Members of the Academic Senate Executive Committee are always delighted to hear from our colleagues across the state: you help us gauge the significance of proposed legislation or system changes, you enable us to promote the superlative instruction offered to California's community college students, and you redirect our work when we appear to have wandered. Sometimes your comments are contradictory, however, and we're left in a quandary of sorts. My current Rostrum article is a case in point.
A number of you responded to my December article that built upon our Fall Plenary theme of "A Principled Perspective," and that incited faculty, well, urged faculty to take action. Some of you mused that you were exhausted merely reading the list contained in that article. That message and its list of "busy work" was intended to help us clean our houses, to strengthen local senates, to ensure that whatever the new year brought, we would all be positioned to protect and provide our students' educational experiences.
Yet in the months that followed, in your emails or in my encounter with you during visits to your campuses, you noted that you were still feeling isolated, impotent in the onrush of new proposals issuing from Sacramento and the uncertainty of the budget-despite the relatively generous treatment the Governor's proposed budget offered community colleges. If the entropy of Fall 2003 gave rise to our wariness and anxiety about what might be lurking behind closed doors, then the energy that emanates now seems likely to produce outright panic this spring. The only preventative is shared information and strategic action on all fronts, including the three below.
Internally, the Chancellor's Office is undergoing its own metamorphosis, and change often brings heightened fears. Having suffered what is hoped will be the last of the mandated staff reductions within the agency, Chancellor Drummond has convened a Task Force to review the functions of that Office. The Academic Senate is represented on this Task Force, and we will use your resolutions and solicit your comments as we seek to identify functions faculty feel are most crucial to preserve as we consider creative restructuring.
Of more lasting significance, however, is the proposal being legislatively crafted that would remove the Chancellor's Office from agency status (and Department of Finance control) and would create it as a 73rd or ur-district, having the same abilities to hire staff, set salaries, and accept grants that our own local districts have. At the same time, it would not offer instruction. The functions of the Board of Governors and its relationship to local boards would remain intact. Those sketchy details are all we have at this moment; thus, my caveat about the importance of shared information.
The budget debate is only beginning, as legislators with their own views and principles weigh in on such matters as the elimination of categorical streams and the proposed fee waiver for redirected students. Internally, we must come to consensus regarding equalization; the Governor seems committed to providing some funding to that end, and legislators have the will and the inclination to resolve it for us, if we cannot reach agreement.
All the attention being given to our students this spring suggests proponents of change all have students' best interests at heart. But as you will hear at the Spring Plenary session, and as you have read in local news accounts, the devil is in the details. As UC and CSU, under budget constraints of their own, close their doors to new and transfer students and seek to "redirect" them to us, the implications for our colleges and particularly for both our traditional and entering students will be enormous. Fee waivers, changes in Cal Grants, and potential cuts in federal vocational training funds all pose threats to our students' educational aspirations.
Thus, I'm back with still more exhortations. For those of you seeking action as an antidote to your frustrations or fears, we urge your continued engagement-first by reading the articles we provide herein. Many of these essays provide suggestions-to individuals and to local senates-on how to act upon such espoused principles as classroom integrity, student equity and diversity, and accessibility of services to all students. Included are also reminders of how we enact our delegated authority-by considering (and reconsidering) graduation requirements and disciplines lists. Of course, don't miss the article urging your participation at our Spring Plenary session in San Francisco, April 15-17. Finally, we hope that the article on leadership (the first in a series) will inspire you to consider statewide service to further principles you believe worth of defense.
For those of you still recovering from the tasks you've undertaken as a result of my earlier exhortations, take heart in the list of actions your Academic Senate has assumed on your behalf and in response to your resolutions and requests. As you also see in this Rostrum, we continue to provide you essential information, whether it is contained in an article on full-time faculty obligation numbers; or in forthcoming papers on faculty chairs and accreditation; or in plenary sessions breakouts on counseling for athletes and vocational students, and student fees; or through our public recognition of exemplary programs and unrivalled teaching. Read, listen, and be assured that we continue to work, even when you are unable to be at our side.
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.