(In 2013, the Academic Senate Executive Committee approved a project to record and preserve the history of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The April 2017 Rostrum contains an article that explains the intent and structure of this project. The project has been stalled several times, but it has not been abandoned. The following article was written as an aspect of the history project and as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ASCCC.)
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges was officially established and held its first meeting in spring of 1969. Today, fifty years later, most of the community college system takes as a given the role of the ASCCC in representing the voice of faculty at the state level. However, the founding of the Academic Senate, from its creation to becoming recognized by the Board of Governors and the legislature, was a long process that required exceptional time and effort on the part of numerous individuals.
As early as the 1940s, faculty representative bodies such as faculty councils existed on California community college campuses (Drury, 1978, p. 81), but these bodies had no designated or official status at their institutions. In most cases, administrators “considered [faculty councils and other such bodies] to have a very limited, quite informal advisory role; there was no obligation to discuss or even to acknowledge the more unwelcome or ‘inconvenient’ recommendations” (Drury, 1978. P. 81). Administrators had the authority in college governance and decision-making, and the faculty voice mattered only to the degree that administrators were willing to listen.
In 1963, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 48 was adopted by the legislature and gave local academic senates legal recognition and a defined role at their colleges, as it mandated that “[T]he State Board of Education . . . provide for the establishment at each junior college of an academic senate or council where the faculty members shall be freely selected by their colleagues for the purposes of representing them in the formation of policy on academic and professional matters at such junior colleges . . .” (Conn, 1986). Four years later, when the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor’s Office were created, faculty leaders perceived that a unified voice was needed to speak for faculty on academic and professional matters at the state level similar to the way academic senates did locally.
The effort to create a state-level academic senate was initiated by the leadership of the California Junior Colleges Faculty Association (CJCFA), which would later, in 1969, be renamed as the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, or FACCC. In 1966, Norbert Bischof, a philosophy and mathematics professor at Merritt College, became chair of the CJCFA’s Local Senates Committee, “and then we started dreaming about having a statewide organization independent of [CJCFA]” (Bischof, 2001). After lengthy, discussion, Bischof convinced CJCFA to provide funding for a meeting to discuss a state academic senate.
In the spring of 1968, Bischof and Chabot College history professor Ted Staniford, who was also a member of the CJCFA Board of Governors, called a meeting in Oakland of local academic senate officers from around the state. “And that was done independent of [CJCFA], because we felt we should immediately appeal to all faculty, even if they belonged to CTA or CFT, who were in some competition with [CJCFA], you know . . . So we started it independently . . . and I’d say the meeting was attended by about 40 to 50 academic senate people, and the historic oddity is that they were all men at that time.” (Bischof, 2001). But although the organizers of the meeting consciously avoided claiming any affiliation with or giving credit to CJCFA, the meeting would not have happened without the support of FACCC’s predecessor. “So it was that CJCFA funded the first-ever state conference of local senate leaders. In large measure it was to allow senators to educate each other on tactics and policies, but it was, in utero, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, a body whose necessity emerged in the late 1970s, when state power began to crowd the autonomy of local districts” (Gulassa, 2000).
The faculty leaders at that first meeting in spring of 1968 declared themselves a constitutional convention and formed a steering committee to write a constitution for the proposed state academic senate. Bischof was elected chair of the steering committee, on which Staniford was also a significant contributor, and this group communicated with faculty throughout the state in determining the details of the document. In fall of 1968, another meeting was held in Los Angeles at which the draft constitution was presented. Bischof would later recall,
And by that time, there were no criticisms from any of the faculty because they could see that it was faculty driven, this whole process. Our proposed constitution was vigorously debated, and changed here and there . . . then adopted at the end of two days . . . but that did not form the statewide academic senate yet, because we wanted to be a grassroots organization, so we agreed to send it out to all existing local senates, which were about fifty at that time, and see whether the debate about such an organization would lead to ratification of the constitution (Bischoff, 2001).
By spring of 1969, the number of local academic senates had grown to 71, and 45 had voted to ratify the constitution (“A Brief History,” 1997). Because the draft constitution had stipulated that ratification by a majority of senates was required for approval, the constitution was considered adopted. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges was formally and officially born.
The ASCCC held its first official conference in San Francisco on April 18, 1969. Sheridan Hegland, a political science professor from Palomar College, was elected as the first president, and three other officers and nine additional members were elected to form an executive committee (Conn, 1986). Bischof was at the time president-elect of FACCC and would serve as president of that organization in 1969-70, but he would later become ASCCC President in 1979-80.
In November of 1970, the California Secretary of State accepted papers to incorporate the ASCCC as a nonprofit organization (“A Brief History,” 1997). The incorporation documents stated the primary purpose of the Academic Senate as “the promotion and advancement of public community college education in California” and listed as its general purposes “to strengthen local academic senates and councils of community colleges,” “to serve as the voice of the faculty of the community colleges in matters of statewide concern,” “to develop policies and promote the implementation of policies on matters of statewide issues,” and “to make recommendations on statewide matters affecting the community colleges” (Conn, 1986).
However, although the ASCCC had been formed, it had not been officially recognized as having any formal status in the community college system. “[T] he State Board of Governors was also just formed. So, we had then a chance to present our resolutions . . . and it was really a stirring debate of how to advise the legislature on educational issues, but also on economic issues that would impact on education. So, we started representing ourselves to the Board of Governors as well as to the legislature, and to the State Chancellor, who was a creature of the State Board of Governors, and to all of the committees that were formed in Sacramento on education and around educational issues” (Bischof, 2001). The ASCCC passed resolutions and created positions on matters such as tenure and evaluations, faculty diversity, and faculty participation in accreditation, but it still had no official status in the structure of the state or the community college system.
In 1978, the Board of Governors adopted Title 5 §53206, which recognized the ASCCC “as the representative of Community College academic senates or faculty councils before the Board of Governors and the Chancellor’s Office” (“A Brief History,” 1997), thus granting the ASCCC a formal role in the decisionmaking structure of the community college system. In 1980, the ASCCC’s position was further institutionalized when the California Legislature included funding for the Academic Senate in the state budget (Conn, 1986). Having been recognized by both the Board of Governors and the legislature, the Academic Senate now enjoyed legal and formal status as the state-level voice of the faculty in academic and professional matters.
Over the years since these events, the ASCCC has grown in size, influence, and prestige. Today, ASCCC representatives co-chair Chancellor’s Office advisory committees and work regularly and directly with Chancellor’s Office staff, the Board of Governors, legislators, the Department of Finance, advisors to the governor, and others in promoting the interests in faculty and students. The history of the ASCCC is rich with the stories of courageous and determined individuals who have helped to shape the community college system, but perhaps none of this history would have been possible without the early efforts that formed and institutionalized the ASCCC fifty years ago.
Bischof, N. (2001). Recorded interview with Julia Cheney. 16 January, 2001.
“A Brief History of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.” (1997). Retrieved from Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. https://www.asccc.org/papers/brief-history-academic-senatecalifornia-co…
Conn, E. (1986). “60 Milestones in the History of Senates and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.” Retrieved from Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. https://www.asccc.org/papers/sixty-milestones-history-senates-and-acade….
Drury, D. (1978). The First Fifty Years: Long Beach City College, 1927-1977. Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Community College District.
Gulassa, C. (2000). “A Brief Overview of the History of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.” FACCTS, December 2000. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED454888.pdf.