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Chaparral 2011-2012: Speaking of the Senate...

Speaking of The Senate

by Mike Scott, Academic Senate President

Who are we?

    I apologize up front for the length of this article but I felt it needed to have all the mission statement details so we as a college can have a dialogue on the question:  Who are we?

     We have heard and read a lot about the mission of the California community colleges. In those discussions, we have been told that the mission is changing, and is now to be broken down into what is primary and what is secondary, and that we are moving back to the original Master Plan from the 1960s. We are being told that the Chancellor’s Office is changing how districts will be funded using a “new” mission for community colleges with funding focused on basic skills, career technical education, and transfer courses. Further, the Chancellor has chosen to make changes to the legislated mission based on reduced state revenues only, not on any data that shows that the programs which have been chosen for elimination (or "no-funding") actually deserve their fate.  

     What does all of this mean? To provide the answer, we must start with the Ed Code, then compare it to the mission and vision statements from the Chancellor’s Office.

Community College Mission

Education Code Section 66010 (4) reads as follows (emphasis added):

(a) (1) The California Community Colleges shall, as a primary mission, offer academic and vocational instruction at the lower division level for both younger and older students, including those persons returning to school. Public community colleges shall offer instruction through but not beyond the second year of college. These institutions may grant the associate in arts and the associate in science degree.

(2) In addition to the primary mission of academic and vocational instruction, the community colleges shall offer instruction and courses to achieve all of the following:

(A) The provision of remedial instruction for those in need of it and, in conjunction with the school districts, instruction in English as a second languageadult noncredit instruction, and support services which help students succeed at the postsecondary level are reaffirmed and supported as essential and important functions of the community colleges. 

(B) The provision of adult noncredit education curricula in areas defined as being in the state's interest is an essential and important function of the community colleges.

(C) The provision of community services courses and programs is an authorized function of the community colleges so long as their provision is compatible with an institution's ability to meet its obligations in its primary missions.

(3) A primary mission of the California Community Colleges is to advance California's economic growth and global competitiveness through education, training, and services that contribute to continuous work force improvement. 

According to the language above (a)(1), academic and vocational instruction plus education/training/services that lead to work force improvement are the legislated primary missions for community colleges.  Secondary mission areas listed above (2) include remedial, ESL and adult noncredit instruction, along with support services. Although the Ed Code breaks instruction down into primary and secondary programs, community colleges have generally not made those distinctions, and treated all as being important functions. This becomes apparent when you read the mission statement below from the Chancellor’s Office.

Chancellor’s Office Mission:

“Community colleges provide basic skills education, workforce training and courses to prepare students to transfer to four-year universities. Colleges also provide opportunities for personal enrichment and lifelong learning.”

     The Chancellor’s Office mission statement makes no mention of primary or secondary missions and moves basic skills into the forefront. It does list personal enrichment and lifelong learning as areas in which community colleges will offer educational experiences. Apparently ESL (both credit and noncredit) and support services are lumped into basic  skills (formerly "remedial instruction"). The education code’s emphasis on primary versus secondary becomes even vaguer when you add the vision statement from the Chancellor’s Office.

Chancellor’s Office Vision Statement:

“The vision of the board and chancellor is to build a better future for California by providing exceptional leadership, advocacy and support on behalf of California's Community Colleges. These efforts will foster access, success and lifelong learning for all students while simultaneously advancing the state's interests in a skilled workforce and an educated citizenry.”

     Community colleges have done a good job of following the vision given to us. We have taught the masses, advanced the skilled workforce, and educated the citizenry to the best of our abilities, doing so with the meager funds provided. They asked us to foster access, success, and lifelong learning for all students, and we gave it to them. The Chancellor’s office has now made the decision to limit the vision even further. The secondary mission is limited primarily to parent education and lifelong learning.

     At the beginning of March, we held a community forum to discuss issues that are important to the district and community. We had the largest attendance ever for this event. The community participants were predominantly from the parent education program. Their message was strong and clear: “Please don’t eliminate the program.” Following the community forum, a video presentation was shown that eloquently presented testimonials from parents enrolled in the program. Parent education is a wonderful program that instructs parents beyond the do’s and don’ts of being a parent. Many of the courses now have an anger management component in them to help parents deal with tense situations that arise in life and that should not be taken out on children.  The importance of parent education can be seen in the many articles written in the newspapers and on the Internet each week regarding child abuse and the heinous atrocities committed against children around the country.  The United States currently ranks at or very near the top in child abuse.  Despite this, Sacramento somehow feels that parent education is not worthy of funding. On a personal note, my wife and children went through the program and found it a very informative and worthwhile experience.

     As a result of budget cuts, the parent education program will be reduced from a high of 33 classes to just 13 this fall. Those numbers do not take into account the 10 classes the program has lost for summer session. It should be noted that eight of the 13 remaining classes will be taught by a full-timer, leaving only five classes for adjuncts, many of whom will be laid off. The Lifelong Learning program will be reduced even more.

