“You Want Me to Drive WHERE?” A Look at the Representative Areas of the ASCCC

Relations with Local Senates Chair

At its Spring Plenary Session of 2014, the Academic Senate passed resolution 01.05 Evaluate Representative Positions of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Executive Committee:

Whereas, The number and possibly the geographical distribution of local member senates is different today than when the representative positions (Area A, B, C, D, North, South, and At-large) of the Executive Committee were established;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges evaluate whether or not the current representative positions (Area A, B, C, D, North, South, and At-large) of the Executive Committee are adequate and equitable to the number and geographical distribution of local member senates and report the findings to the body by Spring 2015.

The ASCCC Relations with Local Senates Committee was assigned the task of researching this issue and presented a breakout on this research at the 2014 Fall Plenary Session.

The History of the Academic Senate Areas

California is by population the largest state in the union and by geography the third largest in the country. With 72 districts and 113 community colleges as of Fall 2015, the California Community College System educates ¼ of all community college in the nation.[1] The size of the system presents unique challenges for the Academic Senate to ensure that all 113 colleges have a voice and have the opportunity to participate in statewide discourse. The question of how the representative areas of the ASCCC are divided has been returned to the body for consideration on a regular basis.

The ASCCC was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in 1970 to “represent local senates at the Chancellor’s Office and before the Board of Governors.”[2] According to the 1977 ASCCC Annual Report, in the 1970s the ASCCC was divided into five areas (http://goo.gl/TV9Wpt)

ASCCC records do not indicate when the organization moved from five areas to four. By the early 1990s, as colleges and the ASCCC were attempting to implement changes to the system wrought by AB1725 (Vasconcellos, 1988), the ASCCC developed a Local Senate Network to coordinate input from geographically “close” colleges. This effort was coordinated by the ASCCC Relations with Local Senates Committee and was in addition to the Executive committee[3]. The geographical areas were called “Geoclusters” and the state’s colleges were divided into fourteen clusters (http://goo.gl/9VnVEc)

In the 1990s, the Executive Committee was elected on an at-large basis. In the Spring 1995, resolutions 01.05 Direct Election of Area Representatives and 01.13 Election of North And South Representatives started a bylaws revision which created the current structure of the ASCCC Executive Committee: the four area representatives, two north, two south, and two at-large. The geoclusters were retained to function separate from the area divisions and provide an opportunity for geographically close colleges to meet more often to exchange information with their Executive Committee representation. The geoclusters concept proved less than successful: by the mid-1990s, as much of the information distribution needs had begun to be augmented with technology such asthe internet and email, many of the geoclusters met only during area meetings, and the geoclusters struggled to schedule meeting times that area representatives could attend.  Resolution 01.05 Geocluster Reorganization (F98) directed the development of a reorganization plan for the ASCCC Executive Committee including the following features:

  1. Expand the four areas to six areas;
  2. Eliminate the positions of North and South representatives, thus keeping the Executive Committee number the same; and
  3. Eliminate the current geocluster structure but maintain current geographic representation on the Relations with Local Senates Committee.

The reorganization plan was presented to the body in the Spring 1999 and did not pass. The geocluster system was discontinued by resolution 01.01 Geocluster Reorganization (S99).

Two years after the dissolution of the geocluster system, the body was still expressing concern with the division of the senates throughout the state. Resolution 01.05 Reconfiguring the Academic Senate Areas (S01) raised the concern of geographic distance and resolved that the ASCCC “explore the feasibility of reconfiguring the areas from four to a minimum of six, all of which would retain the present system of election by area.” The ASCCC Standards and Practices Committee found this resolution not feasible because “the reconfiguration of the areas would not address issues raised in the resolution” because adding two more areas would not alleviate the travel issues of the most impacted colleges.

