For many years, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has urged local senate presidents to see themselves as working on the same level as their college presidents or chancellors. The logic behind this philosophy is not an attempt to assert power or contest authority, but rather to encourage the senate presidents to see their relationships with administrative leaders as partnerships. The ASCCC hopes to foster the perspective that when academic senate presidents work with their college presidents or chancellors, they see the interaction not as an employee answering to a supervisor but as two colleagues collaborating to find the best way to achieve mutual goals.
If one follows this same logic, then at the state level the administrative organization with which the ASCCC should most see itself as a partner is the Community College League of California, most specifically the League’s CEO Board that represents chancellors and presidents throughout the state. Certainly the Academic Senate works well and appreciates its relationships with the Chief Instructional Officers, the Chief Student Services Officers, and many other system constituencies. Likewise, the League collaborates with other organizations through various statewide activities including Consultation Council and legislative advocacy. Yet effective, collegial collaboration between the Senate, being the organization that represents all faculty statewide, and the highest level of administrative leadership in the state can only benefit both organizations and the system as a whole.
Since the beginning of 2015, the leadership of the ASCCC and the League have emphasized and strengthened our partnership in various ways, and we continue to look for additional cooperative efforts that we can pursue. Among our current collaborations are a revision of the longstanding Technical Assistance Program for colleges, a proposed revision of the published ASCCC/League governance scenarios, and multiple opportunities for crossover presentations and appearances at our organizations’ events.
THE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
While both the ASCCC and the League offer separate services to our constituencies, the jointly presented Technical Assistance Visits on participatory governance are among the trainings most frequently requested by academic senates and college presidents, evincing the need at our colleges to ensure close collaboration between academic senates and CEOs. The ASCCC website describes the purpose of this program as “to help districts and colleges successfully implement state law and regulations that call for effective participation by faculty, staff and students in district and college governance” (http://www.asccc.org/services/technical-assistance). To model that collaboration, requests for such visits must be made jointly by the local academic senate president and the college or district CEO.
The Technical Assistance Program has existed since 1998 and has offered effective training at many colleges. At present, however, the ASCCC and the League are revising the structure and content of the visits in various ways to make them more engaging for the participants and more comprehensive based on collective knowledge of how college governance works and does not work effectively. The most common form of Technical Assistance Visit has traditionally involved a pre-developed presentation by the League’s President/CEO and the ASCCC President. Changes to the program that are under consideration or have already been implemented include the following:
- Since December of 2014, the ASCCC President’s co-presenter has been a college president or CEO from a district other than that in which the visit takes place. Recently the League’s Interim President has also joined the presentations and lent her experience in leading the restructuring of the participatory governance structure that has now been in operation for five years at Peralta Community College District. As presidents of our respective organizations, we believe that the addition of a college CEO who can bring examples from his or her own experience as a decision-maker to the discussion can add a significant benefit to the visit. Thus, the exact composition of the presenting team will be determined according to the unique circumstances and issues to be addressed at each visit, with the possibility of expanding the team to include more voices, such as trustees, as may be needed.
- We have developed a brief pre-visit survey that can be distributed to the college community in advance of the visit. This survey attempts to identify specific issues and concerns that should be addressed, thus providing the presenters a way to better prepare for and serve the needs of the specific college community they are visiting.
- We have revised the powerpoint that has long been used for the presentations, changing structure, content, and most importantly length in order to ensure more time for interaction. A significant portion of general historical background has been eliminated in order to focus more immediately and directly on governance roles. In order to make the visit more interactive and less lecture-like, a number of questions and scenarios for discussion that invite audience participation and consideration have been added. We hope that this approach will engage the audience sooner and will encourage a focus on discussion of broader governance training and appropriate roles and processes and help to avoid a contentious debate of specific local issues.
