The Fall Plenary Session

Dear Colleagues:

I did my homework and so the Plenary Session made lots of sense to me.  There’s a lot in this post, and most of you will want to skim it until an item catches your eye – everyone is affected by the changes of the last year – and the upcoming changes.  I am in no way expert on the resolutions or work of our State Academic Senate, but I did get to:

1.  (briefly) meet our new State Chancellor, Dr. Brice Harris, and listen to him speak.

Impressions:  He’s very open and definitely knows how to work with faculty.  His mission (as it should be with all Chancellors) is to empower the community colleges.  He is one of our main voices vis-á-vis the state legislature; it is through our resolutions that we advise him of our positions.

2.  Attend a mini-version of the Leadership Conference, which was very helpful.

3.  Meet our State Exec Board and confer with Wheeler North (our state expert on procedure) on our recent issue involving a 6-2 vote in our Senate, and whether that passed the motion or not (it did – I’ll be reporting at Senate and perhaps blogging about that; my initial intuition was correct but Wheeler lacked my hesitancy because he really knows his stuff about procedure).

4.  Meet most of the rest of the Exec Board and many of our State level Senators (what amazing people they are).

5.  Meet people from all around the State and have many conversations about so many things, all of which was extremely helpful;  Moorpark and Ventura are the two other colleges I know best, but they are not (by any means) the only two other colleges in this great state!

6.  Go to break-outs on various issues (Minimum quals, Program discontinuance, Accreditation and much more) and vote on resolutions regarding our future.  In particular, there were three resolutions regarding Math and its role in blocking/impeding the pathway of California Community College students, particularly those who are Black or Hispanic (or, viewed from another perspective:  those of lower socioeconomic status).  While there was absolutely no solution to the problem offered, the problem is clearly looming large and so many factors enter into it.  English is in a much better situation (not so much of a bottleneck).

In the process, I learned a lot about how to use our local Senate to meet our needs, to protect and improve programs (good Program Evaluation processes are key), and how to avoid some major pitfalls that would certainly result in warnings or worse from WASC.

Indeed, our new PEPR form (under revision by PEPC) adds an absolutely essential ingredient, one that the accrediting commission will certainly be looking for in the next round:  some sort of evaluation of programs/faculty in terms of compliance with SLO’s.

Did you know that in some districts and colleges, Boards of Trustees and Chancellors are advocating that compliance with SLO rules be added to a faculty’s formal evaluation process?  Further, did you know that in some colleges and districts, having bad evaluations can be a cause for termination?  Neither is true in our District (we have a GREAT union; thank you, local AFT 1828).  I learned that in many areas, the union and the Senate overlap and must work together, and it is way better to do that amongst ourselves than to allow Chancellors and/or Boards to impose conditions upon us.  We are fortunate to have both a Board and a Chancellor (right now) that wants us to do just that (work things out among ourselves).  I’d say that about half the colleges I know about are in the same happy boat with us, and about half are in the unhappy boat.

Both the ASCCC and the AAUP stand firmly against any such interference from administration in our academic affairs, in our classrooms.  At the same time, the law is clear:  we must give proof of results (learning outcomes).  As standardized tests become more and more the route to external evaluation, we can resist this trend only by inventing meaningful local processes of evaluation.

Evaluating a program as to its collection of data about SLO’s and its general improvement of standards is quite different than evaluating an individual faculty person.  We hope that the second thing will never come to pass (how long we can hold off on that is anyone’s guess, it’s certainly something that many members of the general public want to see happen).  This year, you will be expected to provide a lot more detail about your program’s SLO’s (made easy, we hope, by eLumens – if you’ve stayed on track in eLumens it will be very easy indeed).  Naturally, you’ll want to complain about the extra analysis and narrative (if you are a lead faculty person – the rest of you can relax), but keep in mind that the alternative (having it added to that evaluation form during our next contract negotiations) is not at all a better solution.  It is the worst solution.