Where We Are Now

Currently, the ASCCC is divided into four areas: A, B, C, and D. In order to evaluate the division and compare it to other representational divisions of the community colleges in the state, the Relations with Local Senates Committee had to answer the following question: “What constitutes a division of representation that is ‘adequate and equitable to the number and geographical distribution of local member senates?’” The committee evaluated the current representational division and the comparison divisions according to the following factors:

  1. Number of Colleges
  2. FTES Distribution (Number of Students Served) [4]
  3. Staffing (Number of Fulltime Faculty) [5]
  4. Types of colleges (Very Large, Large, Medium, & Small)5
  5. Geography (Distance/Time to Travel)[6]

The following chart offers a breakdown of the ASCCC’s current representative areas (http://goo.gl/IGboS2)

The current ASCCC Area divisions are relatively equally divided for the number of colleges, with a difference of seven between the highest and lowest, and the number of full-time faculty as areas are within 6% of one another. The large number of smaller rural colleges in Area A offsets the smaller number of colleges in Areas C and D, creating a 12% range between the areas regarding FTES. A discrepancy also exists between the time and distance, though the breakout presentation noted that at certain times of day driving the length of Area A might be preferable to trying to cross the Bay Area or Los Angeles County. The balance of the current ASCCC area divisions would seem to offer an equitable division of number of students, number of full-time faculty, and types of colleges over geographic proximity.

Other Divisions of the State

The California Community College Association for Occupational Education (CCCAOE) divides the state into seven regions (http://goo.gl/EzkaJr)

While the CCCAOE representative structure is more balanced in terms of travel times, it provides an uneven distribution by FTES and full-time faculty. In particular, the division representing Los Angeles and Orange County would hold 30% of the full-time faculty and 35% of the FTES while the division representing the Desert colleges would represent 7% of the full-time faculty and 8% of the FTES. With this discrepancy in the proportions being represented, the faculty of the Central division would still have to travel over four hours to cross their representative area.

The Student Senate for California Community Colleges and the Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA) both divide the state up into ten areas (http://goo.gl/wNl2sj)

While the ACCCA and the Student Senate representative structure is, like the CCCAOE division of colleges, more balanced in terms of travel times than the current ASCCC division of areas, it still has two areas (II and IX) which have travel time in excess of four hours, while dropping the travel time of two areas (VII and VIII) to around an hour. The number of full-time faculty varies by 13% in the extreme and the number of FTES varies by 16%.

The difficulty of determining what constitutes an equitable representative structure for the ASCCC is that the geography of California is challenging, especially when trying to balance travel time with the size of the colleges and total number of faculty represented per area. If the ASCCC were to organize strictly on geographic travel times, the colleges would be divided in a manner that would be an unequitable division of the number of full-time faculty and FTES served by the colleges within the areas. Of the three divisions analyzed by the Relations with Local Senates Committee, the current ASCCC Area division seems to be the closet to a division of colleges equally divided by FTES and number of full-time faculty, yet having only four areas presents significant geographic challenges. The CCCAOE, ACCCA, and Student Senate divisions mitigate without completely solving the issues with travel but structure the colleges in a way that appears less equitable when considering the FTES and number of full-time faculty per area.

The Relations with Local Senates Committee provides this information to further inform the body and provoke continued conversation about how the ASCCC Executive committee might best be structured to represent the faculty of California Community Colleges.

[1] Foundation for California Community Colleges (2015). About the Colleges. http://www.foundationccc.org/AbouttheColleges/FactsandFigures/tabid/636/Default.aspx

[2] Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. (n.d.). The Academic Senate in California: A brief history. http://asccc.org/sites/default/files/Brief%20History.pdf 

[3] Clark, Kate. (2001). Increasing contact with local senates: A new charge for the Relations with Local Senates Committee and the Academic Senate Executive Committee. ASCCC Rostrum. http://asccc.org/content/increasing-contact-local-senates-new-charge-re…

[5] Staffing Data from CCCCO DataMart: http://employeedata.cccco.edu/statewide_summary_13.pdf

[6] Calculated using Google Maps—note this did not take into account travel time impacted by traffic.