Volume 45 Number 2
Twenty years later, we’re seeing the ugly side of the College Reform bill
By Alan Frey
Community College Consultant
Many of you who read this column were not around when the big Community College Reform Bill, AB 1725, was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1988 and touted as the “be all” and “save all” for the California Community Colleges future.
Most of the constituent groups that hovered around the workings of the community colleges were highly in favor of the legislation but one group stood out against the pack – the Community College Association.
At the time, we had grave misgivings about the reforms that were being pushed through and steadfastly argued against the changes. We were considered pariahs, traitors and a number of other salty terms by both faculty and management.
Yet, some 20 years later, the more onerous aspects of the reform measures are rearing their not-so-pretty heads.
We were considered pariahs, traitors and a number of other salty terms by both faculty and management.
Best-kept secrets exposed
We first start with one of the best-kept secrets of AB 1725 that just recently become controversial: The authority to adopt the regulations that interpret the laws passed by the Legislature. Much like the Federal Register interprets the laws passed by Congress and the federal government; we in California have a similar checks-and-balance system for interpreting our laws. It is called the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). This agency reviews regulations proposed by the various agencies empowered to enforce the laws to insure that the intent of the law is maintained.
But not so with the Board of Governors and the chancellor’s office of the California Community Colleges. AB 1725 exempted the chancellor’s office from having to review its regulations with the OAL and instead enacted a provision that says that the regulations written by the chancellors office shall go into effect unless two-thirds of the college districts object. For years this has been a sleeper provision in the law until recently when the chancellor proposed regulations that gutted the 50 Percent Law, severely impacting college faculty and collective bargaining.
The 50 Percent Law, which maintains that 50 percent of a college’s budget be used in the classroom, has long been a thorn in the side of community college management, and this round-about gift to CC administration is the first true example of the folly of allowing a state agency to interpret the laws passed by the legislature.
CCA and other faculty groups have been working with management and other organizations to modify the law, but when things were not going their way, management representatives went directly to the chancellor’s office for what we consider unnecessary relief. We as representatives of faculty have been taken out of the loop. Thank you AB 1725!
The next issue to further unveil the dark side of AB 1725 is a topic about which I have waxed eloquently over the years — peer evaluation. Prior to its enactment, the evaluation of faculty and the attainment of tenure was a managerial function. It was one management did not like, as the onus of criticism fell on administrators’ shoulders. AB 1725 changed all that and basically empowered instructors to evaluate their peers. As a result, management was relieved of the pain of having to tell faculty they were not worthy, and, as a result, the task has now fallen on faculty. (It should be noted that the reduced load of management in the evaluation process did not concurrently reduce their compensation, either).
…the only real shared governance occurs when management wants to cut budgets and does so through a ‘budget committee.’
Add to this the fact that there is no real requirement for peer evaluation as, the chief counsel to the former Chancellor Tom Nussbaum noted, there was no legal definition of what peer evaluation is in the law and, therefore, whatever was acceptable locally was entirely admissible. Even further, the law stated that student evaluations of faculty were recommended and that faculty evaluations of management were desirable. The former has been enacted on all campuses but the faculty evaluation of management has been swept under the carpet.
In yet another “reform” the colleges were encouraged to institute a form of collegial governance, or as some called it, shared governance. The intent was to have those closest to the education process – faculty – share in the decision-making of structural and financial decisions for the college. My experience over the years has shown me that the only real shared governance occurs when management wants to cut budgets and does so through a “budget committee.” No such deliberation happens when there is extra money to go around as management believes, they then know what is best for the institution. In essence, faculty get to participate when there are bad times, but are not offered the same consideration when times are good. Perhaps this scenario is best described in Murphy’s Laws as “Parkinson’s Axiom” which states, “Management wants to create subordinates, not rivals.”
We as representatives of faculty have been taken out of the loop. ‘Thank you’ AB 1725!
Repeal of credential requirements
One other reform in AB 1725 was the repeal of the credential requirement to teach in a community college. While over the years this has created a form of local control, what it also has accomplished is that there is no true oversight of what qualifications an instructor in an institution of higher education should meet. The local establishment of equivalencies and minimum qualifications has, from my travels on many campuses, demonstrated that there exists great latitude in the caliber of faculty from institution to institution. Add to that the explosion of contingent part-time faculty, the ability of a district to monitor the masses has become problematic from the paperwork alone, never mind the monitoring of performance.
And finally as a part of the elimination of credentials, Faculty Serviced Areas were created and have slumbered in obscurity until just lately. While all faculty are supposed to be assigned a Faculty Service Area when hired, the only true application of this section of the law occurs when layoffs are contemplated. Since no significant layoffs have transpired in the 20 years since its enactment, FSA’s have pretty much led a somnambulant existence.
Looming, however, in 2009-10 is the real possibility that the massive budget cuts community colleges have experienced will lead to widespread attempts to lay off full-time faculty and the Faculty Service Areas will play a paramount role when the bumping and qualifications game is played.
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