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Category Archives: Laws & Code

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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The Brown Act

Several people have suggested to me that the recent “suspension” of the Brown Act by the California Legislature means local educational boards and governance entities do not have to follow it.  I do not agree with that interpretation.  For one thing, the Brown Act is a federal issue, and for another, the California bill did not suspend the act – it suspended funding for local agencies that had been receiving funds to help implement the act.

Further, both the Ed. Code and Title V have similar provisions for transparency in public education.  The main intent of all of this is to make sure meetings are open and no one can be turned away, asked to involuntarily sign in, or be “vetted” in any way in order to attend and  listen/view the meeting.  These are values I strongly believe in, as do the members of the Oxnard College Academic Senate and Oxnard College Administration, as they agreed to follow these principles in our manual of shared governance.

Having said that, the Legislature is recognizing that funds are lacking for the actual staff and resources to comply with the Brown Act.  Yes, that’s how bad it is, budget wise.

But in researching the Brown Act, rather obsessively, for the last few days, I learned some very interesting things.

Indoor bulletin boards in regular office buildings are a NO-NO

Posting on an indoor bulletin board of any kind, while nice, does not meet the requirements of the Brown Act unless that building is open and accessible to the public 24 hours a day for the 3 days prior to the meeting.  24 hours a day.  Not 8 or 9 or 12 hours.  It can be a window that’s visible from outside.  It is good practice to include at the bottom of every agenda exactly where the place should be.  Our own VCCCD Board of Trustees (Patty Blair is an expert in this, btw, if you have questions), has a glassed in bulletin board outside the building, which is accessible 24 hours a day.  They post in advance of the 72 hours (good job, VCCCD BOT).

This is an easy fix.  Any kiosk will do.  Post as low as needed for a seated person in a wheelchair to read it.  The kiosk is probably best located near to where the meeting is going to be held.  Windows are okay, too – and probably more likely to be seen.  We’ll have to talk about that.

Now, this sounds primitive.  Everyone and their brother knows that what we really do is post on the internet.  That’s perfectly okay as long as you also post in a totally FREE spot (the internet costs money; libraries aren’t open 24 hours a day, etc., etc).  

Some people think that California’s AB 1344 makes it okay to JUST use an online posting.  Nope.  What it says is that if the posting body (in this case, our Academic Senate) has its own webpage (we don’t), then we CAN post there IN ADDITION to posting in the free, publicly available space.  Here is what AB 1344 amended:

SEC. 8. Section 54954.2 of the Government Code is amended to read:

54954.2. (a) (1) At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session. A brief general description of an item generally need not exceed 20 words. The agenda shall specify the time and location of the regular meeting and shall be posted in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public AND on the local agency’s Internet Web site, if the local agency has one.  (my emphasis added).

We (the Academic Senate) are the local educational association in question (and by the way, local educational entities made up entirely of employees, as we are, are specifically exempted from some other rules about online posting that have recently been proposed but not yet enacted).  The website you are reading now is my own website (it does not belong to the Academic Senate, it may be useful to the Academic Senate – just like an indoor bulletin board).  The Academic Senate does not have its own website but our local governance document (the Participatory Governance Manual) provides for our use of the College’s website, which is as it should be.  

So we don’t have to post on the internet – but we do it anyway.  In two places:  sharepoint and on the college’s webpage.  It is voluntary, which is useful, because our Academic Senate President is off raising money to cure Breast Cancer right now and we had to have a flurry of emails while she’s trying to focus on her run in order to post our revised agenda (which went out by email, and was – yes – posted on TWO kiosks near to the meeting place!)  Revised agendas, by the way, do not need to be posted 72 hours in advance (obviously) but 24 hours in advance – and we exceeded that.   Not because we have to.  But because we believe, and affirm, that following the Brown Act (even if we don’t have to) is part of a representative, democratic, anti-backroom politics kind of transparency.  Who would disagree with that, right?

