One of the first things I looked at when I decided to run as an at-large senator in the Academic Senate was a brochure entitled The Role of the Academic Senate at Glendale Community College (GCC), which included a section on the role of faculty. It states that
The faculty at Glendale Community College takes pride in its role of fulfilling the mission of our college to create and preserve an educational and cultural environment that meets the needs of our changing community. We are committed to the philosophy that all individuals have inherent worth and dignity, and thus we offer a wide range of educational opportunities to all who can profit from community college instruction. We offer quality academic, vocational, cultural, basic skills education and remediation programs and services. These are designed to encourage the development of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, effective communication, technical skills, and basic understanding of the relationships between the past and the challenges of the present and future. Our ultimate goal is to help students form rewarding lives, productive for them and for society.
As I reflect on this statement a decade into my career at GCC, it makes me wonder what has happened to serving the whole community of learners, not just the transfer bound, full time student.
The answer, at least in part, lies in the shift to the “completion agenda”. This is a term I had not heard about until recently, in relation to a discussion over City College of San Francisco having its accreditation revoked by ACCJC. The completion agenda, which started during the Bush administration but has continued full throttle under the Obama Administration, emphasizes the following: “…colleges divest from community-based programs not directly related to job creation or university degrees, and use a data measurement approach to ensure two-year schools transfer and graduate students in greater numbers” (Rodriguez, 2013). This process basically starts community colleges down the path to becoming nothing more than junior colleges and it disregards all of the other needs of the community. No one can deny that the recent recession forced government at all levels, as well as institutions of higher education, to make tough decisions about how to spend their money; however, changes that come from focusing on degrees awarded or transfer numbers will be hard to reverse in the future. I may be lucky because I have a new AA-T degree to offer students in political science and I teach in a discipline that offers students a pathway to a bachelor’s degree. Many of my peers are not so lucky. I know that political science will continue to get funding but other programs, such as life-long learning, have been decimated.
What does this have to do with the Academic Senate? Our job as the senate, which is laid out in the constitution, is to “address, either directly or through its designated committees, all matters pertaining to the educational well being of the college, to develop and establish faculty positions on all such matters and to inform all relevant constituencies, inside and outside the college, of these positions.” As I watch what City College of
San Francisco is going through, and I see our campus undertaking our accreditation process, it is apparent that we, as professional educators and experts in our disciplines, should be taking the lead on determining what the future of GCC’s educational well being should look like. If we, as faculty at a diverse, urban community college see the mission of our college as embracing the broader needs of our community, then we need to become informed and voice our opinions both through our shared governance process here on campus and beyond. We need to be educated on these issues and use the Academic Senate to communicate our positions and advocate for the community college we want now and in the future.
Below are some links to information on the completion agenda, a Los Angeles Times article that outlines the issues with ACCJC, and the California Federation of Teachers website that has additional information on these topics:
The Incomplete Completion Agenda: Implications for Academe and the Academy by Gary Rhoades: http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/le-wi12/rhoades.cfm
California Federation of Teachers: http://www.cft.org/
Visit us on the web: www.glendale.edu/senate