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Chaparral 2015-2016: 24.1 Speaking of the Senate

Speaking of The Senate (September 2015)

Speaking of the Senate: The Importance of Shared Governance

by Andrew Young

Academic Senate President

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Anyone who has been working at Glendale Community College for an extended period of time is surely aware of the extensive shared governance system we have.  We pride ourselves on having had a shared governance system at GCC before it was cool.  Our system dates back to before AB 1725, which established the requirement for local community college boards to work collegially with local Academic Senates when establishing policies related to a broad range of “academic and professional matters” (referred to as the “10 + 1”).

Generally, shared governance is a process by which representatives (elected or appointed) from the major constituencies in an organization get together to make decisions, set policies, and define procedures which guide how the organization works.  It provides an opportunity for the governed to have input into decisions that otherwise would be imposed from the top down by an autocratic administration.  Many of you will remember that we had a taste of a more autocratic administration a few years back, and we did not like it.  We fought to have our traditions of participatory decision-making restored and respected, and we prevailed.

Our shared governance system covers much more than just the “10 + 1” areas (depending on whom you ask – some people can interpret the “10 + 1” to cover essentially every aspect of college operations).  We have more than thirty committees listed in the “Blue List,” and the Senate (and Guild, either separately or jointly) appoint representatives to every one of those committees.  And that only covers the official governance committees.  There are also many additional committees which are not official governance committees, but which do essential work at the college.  These include the various specialized committees, Senate committees, division or department committees, etc.

All told there are hundreds of faculty seats on just the Blue List committees.  Some full-time faculty members serve on several committees.  Some, to be frank, are not pulling their weight.  I went through the Blue List last year and tabulated how many people were serving on these committees.   I found 216 faculty seats which were filled (there were also quite a few vacant seats).  Coincidentally, that is almost exactly how many full-time faculty we have.  Yet only just over half (118 or 55%) of the full-time faculty were serving on these committees.  Sixty-nine (58%) of those served on just one committee.   Twenty-four (20%) served on two committees.  The remaining 25 (21%) people served on an average of four committees each, and represented ninety-nine (46%) of the 216 appointments.  That means about 11% of the full-time faculty are doing almost half of the Blue List committee work.

[Sorry if you don’t like all the numbers and percentages, but I am a Math guy.  I can’t help it.]

Every full-time faculty member should be serving on at least one committee OUTSIDE their divisional or departmental responsibilities.  It is not that big a burden.  Many of these committees only meet once or twice a semester, usually only for an hour.  That only adds up to about one hour a month.  Everyone can find one (or two!) hours a month to dedicate to governance work.  Ask yourself if you are doing your share, and if you could be doing more, consider joining just one governance committee.  e

The effective functioning of any shared governance depends on broad participation.  It only works because of the efforts of the people who serve, and that burden should be spread widely, not concentrated on the backs of a few hardy souls.

If you are serving on a governance committee, thank you.  If you are not, it is not too late to join the fun.

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