Fall Session Has It All: From Partnership to Drama

San Diego Mesa College

The statewide Academic Senate Fall 1998 Session took place on October 29-31 at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. The theme of the Session was "Educational Quality and Student Success: Who are the Guardians?" The General Session speakers and the breakout sessions all addressed this theme. One of the keynote speakers was Jack Scott, member of the California State Assembly (and former President of Pasadena City College). Assemblymember Scott commented that in the next decade California community colleges will need to accommodate approximately 450,000 more students; he noted that the Partnership for Excellence is a vehicle for keeping quality in our colleges. If colleges show unsatisfactory progress in meeting the goals, then the mechanism for funding will have to be reconsidered; he observed that the Chancellor's Office will be developing a method next year. He claimed that safeguards were built into the system; progress is to be judged systemwide for three years; if progress is ongoing, the system will continue to be funded.

Best line: "A college is where everyone mutinies but no one deserts."

Among the breakout sessions and speakers were the following:

At the breakout on the Disciplines List, much discussion centered on the process itself, and a resolution was discussed that would necessitate such review every two years (instead of the current three-year cycle). That resolution was defeated. The hearings on proposed additions to the Disciplines List are scheduled for late January and early February of 1999.

Another breakout was scheduled to consider upcoming changes in accreditation standards and processes, Dr. David Wolf, Executive Director of the Accrediting Commission, was principal speaker. He noted that changes in the Higher Education Act will result in more prescriptive language, specific measures of student achievement (learner outcomes), including certificate criteria. For transfer, the acceptance by a receiving institution of accredited units will be mandated. But a great deal remains to be defined, such as distance education, technology costs and quality of instructional offerings. Assumptions are being challenged as a result of today's phenomenon of sequential careers and old definitions of "life-long learning." Accountability will continue to be an issue as costs increase and public disclosure becomes mandatory.

At another General Session, the main speaker was Aime Dorr, Chair of the University of California Academic Senate. At the following breakout session, she was joined by Gene Dinielli, Chair of the CSU Academic Senate. Both confirmed that the UC and the CSU faculty are interested in articulation agreements, but neither wants a system focused on course numbering. Instead, both want to see articulation by course content. UC particularly is very concerned about this issue; their faculty believe that some in the community colleges are emphasizing course numbering over all else.

Dorr commented that at the UCs, 44,000 course-to-course articulation agreements exist with community colleges; not one such agreement exists between different campuses/colleges within the UC system. It is easier, she said, for a student to transfer from a community college to a UC campus/college than for the same student to transfer from one UC campus to another. Dinielli confirmed that the same situation exists within the CSUs; no articulation agreements exist between the colleges. Both commented on the importance of faculty-to-faculty discipline discussions; both noted the added challenge of transfer eventually being based not only on numbers of units, but also on the basis of "demonstrated competency."

Another important topic addressed in a breakout session related to part-time faculty. Some small improvements in STRS benefits were noted, but all agreed it was not enough. The main issues seem to be health benefits, pay for office hours and participation in committee work, and pro rata pay. Pro rata legislation may be considered in the coming year; if passed, it would be phased in gradually. A bill guaranteeing a measure of job security was vetoed by the Governor this year, but will be put through again. For those currently employed (and employed consecutively for the last three years) it would require re-employment guarantees and due process with appeal rights. And it was noted by one of the speakers that these are not part-time issues-they are professional issues.

On the last day of the Session, delegates voted on the resolutions engendered by the information at the Session or raised at earlier area meetings. A copy of the resolutions is available on the Senate website at, www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us.

For now, here is a brief summary:

A proactive program to further study equity for part-time faculty will be initiated by the state Executive Committee, to be submitted at the Spring 1999 Session, and a standing committee of the statewide Academic Senate consisting mostly of part-time faculty is to be established.

The Academic Senate is to urge local senates to ensure that hiring committees include only faculty who are adequately trained in affirmative action regulations.

Local academic senates are urged to insist that Partnership for Excellence monies be used to fund activities clearly related to student success.

The Chancellor's Office will be urged to pursue funds to address the 75/25 goal of full-time to part-time faculty.

The Executive Committee is directed to develop strategies for colleges to implement work based learning models.

Finally, a highlight of the Fall Session was the dinner-theater staging of the David Mamet play, Oleanna, by the Los Angeles City College Theater Academy. Mamet's exploration of the abuse of power relationships between students and teachers was presented in riveting performances by Al Rossi and Katherine Whitney. These two talented artists are available to take their show on the road and offer both the play and a follow-up workshop. Judging from the intensity of the discussions carried on after the performance over dessert and coffee, this would be a sensational staff development offering for any community college.