The past two years have been full of activity, challenges, and changes for the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In response to healthy state budgets, legislative mandates, opportunities for innovation, and pressure from external sources, the California community colleges have embarked on or continued numerous successful initiatives: the Common Assessment Initiative, the Educational Planning Initiative, the Community College Baccalaureate Degree Pilot, the Strong Workforce Taskforce, the creation of increasing numbers of associate degrees for transfer, important work in the areas of open educational resources and basic skills, and much more. The faculty, led by the Academic Senate, has been at the forefront of every one of these efforts, always striving to provide the best educational opportunities and experiences possible for our students.
Yet the ASCCC has also achieved progress in areas that are less publicized and often less visible but no less significant. The Academic Senate Executive Committee has worked diligently on numerous matters related to the organization’s planning, visibility, and general health. These advances may appear less dramatic than the more widely recognized achievements regarding areas such as transfer, workforce programs, curriculum, and student support, but they are an important aspect of ensuring the ongoing effectiveness of the organization.
A Glance Behind: The Progress from 2014 to 2106
In Fall 2014, the Executive Committee developed a new strategic plan for the first time since the early 2000s. This plan was approved by the delegates to the Spring 2015 plenary session. In May 2015, the Executive Committee reviewed and agreed to the strategic plan priorities for the coming academic year and connected those priorities to the organization’s draft budget for 2015-16. This focus on planning and connection of planning and budget will help to ensure the fiscal health of the organization and will ensure that the Executive Committee’s work is guided by the direction set by the voting delegates from our colleges who approved the plan.
In 2015-16, the Standards and Practices Committee conducted a thorough review and revision of the ASCCC’s bylaws and rules. Delegates to the Spring 2015 plenary session approved the bylaws changes. This revision of bylaws and rules was completed in order to ensure that current organizational practices align with the bylaws approved by plenary session delegates and to put in place safeguards that would strengthen the future health of the organization and ensure that ASCCC’s elected leaders are bound to follow the direction of the organization’s membership.
Relationships with other organizations are vital to the health of the ASCCC. The Academic Senate has always maintained strong ties with other faculty groups, including both the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) and the statewide leadership for the unions CCA/CTA, CFT, and CCCI. The connection to these faculty groups has continued to grow and flourish. Likewise, the ASCCC has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the Chancellor’s Office, and the strategic plan adopted in Spring 2015 calls for the Academic Senate to “strengthen partnerships with the Chancellor’s Office Divisions.” In Spring 2016, Acting Chancellor Erik Skinner remarked that the ties between the Academic Senate and the Chancellor’s Office have never been stronger, demonstrating the continued positive development of this connection.
The strategic plan also directs the ASCCC to “increase the participation of official ASCCC representatives at events and meetings conducted by system partners.” Among the most prominent ASCCC partnerships that has grown in the past two years is that with the Community College League of California. The ASCCC President, Vice-President, and Executive Director, as well as other Executive Committee Members, have attended and made presentations at CCLC events including the 2014 and 2105 Annual Conferences, the 2015 and 2016 Legislative Conferences, the 2015 Equity Summit, the 2015 and 2016 Trustee Orientations, and the Spring 2016 Statewide CEO meeting. The ASCCC President and Vice-President have also been among the most prominent voices on the CCLC Advisory Committee on Legislation, where faculty input has been welcomed and encouraged. In this reciprocal relationship, multiple members of the CCLC staff attended various sessions of the Academic Senate’s 2016 Spring Plenary Session, most of them for the first time. The ASCCC and CCLC also continue their long-standing technical assistance program through presentations around the state. In all of these ways, the relationship of the ASCCC with CCLC has grown and become an increasingly productive and collegial collaboration.
ASCCC leadership has also made presentations at the conferences for the Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA), the CCC Chief Instructional Officers, the Association of Chief Business Officials, and others. In all instances, the faculty voice has been welcomed, heard, and respected, thus promoting and achieving the Academic Senate’s planning goals.
