While the skies outside may have been cloudy, the mood inside the Costa Mesa Westin was far from it as counseling faculty came together to participate in an Academic Senate-hosted institute designed just for them in late February. As the program highlighted, the need for counseling faculty, while ever-present, is even more so when times are tough:
As the California Community Colleges confront the "perfect storm" and prepare for "tidal wave II," our counseling faculty stand ready to deal with the changing demographics in our state and their impact on education. Like weather forecasts, our predictions may not be accurate, but we can plan for change and compensate when the weather takes a turn for the worse. The counseling faculty, due to their close contact with students, are tasked with responding to sudden climate changes, expected to be the first to notice the rain, and able to adjust the temperature as needed. Counseling faculty must detect, respond to, and effect change.
The institute began with our able president, Mark Wade Lieu, making the mess that is the state's status seem amusing, despite our many challenges. His overview of the state of our state provided the perfect foundation for the event which really offered participants a vast array of topics to explore (please see www.asccc.org to find out more). Following Mark's opening, Linda Michalowski (Vice Chancellor, Student Services and Special Programs, System Office) offered the System Office's perspective on things. Despite all that had already been addressed, she offered some additional food for thought. She spoke of how obtaining financial aid can be a seemingly insurmountable burden for students and mentioned a publication published in late 2007 entitled "Green Lights and Red Tape-Improving Access to Financial Aid at California's Community Colleges" (http://www.ticas. org/files/pub/Green_Lights_Red_Tape.pdf ).
If we are really concerned about student success, shouldn't we be ensuring that they are readily able to access all the financial assistance to which they are entitled?
I would suggest that we should all seek to begin a dialogue locally about student access to services and support-are we doing all that we can to be sure that our students get the aid that they need-and that is available to them? It should not be only those in "student services" who care about our students receiving the services they need-this should be a concern of all faculty, of all the colleges.
On the positive side, Linda spoke about a unique program at Victor Valley. They have developed a "bridge program" which, as Linda described it, eliminates the ability of high school students to opt out of college-going. Without looking into the details of what this entails, I hope we can all agree that any program that presents college as a no-brainer must-do is a great one. Our next challenge is ensuring that students realize that college is above and beyond high school and that there are skills that they really must obtain before leaving K-12 in order to not forever be lagging behind their colleagues. In this era when we are focused on basic skills and transfer, I think it is important to also remind ourselves of our obligation to meet other student needs-and to bring more students to our colleges.
While I could probably fill an entire Rostrum with lessons learned, great experiences, and general musings based on the Counseling Faculty Institute, I do not want to succumb to that indulgence (and no one would permit me to anyhow). Our mission in offering this institute was to provide a professional development opportunity to counseling faculty, and to remind them of the role that the senate, statewide and locally, can and should play in helping them to serve students effectively.
Participants were encouraged to draft resolutions where they were called for-and reminded of existing Academic Senate documents that might aid them in their work.
As it is an on-going issue on most campuses, a general session was dedicated to a discussion of the "50% law" that requires that 50% of Proposition 98 funds be spent on the direct costs of instruction.
Following an overview of the history and challenges of the law, the discussion was opened up to the room-and a lively discussion it was. I hope that everyone learned a little something-and thought about this issue in a new way. What was apparent to me was the obvious disconnect between ensuring that students have access to counseling faculty and being desirous of faculty involvement in shared governance-yet counseling and release time are both on the "other" side of the 50% law. What was also apparent is that there is no easy solution, but that this is a topic worthy of much more conversation.
At the end of the institute, participants were likely dizzy with Title 5, counseling athletes/transfer students/international students/online/special populations, SLOs, BSI, assessment, SB70, and the many new contacts they made. I have honestly never seen a group that enjoyed having a chance to connect more. A long-term outcome that I hope to see is more counseling faculty on the Academic Senate committees-and at future Senate events. There is no Academic Senate initiative that can succeed without the active participation of our student services colleagues-they truly offer a unique perspective that benefits us all.
Next year the Senate will again hold the Counseling Institute February 20-22, 2009, in the North. However, next year the institute will also include librarians. Please inform your counseling and library faculty and ask them to mark their calendar for this exciting event.