Which brings me to another lesson (my own lesson, I am learning it).  Who is subject to the Brown Act in the first place?  Why aren’t all those District Committees subject to the Brown Act (or are they?)  They do post “notes” but not minutes.  Sometimes they ratify their notes (usually, not always).  Consultation Council is clearly a body designed to influence the actions of the Board, it should be Brown Act (MY opinion; but also the opinion of Michelle Pilati, if I understood her correctly today – and she referred me to someone she says is expert in this area).  Our own PGM specifically states that committees follow the Brown Act (and I hope to do a little revising to make that even more clear; I think that some of the subcommittees of the Academic Senate are specifically bound to follow the Brown Act – but some Academic Senates have language in their charters that exempt them from the Brown Act; so go figure).

But…does CUDS (for example) fall under the Brown Act?  Here are the triggers for the Brown Act:

Are you a Board of Trustees for a state educational institution?  (No, we are not; CUDS is not).

Are you a group specifically created by or authorized to provide direct feedback to the Board? (Yes, the Academic Senate is; CUDS is not).

Do you constitute a regularly meeting group that advises a group that is authorized to give direct feedback to the Board?  (Well, hmmm.  Last year CUDS didn’t report back to Senate, even once; it recommended actions by M & O, it recommended actions to the police; it’s in our shared governance handbook BUT it does say that it “advises” or “recommends” to the Senate).  But here’s the good part:  in our own Participatory Governance Handbook, we say that we, as a local group, expect PGM committees to behave as Brown Act entities.  This is by local decision.  Probably a very good idea.  By the way, CUDS is supposed to report back to the Senate.  Is reporting considered “advice”?  No.  Should we add the word “advice” to our PGM.  Yes.  That’s what CUDS does, so we should be clear about it – and then CUDS falls under the Brown Act.  

So, I think we should revise the PGM just a tiny bit (we’re revising anyway) to make sure that each of the PGM committees says specifically in its charge that it reports to and advises the Senate as needed.  Right?

Now – after all that, what if we really don’t have staff to post on the internet and the State has passed a bill exempting us, for budgetary reasons, from posting.  Well, we don’t have to post, we will not be prosecuted in the State of California.

But my new mantra is:

KIOSKS.  There’s one right by the library, there’s another one between the OE building and the Admin Building – let’s pick one and use it regularly.  And, while we’re at it, we will bring all of our agendas into compliance with the ADA, which currently they are not.  Maybe windows (although for some reason that bothers me aesthetically).  I’m hoping to get a nice label on the Kiosk near the Library and put a little notice to reserve one half of one of the three sides for Academic Senate and PGM postings.  Then, our workers will only have to post in one place (as required) and there won’t be so much running around and potential for missing Brown Act requirements.  Remember, only the physical posting is required; the electronic posting is voluntary – but we will continue to do it.  However, should the servers go down, and we’ve posted properly according to Federal rules we can proceed.  This isn’t just my opinion, there’s case law here too.

These are scary times.  Apparently the County of Mendocino and a few other places are no longer posting agendas anywhere (just how much can that cost?  It can be taped in a window!)  The “cost reimbursement” was originally supposed to be for ADA compliance (people who need a Braille agenda, for example).  It got up to about $98,000,000 in claims for state money for Braille agendas, large print agendas, spoken word agendas, etc.  So they had to suspend all public support of the Brown Act for that reason – but that does not mean that we can’t volunteer to safeguard our freedoms.

KIOSKS.   Am I going to stop putting things up on sharepoint?  Of course not.  But on a day when I revise an agenda and our AS Secretary is off duty, and I don’t yet have Omniupdate permissions, I know now that KIOSKS are my friend.  I will continue to pester all of you with agenda changes, supporting documents (don’t have to be mailed at any particular time or put on kiosks OR sharepoint – but we will but them on sharepoint, NOT kiosks).  And btw, the other co-chairs of PGM committees might want to think through their practices too.  I am eagerly looking forward to suggestions from other AS Presidents (past and present) as well as the State AS expert on procedure.

Further references.  ASCCC 1991 Overview

By the way, it is firmly my belief that when the Board okayed the District’s Participatory Governance Handbook it established committees that have regular, on-going advisory roles, and by so establishing, subjected them to the Brown Act – but the PGH disagrees.

What a kiosk may look like – ours are nicer

 
 

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