Faculty senate presidents discuss lack of communication when district approves initiatives.
By Katherine Garcia
Two of eight trustees and the student trustee listened to concerns of faculty senates from all five colleges at a special meeting of the board’s Student Success Committee April 16 in the nursing complex.
The committee meeting that drew an audience of about 50 people served as a forum for faculty to communicate with board members. The meeting was planned by District 1 trustee Joe Alderete.
The district has only eight elected trustees because District 4 trustee Albert Herrera resigned March 15.
Joe Alderete and District 8 trustee Clint Kinsgbery attended the special meeting along with student trustee Jacob Wong.
Roberto Zarate, committee member and District 5 trustee, did not attend.
During the standing committee meetings April 14 in Killen Center, District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz said she would not attend, for fear of “micromanaging.”
Katz said she is a former director of school accreditation for the state and worked with more than 120 school boards and districts.
She said she feared the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board would look into the district if the board participated in this special meeting.
“I would not want our board to start down that pathway of having our accrediting organization look at us and look into our actions and look at them as a governance
issue because a citation in the governance area affects our accreditation status in the district,” Katz said April 14.
She said the board as a whole needs to create policies to improve shared governance.
District 2 trustee Denver McLendon said April 14 that the planned special meeting did not violate district policy.
District paralegal Pat Meurin agreed. “What is done is consistent with what’s been done,” he said.
Although Alderete invited the full board, no other members attended.
Gerald Busald, math professor at this college, said, “The board members who are not here are speaking in volumes about what they think about faculty input.”
Representatives of the five faculty senates made a presentation on what they believe the district needs to improve.
Amy Whitworth, language, philosophy and culture chair and Faculty Senate vice president at this college, discussed an alternative to taking majors out of degrees.
She suggested students transfer into a four-year institution as a “true junior,” meaning when they graduate as a sophomore, all 60 credits transfer to their desired institution.
Whitworth he said the change will save time and money and students will be given a clear pathway to transfer.
She likened the “true junior” plan to that of two-plus-two agreements with designated transfer universities. More such agreements should be done, she said.
Student learning outcomes at the Alamo Colleges should be the same as those at a four-year institution, she said.
Alderete then reminded the crowd that the meeting was a discussion and no decision would be made.
Amanda Salinas, Palo Alto Faculty Senate president, discussed a lack of communication between the district and faculty.
She said district did not properly communicate the potential addition of EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, to the core; standardizing textbooks; and having students pay for textbooks in their tuition in Spring 2014, which Chancellor Bruce Leslie rescinded in April 2014. The same went for removing majors from degrees: The initiative was passed in Fall 2014 and removed in December 2014.
Both initiatives were removed only after faculty and student protests.
She said the initiatives were approved with little to no input of the five college presidents, and the initiatives were addressed only after they were approved.
This makes the faculty “reactive” instead of “proactive,” she said.
“Faculty are not the enemy of district,” she said, adding faculty want to be actively involved in such initiatives.
Sandra Snavely, St. Philip’s College Faculty Senate representative, made a presentation on shared governance.
She defined shared governance as “a set of practices which college faculty and staff participate in working on decisions concerning the institution.”
She reminded the committee that faculty are the most qualified to determine those practices, and she quoted policy in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, handbook, The Principles of Accreditation.
Policy 3.4.1 states, “The institution demonstrates that each educational program for which academic credit is awarded is approved by the faculty and the administration.”
She said a perfect example of a lack of shared governance is the way the administration approved removing degrees without consulting faculty.
In response, Alderete said every trustee should know the meaning of shared governance before their first meeting.
More then half the faculty members in attendance clapped in approval.
Viviane Marioneaux, Northwest Vista Faculty Senate representative, cited the miscommunication as a lack of collaboration between the administration and faculty.
“Performance excellence can only happen when goals are accomplished, and they are mutually beneficial to all involved,” she said.
To increase involvement, she suggested there be a designated time listed on the board agenda for the Faculty Senate presidents to speak during regular board meetings.
Denise Menchaca, Northeast Lakeview Faculty Senate president, said coming up with WIGs, or Wildly Important Goals; taking Covey training; and staff meetings are time spent that could used to help students or make up lesson plans.
She referred to required training in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and continuing requirements for all employees to practice “4 Disciplines of Execution,” known as “4DX.”
Dawn Elmore, president of this college’s Faculty Senate and the Super Senate, presented a morale survey given to faculty at four of the five colleges. Northeast Lakeview College faculty have not had the opportunity to take it yet.
A total of 238 faculty members responded.
Sixty percent believe morale is low or very low, and 15 percent think it’s high or very high.
Eighty-nine percent believes administration does not respect faculty participation on committees, 81 percent think the administration does not listen to faculty recommendations and 73 percent think administrators do not follow rules and procedures of the college and district.
“A lot of times, people think faculty don’t want to collaborate, and that’s just not true,” she said, adding that many faculty said they want to collaborate with administrators and other Alamo Colleges and transfer institutions.
“We want to work together, we want to make our institutions and our collective institution what we all think it should be. And we want direct faculty input into those visions,” she said.
Elmore said respect also improved morale. “A lot of times, we can be adversarial, but I think some of that comes from people not understanding what another party is doing.”
Mary Cottier, math professor at St. Philip’s, said no students have a textbook in class to reference because all of their books are electronic.
She said she could allow students to bring their own devices but prefers not to because she can’t monitor what they’re looking at.
Kingsbery suggested using software to monitor all the computers, but Cottier said the problem was the lack of computers per classroom, if any are present.
Alderete said he’d show the meeting video and each presentation to the chancellor and trustees.
The meeting video can be found by visiting http://acms.alamo.edu/Mediasite/Play/e5bbcf30ffc9410b89dc004e990d81821d.