Another of the goals in the adopted strategic plan directs the Academic Senate to “develop and strengthen strategic relationships between the Executive Committee and at least five legislators, system partners, or organizations involved in statewide or national education policy” as well as to “develop a legislative agenda aligned with the goals of the ASCCC and actively pursue bills of interest.” The ASCCC has met and exceeded these goals and continues to expand its contact with policy-makers in California. In Spring 2016 the Academic Senate President and Vice-President have met with representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Department of Finance, the Senate Education Committee, and the Assembly Republican Budget and Policy Committee as well as numerous individual legislators and staff members. Many of these representatives have initiated contact with the ASCCC, seeking the faculty perspective on various pieces of legislation. Beginning in 2015-16, the ASCCC has developed a legislative agenda and continues to work with system partners to pursue the agenda. In May, the ASCCC will hold its first advocacy day and meet with legislators and staff to advance the legislative agenda and promote the work of the Academic Senate.
An important strategic plan goal regarding the health and effectiveness of the ASCCC directs the Executive Committee to “increase the diversity of faculty representation, on committees of the ASCCC, including the Executive
Committee, and other system consultation bodies to better reflect the diversity of California.” The Academic Senate had also been directed by Resolution 3.01 S14 to develop a plan regarding effective practices for infusing cultural competence into organizational culture as a model for local senates. Nevertheless, in 2014-15 the 14 elected representatives of the Executive Committee included only two members from underrepresented ethnic groups, two CTE faculty members, and one counselor. The three newly elected members for 2015-16 all came from traditional academic disciplines and added no increase in ethnic diversity. However, this lack of diversity was not due primarily to the choices of the ASCCC delegates, as almost no individuals who might have provided additional diversity in any of these areas declared themselves as candidates for the executive committee.
In Fall 2015, three resignations from the Executive Committee allowed interim appointments that could help to address this issue. In order to fill these positions, the Academic Senate endeavored to engage in a conscious effort focused on the inclusion of diversity in all senses without selecting appointees on the basis of diversity alone. A general call for nominations was sent out to all colleges through the ASCCC’s Senate President’s Listserv, but ASCCC leadership also individually contacted and encouraged faculty leaders who had served as presidents of their local academic senates, who had attended the faculty leadership institute, and who had served exceptionally well on ASCCC committees in the past and were scheduled to serve again in 2015-16. Through this process, the Executive Committee was able to appoint three outstanding individuals, two of whom were members of underrepresented ethnic groups, one from CTE, and one from student services. All three of these appointees were confirmed in a special election by the delegates at the Fall 2015 Plenary Session. In Spring 2016, among the candidates who declared interest for positions on the Executive Committee were six from underrepresented ethnic groups, three from CTE, and two from student services. This increased interest in service from candidates that can provide outstanding service and greater diversity in a number of areas can only benefit the ASCCC and inspires hope that the diversity of the Executive Committee and all ASCCC committees will continue to increase.
A Look Ahead: What the Next Two Years Might Bring
A new academic year necessitates a reassessment of the goals and strategies from the prior year, and therefore the ASCCC Executive Committee will review the strategic plan in Fall 2016 and, in light of the progress made on the goals and strategies in the past year, determine the priorities for the upcoming year. Certainly, the ASCCC leadership is committed to building upon the accomplishments of the past two years and will strive to improve in all of the areas outlined above as guided by ASCCC resolutions and the strategic plan as well as focus on additional strategies and goals that may rise in importance as the years unfold.
Of course, certain efforts demand greater attention. Specifically, the implementation of the recommendations from the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy will consume significant time and effort, and because many of the recommendations fall within areas of faculty purview such as curriculum and faculty qualifications, the ASCCC will take the lead in the implementation efforts to ensure faculty primacy is respected and students are well served. The ASCCC remains committed to diversifying faculty representation throughout the organization as well as assisting colleges in hiring faculty to better serve the needs of their diverse students and communities. To accomplish the work of the organization, the ASCCC must continue to strengthen ongoing relationships with system partners as well as forge new and productive relationships with external organizations and individuals. Finally, the ASCCC leadership remains dedicated to promoting the efficacy of the organization by strengthening the structures that support the health and integrity of the organization so that it remains strong, viable, and effective in the years to come.
The past two years have seen significant progress regarding the structure and goals of the ASCCC, yet certainly much more remains to be done. As the Academic Senate transitions to new leadership and new challenges, the organization is as healthy as it has ever been and looks forward to continuing to represent the voice of all faculty throughout the community college system.