The College Catalog: An Academic and Professional Matter

Curriculum Committee Member

Of all college publications available to students, there is not one that is more important than the college catalog. this publication informs students about their rights and responsibilities, about college policies critical to students' success, and about the courses they need to reach their educational goals, be it to get a certificate, a degree, transfer to a university, or any combination of these. In fact, this publication supersedes any other document when it comes to the colleges' obligation in serving students. Even when students discontinue their studies for a short time they continue having catalog rights.

For the community and for potential students, this is also a marketing tool and it may become the deciding factor between one college over another. It is one of the vehicles through which the college conveys its offerings, services, and the things that make a college unique and different to others.

The importance of the college catalog is also evident in the role it plays for the community and other educational institutions. Community college students are very mobile and when they leave one college and enroll in another, it is through the college's catalog that students, counselors, and other college staff determine where students need to pick up in terms of continuing their preparation for a certificate, degree, or a transfer goal.

The college catalog is more than a document for students in a utilitarian way, however. It is a legal document whereby the college informs students about policies both at the college and state level. In a legal advisory about compliance with minimum conditions, for example, Steven Bruckman, (2005) General Council for the System Office, was very specific in his recommendations to college Chief Executive Officers to include in their catalogs Title 5 regulations that included standards of scholarship, remedial coursework limitations, student GPA, grade changes, award of degrees and certificates, minimum requirements for the associate degree, open courses, and student fees. these conditions and several other catalog content areas are academic matters that fall under the purview of academic senates as indicated in ab 1725, and now in Title 5.

Most colleges have guidelines or practices that assure senate participation via the curriculum committee and through direct consultation with the local academic senate. However, in many instances, these practices have not been officially adopted by boards of trustees. It is recommended that when practices work, these be documented and adopted as part of institutional policy. The absence of written policy and procedures, make these practices vulnerable to changes in a political climate, changes in administration, or loss of institutional memory, to name a few. The old adage: "if it's not broken, don't fix it" seems fitting, but it is important to document it.

In the face of nonexistent practices that allowed effective senate participation in the development of college catalogs the academic senate for California Community Colleges passed the following resolution in 1996:

Whereas catalogs are the most important self-advising tool students have, and

Whereas catalogs are the primary way students, other colleges, and the general public understand courses, programs, and requirements, and

Whereas existing colleges treat information vital to students and information required by law, in different formats, sometimes omitting crucial areas, and

Whereas students and others must use catalogs from different colleges,

Resolved that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges urge the Chief Instructional Officers' Council to include the Academic Senate in its efforts to develop guidelines for catalogs.

Nine years later this senate resolution continues to resonate. The need to address this recommendation again surfaces as an important agenda item for the ASCCC in support of local senates. Effective senate participation is at its best when all parties involved know the expectations and the role of each stakeholder within participatory governance in community colleges. The significance of the catalog as an academic and professional matter is clearly established by the contents of this document. Guidelines for catalog development must ensure effective local academic senate participation.