Compressed Calendar SurveyAre We Glad We're There?

May
2006
Jane Patton, Chair

In february 2006, the Relations with Local Senates Committee conducted a survey of academic senate presidents, asking about the effects of compressed calendars on participatory governance at their college. What prompted the survey was a resolution in Fall 2004:

13.04 F '04 Shared Governance:

Barriers to Participation


Whereas, there has been a gradual system-wide trend to both compress academic calendars and add additional terms per year in order to address fiscal shortages, which, in effect, concentrates the instructional workload into shorter time periods, thereby leaving many faculty with less time for governance activities; and

Whereas, this workload shift may be initially difficult to identify on the local level, and any local efforts to study or correct this have little or no effect upon the system-wide impact of these trends;

Resolved, that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, through research and survey, seek to determine what impact compressed calendars and additional terms per year are having upon faculty participation in state, district and college governance and produce an analysis of this process.

The survey was divided into three parts: 1) demographic questions and basic data about calendar status at the college, 2) questions about the decision-making processes for colleges that either have considered or adopted the calendar, and 3) questions about the perceptions about the effects of the calendar on participatory governance. The questions in Part 3 were only for colleges that have already made the change. For many questions, respondents had the option to provide open-ended explanations of their likkert scale ratings. Although few surveys provided qualitative responses, some of the comments are worth reading (see URL below) but are too lengthy to include here.

There were 62 respondents to the survey. Twenty-three reported they are already on a compressed calendar. According to the System Office, as of December 2005, 37 colleges in the state are under a compressed calendar, so our survey yielded data from 23 of the 37 colleges or a total of 62%.

Findings

Respondents said that their academic senate was the group that most often initiated the discussion of whether to change the college calendar and that the senates were very involved in the decision-making, with 80% indicating the senates had some or primary influence on the final decision.

Most responses were surprising to the members of the committee, as a majority of senates indicated a neutral effect on shared governance. For example, questions such as the effect of the compressed calendar on participatory governance overall, on faculty participation on committees, on faculty attendance at meetings, and on curriculum processes, the most frequent response was a "neutral" effect. Many other questions yielded similar answers. as a matter of fact, so many answers were "neutral" that the committee wondered if it had not become an automatic response. Still, the strong pattern leads one to conclude that the effects on governance appear not to be a significant issue. However, while the most frequent answer was "neutral," often only half or fewer of the 23 colleges on compressed calendar chose "neutral," a point that raises the question of the strength of the neutral positions.

You can access the complete survey data by going to the academic senate website and clicking on "surveys." Please note that what appears in survey monkey as a low response rate to many of the questions is simply a reflection of the way the survey was structured. All 62 of the responding colleges could answer the first set of questions, but only those already on a compressed calendar (23) could respond to the third section.

Limitations to the study

There are many limitations to this survey. It may be that these results are not very meaningful if what the resolution suggested is true: that a "workload shift may be initially difficult to identify on the local level. . . ." an audience member at the 2006 spring Plenary session suggested that the respondents, senate presidents, may or may not have had opportunity to consult others before replying to such questions as the calendar's effects on counselors, librarians, or specific committees. Some colleges have only lived under this new calendar for a short time, so they may have had insufficient time to see effects on governance or evaluate changes in any meaningful way, while at other colleges the calendar has been in effect so long that it may be hard to compare the old and new calendars.

The Relations with local senates committee was charged with investigating only one aspect of alternate calendars: faculty governance activities. therefore this survey does not answer all questions people have. However, at the recent Plenary session, another resolution was passed, which asks the academic senate to compile and disseminate existing research done across the state that investigated such issues as student success, retention, scheduling and other factors. In the meantime, the 2000 Academic Senate paper, Alternative Calendars: Recommendations and a Progress Report available on our website, provides a list of recommendations to help local senates frame their discussions about the pros and cons of alternative calendars. Ultimately, while surveys such as this and the 2000 academic senate paper are helpful, as will be disseminating the results of other research conducted across the state, the local discussions are perhaps the most critical aspect to the decision-making process because it is the local college that needs to come to its own conclusion about the best calendar for its students.

You can access the complete survey data by going to the Academic Senate website and clicking on "surveys." Or-http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/surveys/Surveys.htm

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.