Volume 45, Number 1 - November/December 2009
District didn't bargain it into contract
In what may be the first test case, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will decide whether a college can require instructors to submit Student Learning Outcomes without having bargained them into the contract.
The case stems from a charge brought by the Lassen College Faculty Association against the Lassen Community College District in December when the college administration unilaterally changed its policy and started requiring certificated employees to submit a student assessment plan whenever they submit a course syllabus. When the administration topped off the demand by proposing that faculty be evaluated based on its Student Learning Outcomes, (SLOs) the chapter took the matter to PERB.
Unrest and distrust
"We told them, 'enough is enough,' " said Ross Stevenson, chief faculty negotiator. "Unrest and distrust of the administration were already running high among unit members since we hadn't had a raise in seven years. We weren't going to take on more work unless SLO evaluations and faculty evaluations were negotiated at the bargaining table. For us, the District's attempt to unilaterally impose additional work with no compensation was the end of the line."
PERB recently issued a complaint against the college district, and has scheduled a hearing for mid-November.
"It's an issue that is creeping up on campuses all over the state."
The use of Student Learning Outcomes has been hotly debated by faculty, most recently because some faculty charge that the Accrediting Commission for Community Colleges appears to be interfering with collective bargaining by making it a requirement that SLOs be incorporated into the evaluation process for faculty.
SLOs must be bargained
CCA has adamantly maintained that evaluations tied to SLOs have implication for tenure review, and must be bargained. CCA President Ron Norton Reel has raised the issue with the executive director of the Accrediting Commission, Barbara Beno, but has not been able to reach any agreement.
"It really was just a matter of time before a charge was filed with PERB. It's an issue that is creeping up on campuses all over the state," Reel said.
Student Learning Outcomes, themselves, are a subject of controversy for some. David Clemens, an English professor at Monterey Peninsula College, has argued in the pages of The Advocate that, "There is no objective evidence that SLOs have any positive effect on learning at all, although there is evidence that they negatively affect learning because they encourage 'dumbing down' and teaching to the test."
Other faculty commonly use SLOs and view them as a useful tool in gauging student learning. However, faculty strenuously object to having their college administrators make top-down requirements that SLOs be used as part of faculty evaluation, without having bargained it during the negotiations process.
"We're not saying 'don't do it," Reel said. "We're saying, 'if you do it, you must be compensated for it, and it must be bargained.'"