- We are planning a change to the name of the program, as we hope to make the visits more inviting and to remove any implication that a college that requests a visit is experiencing severe difficulties. The ASCCC website for the program notes, “The services offered will be most effective if used before major conflicts arise and prior to a heightened level of local unilateral action by any the parties involved in the local decision-making process.” Certainly any local board, administration, and faculty might benefit from a refresher or reminder on appropriate roles periodically, and interest in such a visit might indicate positive relationships and a desire to maintain good policies rather than severe disagreement or division at the college. Nevertheless, for many people the term “technical assistance” raises images of a college in crisis and may imply a stigma that could discourage colleges from requesting the service.
For this reason, we plan to rename the program from “Technical Assistance” to “Collegiality in Action,” with different subheadings for each tier of visit.
- The first tier and most common type of visit, currently titled “Information Presentation” on the ASCCC website, will be called “Collegiality in Action: Effective Participation Fundamentals.”
- The second tier, which includes the information presentation and separate faculty and administration focus group discussions and is currently titled “Advisory Assistance,” will be called “Collegiality in Action: Effective Participation Focused Study.”
- The third tier, which also involves interviews with individuals on campus and is currently titled “Issue Resolution,” has not yet been renamed, as we are considering connecting visits at this level to the Chancellor’s Office Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative.
All of these changes have the potential to make an already successful collaboration between the ASCCC and the League more effective. We will continue to pursue these and other developments in order to make the visits as beneficial for all participants as possible, and we are open to hearing any suggestions for further improvement.
GOVERNANCE TRAINING SCENARIOS
In 1998 the League and the ASCCC jointly published a set of 26 “Scenarios to Illustrate Effective Participation in District and College Governance.” These scenarios have been used in a variety of training activities, including the ASCCC’s annual Faculty Leadership Institute, as ongoing training during local academic senate meetings in some districts, and most recently as additions to the Technical Assistance Visit powerpoint. They cover a wide range of issues, from curriculum development to budgeting processes to accreditation to senate-union relations, and their greatest benefit is that they provide guidance that has been agreed upon by the ASCCC and the League, thus minimizing any contentious division between faculty and administrative perspectives.
Although they were first published almost twenty years ago, nearly all of the scenarios address issues that are still current in the community college system. However, in some cases the scenarios are phrased in terms or call up situations that may no longer be the most relevant to the present moment. In addition, new issues and challenges have arisen since the publication of the scenarios and are therefore not addressed. For these reasons, the ASCCC and the League leadership have committed to a revision of the scenarios in order to ensure their currency and utility for both faculty and administration throughout the system.
CROSSOVER PRESENTATIONS AND APPEARANCES
Another aspect of the partnership between our organizations is our interaction and presence at each other’s various statewide gatherings. This year several ASCCC leaders have attended the League’s events that include the Annual Convention in November and the New Trustee Meeting and Legislative Conference in January, with the ASCCC President making presentations to CEOs and trustees at the Annual Convention and Trustee Meeting. The League has also invited the Academic Senate to present two breakouts at the League’s Equity Summit in May to solidify our partnership, and the ASCCC President and Vice-President both sit on the League’s Advisory Committee on Legislation. In return, the League’s staff members have attended several ASCCC plenary sessions and other events in the past. The League’s current Interim President/CEO was present as a recent attendee and participant at the Academic Senate Academic Academy in March and has accepted the invitation to be a regular presence at future ASCCC events, including the offer of her participation in any presentation in which she can be helpful.
The ASCCC and the League will continue to search for opportunities to strengthen our connections and our relationship, including finding ways to address some of the most challenging, sensitive policy issues that affect our system, and we welcome any suggestions for collaborations that might benefit our organizations. Most importantly, we hope that our collegial and productive partnership can serve as a model for college CEOs and academic senate presidents around the state. We can accomplish more when we assume a common goal and work together to realize it. We may of course at times have reason to differ in our viewpoints or approaches, but if we assume good intentions and work to find common ground, we will find that we agree more often than we disagree and that through cooperation and positive consultation our colleges and our students will all be better served.