     In response to the projected cuts, the question has been asked by many on campus: Shouldn’t these program reductions, along with any other course or program reductions, go through the process outlined in the Senate’s sunset/enhancement policy? The answer is yes and no. For a program to be subject to the policy, it needs to meet the following criteria:

A.  Low or declining enrollment:

· A decline of 30% or more in census enrollment throughout the program over a two-year period (winter and summer sessions excluded).

· Consistently low enrollments of 50% below the maximum fill rate capacity over a two-year period.

· A new program that never reached the 50% fill rate.

B.  Decreasing demand for service:

· A decrease in the number of students pursuing that particular educational goal, based on actual enrollment “behavior” rather than student declaration.

· Declining market/industry demand or community needs.

· Advisory Committee recommendation.

· Unavailability of the transfer major.

C.  Clear Obsolescence:

· No longer central to the college mission and educational master plan.

· No longer in line with current technology.

· Decline in importance of service to related disciplines.

D.   Other Factors

· Poor rate for student achievement of program goals (i.e., completion rate, numbers of degrees and certificates).

· Programs without a full-time faculty member.

· Impending retirement of all full-time faculty in the program.

 

     Parent Education does not meet the requirements of the sunset/enhancement policy (low or declining enrollment, decreased demand, clear obsolescence or the other factors), and this policy should not be used in discussions on what to do with that program. Lifelong Learning, on the other hand, is subject to the policy due to the retirement of the last full-time faculty member in the program. The decision on whether to move forward with the sunset/enhancement policy is up to the administration.

     The sunset/enhancement policy was not intended to be used for reductions based on revenue shortfalls. The reductions that are coming in the fall will be based on the decisions made by the Enrollment Management committee, subject to review by both the Senate and Academic Affairs. One path that will not be used in determining if a course or program is reduced is whether or not the courses/programs are profitable. The KH module suggests that courses be separated in to three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary based on profitability. That is an issue best left for all the for-profit organizations out there draining the financial future of their students. 

Who Are We?

GCC Mission Statement:

“Glendale Community College welcomes students of all diverse backgrounds, goals, ages, abilities, and learning styles. As an institution of higher education, we are committed to student learning and success. Using personal interaction, dynamic and rigorous instruction, and innovative technologies, we foster the development of critical thinking and lifelong learning. We provide students with the opportunity and support to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to meet their educational, career, and personal goals. Our commitment is to prepare students for their many evolving roles in and responsibilities to our community, our state, and our society.”

 

     Basically, the GCC mission statement is telling the community that we will teach the young and the old and anyone who can prove they live somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. This is why we need to revamp the mission statement and answer the question: Who are we? The GCC mission statement is the broadest statement of all those quoted in this article. True to our mission, GCC has tried hard to be everything to everyone. We have given the community and our students what they asked for, even though it hurt us financially as a college and individually in our paychecks. The economy has now made it difficult, if not impossible, to continue doing this. In light of this fact, we must now decide who we are.  

     In doing that, GCC needs to decide on what it wants to be, both in good and bad times,  so that we don’t keep reinventing ourselves every economic cycle.  By revising the mission statement and making it clearer, we can answer the following questions.

· Do we offer programs only in the areas of basic skills, CTE and transfer courses?

· Do we want to focus primarily on certificates, degrees and transfer?

· Which courses are primary, secondary, or tertiary to our mission?

· Where do noncredit and community service courses fit in the discussion?

· What type of student do we want i.e., only those who show through assessments they will be successful?

· Do we join with others and have common assessments, or go our own way?

· What services do we provide?

· How do we prioritize student registration? Do we simply follow the recommendations of the SSTF?

     There are many more questions that need to be answered before we determine exactly who we are. The discussion must happen now or we will continue to drift about wherever the next wind takes us. 

Student Success Task Force Update

     Michelle L. Pilati, the State Academic Senate President, sent out an update on some of the issues concerning the SSTF. Her letter includes:

1) There have been a number of instances where over-zealous administrations are making arbitrary and unannounced changes in student "priority" for registration. Until this issue has been thoroughly vetted, she recommends that any changes be delayed. It is important for faculty, as well as students, to be a part of the decision-making process.

2)  A reminder that the SSTF recommendations do not mandate full-time student status. They only state that students should be provided with the necessary information on, and support in, what the benefits are of being a full-time student.

3) “The Chancellor's Office has not created a wide array of ‘work groups’ to implement the SSTF recommendations.  A group focused on enrollment priorities has met twice and the ARCC Advisory Committee is being reconstituted to work on the ‘score card.’ The ASCCC Executive Committee has formed a subcommittee to discuss issues related to the ‘score card’ and to inform the faculty members on this committee.” 

4) “Clarification that educational objectives that are less than a certificate, degree, or transfer are ‘acceptable’ goals. The SSTF was clear that there was no interest in closing our doors to a student who needs a course or two for career or educational advancement, or who simply needs to learn English.”  

     The Senate passed Motion 2011-36 to form a taskforce to respond to the student success taskforce recommendations. Those listed above, and the many others, will be properly vetted. Work has already begun on the requirement that students have an education plan. Counseling has developed a well thought-out education plan form for students to fill out with the face-to-face help from our counselors that can be revised and updated by students if they decide to change majors. GCC has not stood still waiting for someone to give us the go ahead, but we do not plan on rushing the process either.  

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