I also learned that there are a host of other areas where faculty are going to be expected to implement change:

7.  Professional Development has new issues that we need to address, including issues regarding protection of Sabbaticals (oddly, release time for Senate is not under scrutiny in the same way; right now it’s general Professional Development and Sabbaticals that are under scrutiny).

8.  Every campus is pondering its ratio of CTE to Transfer to Basic Skills courses and every campus has difficulties in this area.  There are no clear guidelines or precedents, it really is up to the local colleges, their planning bodies, and their administration.  In the absence of clear guidelines from PBC, we can continue to expect our administrators to solve our local planning on their own.  We need to make PBC a strong planning group and give it a way of airing these issues among faculty.  Yes, there’s a possibility for contention (that’s not a bad thing, by the way), but it should not be “management vs. faculty” over these issues.  It should not be CTE Dean vs. Liberal Studies Dean.  It should be faculty, amongst themselves, making recommendations (and where needed, giving minority reports, as clearly, a purely democratic process or majority rule will not resolve the intellectual and value problems that are currently in front of us).

On this same topic, I learned about a lot more variables than I had ever thought about before.  That’s what happens when you stick 50 involved faculty in one room, with leaders who are well prepped, and then have a long, fairly well moderated conversation.  Most of us sat silently and let people who had done research or a lot of thought have the floor.  It was overwhelming to be packed with 16 hours or so of such knowledge but I am getting used to it.  For an anthropologist, there’s a lot to notice.  But at the Senate, there’s no difference betwen CTE and non-CTE, Counselors or Instructors, Basic Skills and Transfer, etc.

9.  Every State mandate is underfunded, but unless a campus can show dire fiscal emergency (which can in turn jeopardize accreditation, as we are learning from the San Francisco City College situation) the campus still has to comply.  The question of what is an Ed Plan and who can sign off on one is hotly debated.  There were no resolutions regarding this question.  Here are the various personnel currently signing off on Ed Plans (which come in two flavors:  regular and comprehensive, only a regular ed plan is mandated by the Student Success Act):

Counselors (all varieties)

Counseling assistants (classified personnel)

Instructional Faculty (lots and lots of instructional faculty advisement, to the point that some instructional faculty want their union contracts to reflect this as a new category of work).  In our case, if instructional faculty are advising (and they are, particularly about AA-T’s in their own fields), we would have to decide firstly whether this was an ordinary office hour activity (which it appears to be), and whether our office hours will be sufficient in the future for this task as the TMC rolls out; and secondly, whether excess hours in advisement count toward our 87.5 or whatever that number is of extra hours per semester).

10.  Transfer Model Curriculum, its impact, etc.  Obviously, not everyone is going to have TMC.  What does this mean for everyone else?  As new legislation goes forward, enumerating (for example) that “the 50 most popular courses in the State shall do X” or “the 20 most popular majors shall do Y”, we need to realize that whether we like it or not, the State is mandating divisions on campus.  Traditional, non-AA granting CTE programs are well advised to have certificates, and low unit certificates are in our future.  We did pass a resolution regarding the advisability of low unit certificates, but with no numbers regarding what constitutes a low unit certificate.  Whether these can actually be transcripted is another issue, one that the State Chancellor’s Office will now be asked to weigh in upon.  Certainly, you can’t expect to have a 3 unit certificate!  Some colleges/districts are so far ahead of us on this one, it’s obvious that their Scorecards (we all have Scorecards now) will give them higher grades than OC will get.  New certificates at OC need to be budget neutral (we’re not talking new classes, necessarily, but if so, certainly that means an older class will have to be less frequent in rotation).  Keep in mind that if your certificate is CTE, it has to follow the program review and other requirements for CTE – regardless of host discipline.  Not all certificates are CTE (Peace Studies, Non-Violence Studies are not, to my knowledge, whereas Conflict Resolution studies is a CTE certificate that enables a person to begin a career pathway as a mediator).

