One of the issues that every campus faculty leader faces is finding information: what new laws have passed, the role of the faculty in certain areas, how the faculty should approach an issue with the administration, and various other topics. Many leaders have difficulty determining what they should do or even where to look for resources regarding the issues they must deal with, and that is why the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges communicates with local academic senates throughout the state about academic and professional matters. The ASCCC provides this information through a variety of means – plenary sessions, institutes, regional meetings, Rostrum articles, resolutions, president’s updates, and others. But occasionally issues arise at colleges that require a more specific response or interpretation, and local faculty leaders may need assistance to find answers for such questions.
The logical first step may be to ask a former senate president or curriculum chair, but that is not always an option; sometimes those individuals have left the college or have moved into administration, or for other reasons the current leadership may not feel comfortable asking. The next step may be to reach out to an ASCCC area representative or a member of the ASCCC Executive Committee. The ASCCC is always happy to help when possible, but some specific protocols exist that help to facilitate such communication.
The most effective way of reaching the ASCCC Executive Committee is to email questions or concerns to info [at] asccc.org. This email address was set up specifically to allow questions to be sent directly to the ASCCC Office, where they can be routed to the most appropriate responder. The result is a more seamless process and a more timely reply on the part of the Executive Committee by cutting out the intermediate step of emailing an area representative or other member of the Executive Committee.
When a question is sent directly to an Executive Committee member from the field, the Executive Committee member first must determine what kind of question it is. If it can be answered with a simple yes or no—for example, is spring plenary in San Mateo this year?—or a website reference, such as “Rostrums are found at http://asccc.org/publications/rostrum,” then the Executive Committee member can respond immediately. Questions that involve more in depth answers, however, must be forwarded to the ASCCC President, who then either responds to the question or sends it to the appropriate Executive Committee member. This requirement exists for a number of reasons. First, it prevents any one Executive Committee member from being overly swamped with emails; this problem occurs most frequently with area representatives but can happen with others as well. Second, it keeps work from being duplicated if someone from the field chooses to email more than one member of the Executive Committee. Finally, and most importantly, it ensures that the answer provided is accurate, up-to-date, and consistent. Because ASCCC committee chairs change every year and task force members can change even more frequently, the Executive Committee member who would have been the expert in previous years may have moved on to another area of focus and may not be as current as another Executive Committee member might be on the issue.
This protocol also helps the president and the executive director keep on top of what issues are becoming significant around the state; for example, if the ASCCC receives a number of emails on a particular subject, then the Executive Committee can discuss that issue as a group and prepare a prompt and appropriate response that can be distributed to a wider audience. A recent example of this process involves questions and interest in Open Educational Resources, or OER, which has become more of an issue statewide over the past few years. After hearing from a wide range of constituents about the issue during the 2015-16 academic year, the president made the decision to form a task force on OER which is working on issues such as the Zero Textbook Cost Degrees and other areas around Open Educational Resources. Thus, while this protocol for responding to questions might seem to be more time consuming, it ensures that the answers provided serve the field in the best possible way.
The questions that the Executive Committee receives do more than inform the individuals who initially ask; they help shape Rostrum articles and provide ideas for general sessions and breakouts at regionals, institutes, and plenary. They also provide the ASCCC with information to convey to system partners as well as faculty counterparts in the CSU and UC systems. The Academic Senate therefore encourages faculty statewide to keep the questions coming, and the ASCCC will always work to respond with the most prompt and informative answers possible.