving diverse faculty on their local senates and developing leadership opportunities for them and by recruiting and nominating diverse faculty for state-level service. Only if we are all dedicated to diversifying our faculty senates, both local and statewide, will we achieve the levels of diversity that we want and need among faculty leadership in our system.