It seems very likely that the UC system will soon look at TMC the same way the CSU’s do.  There is a strong movement to get rid of the “preference for local students” at the CSU and UC levels (coming from community college instructors).  We passed a resolution asking the State AS to investigate the impact of changing this incredibly important aspect of our current transfer model.  Only one person spoke to the issue of “many students can’t afford any college but their local one” but I am certain that issue will be brought up again if this resolution is brought back in a stronger form (and I believe it will be).  This would have enormous impact on Oxnard College students (if they no longer got preference at CSUCI, for example).  In the meantime, we need to remember that while it is likely that CSUCI and CSUN will not disallow our regular AA degrees for transfer, they may certainly decide to give preference to those possessing an AA-T or AS-T.  If we combine these various matriculation requirements in a bundle, we can foresee a future in which CSUCI might retain a preference for OC students (using our AA-T’s and AS-T’s that they’ve agreed to) but only if we lobby for it and actually produce enough AA-T’s and AS-T’s.  The State Senate affirmed the right of every local college to continue to award AA’s and AS’s of its own choosing, including maintaining dual degrees (both an A.A. and an A.A.-T in the same subject).  This is in light of many colleges (often under pressure from administration) to end their local AA’s as soon as the AA-T is in place.  Sometimes, though, it is faculty themselves who decide to end the AA in a discipline as soon as the AA-T is in place (for the obvious reason that with many subjects, if you’re not clearly planning to transfer, you might as well choose another major or for the reason that it is overall cheaper and faster for a student and therefore more likely for a student to succeed if they do the AA-T or AS-T).  We will be deciding this for OC, so stay tuned.

Why keep an AA, you might ask?  Well, those students take Health Education and Physical Education (that’s the main difference) and may also take more electives.  They are spending their financial aid money (if they’re on financial aid) at a faster rate than the current financial aid model allows, so should we encourage that?  Please keep in mind that 30-35% of OC’s students are not on the kinds of financial aid that limit units so severely – so we need to serve them too.  What if a student wants the old style degree (for whatever reason)?  Both degrees transfer (but one may give a student a leg up in an increasingly crowded transfer situation – and that’s the AA-T or AS-T).  Moorpark has, I believe, elected to remove the AA once the AA-T is in place.  It makes for a cleaner catalog and a clear path to transfer.  It also makes disciplines “look” different – only 20 disciplines will have AA-T’s.  I think we need to wait until students understand the changes more thoroughly – and, as a second result from attending plenary, I believe that we have a central and all-encompassing agenda item to consider:

How do we keep students aware of and abreast of all these changes?  

Remember how the principal used to come on the intercom in high school and announce all kinds of things?  The portal is supposedly doing that now (I think it is a weak substitute for the human voice).  Many faculty are claiming that they don’t have in-classroom time (or the knowledge) to teach their students about articulation, transfer pathways, financial aid and so much more.  I think there are many, many solutions to this (and that with just a tiny amount of creativity – such as moving one quiz online or using clickers for roll call or whatever else you can think of, you all can find the time to teach your students about transfer and career pathways, or to have someone else come into your classroom to help you teach them).  Naturally, we also need student workshops, tutorials in the library, posters (most colleges have so many more posters up than we do!), portal announcements, widgets on D2L homepages, better use of webpage – on and on.  We need better connections to the ASG.  We need to put some things at the top of our syllabi that perhaps we have not thought to prioritize before (and go over them on the first day of class).  We need to encourage students to use our office hours to learn more about transfer and career pathways.  

Well, that’s it for now from the plenary.  Most everyone I talked to found the plenary to be exhausting (we were working on a Saturday on a holiday weekend, of course); most people who are new are working 7 days a week and long hours (it was good to know I’m not the only person who has devote an excessive amount of time to learning the ropes).  It’s Sunday and I’m thinking maybe I’ll relax a bit before the Accreditation team arrives bright and early Tuesday morning…maybe play some ping pong.



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