Official model for faculty decision-making created in private

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Faculty Senate approves a motion for a town hall meeting regarding new faculty evaluation policies

By R. Eguia

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Last month this college’s Faculty Senate discussed the creation of a new official model for faculty decision-making that would “help faculty make better decisions, build trust and respect and establish a culture of inclusive collaboration and communication.”

The model will be kept under wraps until it has been reviewed by presidents and vice chancellors. President Robert Vela was scheduled to meet with Faculty Senate President Lisa Black today about the decision-making model and report back to the college executive team Tuesday.

The March 2 minutes from Faculty Senate indicate the decision-making model will promote accountability through transparency, define roles and make data-informed decisions.

“Three key themes stand out: structure, communication, and policy and procedure. This will have an emphasis on faculty training relevant to the work of the senates,” according to the minutes.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie wrote about this new faculty decision-making model in a viewpoint for the San Antonio Express-News published Sunday and titled “Alamo Colleges striving to be the best.”

“We are working to transform our culture so we can achieve our strategic vision. We need to develop a collaborative model to ensure transparency and broad participation of stakeholders across the colleges in discussions that impact our students and strategic agenda, “ he wrote.

“Faculty leaders, the board and I began a process over a year ago to forge a new culture focused on faculty engagement and innovation. Last year, we created a design team, led jointly by faculty, staff and administrators, to develop a collaborative decision-making model. We’ve utilized an expert in collaborative strategic planning and learned from the highly effective model of one of our peer community colleges, an Aspen Prize winner.

“The design team is focused on developing an effective, fair and transparent decision-making process around cross-college needs that defines the role and scope of faculty participation. The design team will recommend a model to me and our board this month. Upon adoption of the new design, we will engage other stakeholders, including staff, university and school partners, employers and community members, to further expand the model,” Leslie wrote.

When the document was discussed at an April 6 Faculty Senate meeting, math Professor Mary Lennon asked to see the proposed decision-making model before it is proposed to presidents and vice chancellors.

Black said, “We are sworn to secrecy. The group said it’s not yours to share until it is the group’s to share.”

She said the document would be published once presidents and vice chancellors review it.

In other business, the Faculty Senate approved a motion for a town hall meeting to clarify the new faculty evaluation document referred to as “win-win.” No date was set.

Senators expressed concerns about the content of the win-win agreement.

The agreement is intended to improve faculty’s productive grade rates in all classes. The district has set a goal of a passing rate of 70 percent. To meet that standard, 70 percent of students enrolled in a class on the census date must make a grade of A, B or C.

Faculty who do not meet that standard may be issued a win-win agreement.

The focus of the town hall meeting will be clarifying if the faculty review policy is punitive.

At the document’s inception, Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president of academic success, said the win-win policy would not be punitive; however, many faculty disagree because faculty with a low productive grade rate will not be allowed to teach overloads or summer courses.

English Professor Mariano Aguilar Jr. said he believes the document is double-penalizing faculty for responsibilities outlined in the student code of conduct.

He said when he brought up this concern to Blackwood at the last meeting, she called the concern inflammatory and did not address it.

Lennon also expressed concern about who made the recommendations on the win-win plan. “Administration said they did not come up with the recommendations, the chairs did.”

English Professor Kim Hochmeister said, “Because the document covers performance review, we should be able to see it before it is enforced.”

Black said, “The document is just little black boxes. If you are leaning toward a town hall meeting, we want to collect exact concerns to avoid confusion.”

Lennon said the administration thanked the Faculty Senate executive board four times at the last board of trustees meeting.

“You should be telling us what you are deciding. You might have better insight if you asked us,” Lennon said.

Black replied, “We can’t fix anxiety. We ask questions, get feedback and make recommendations based on the feedback from the chairs.”

Aguilar said, “I want to know where the punitive measures begin and end. Two weeks after the introduction of this draft, Blackwood changed her statement. There are a lot of things we don’t know about.”

Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt said he was shocked when Blackwood said the win-win agreement was not punitive when it was first introduced to the Faculty Senate in November.

“As chairs, we are not comfortable with a lot of the strategies offered in the win-win. I would hate to think that a chair would go straight to taking away summer and overloads,” Hunt said.

He said he does not think the administration is on the same page with the win-win policy and a town hall would help everyone.

Other interpretations of the policy were presented at the meeting.

One understanding was that the policy listed a menu of strategies to be chosen at the chair’s discretion when a faculty member scores a low PGR.

Hunt said, “The punitive part comes when faculty refuse to have a discussion about improving their performance.”

Black said, “The senate asks to be included on the input and organization of the town hall agenda so the outcome does not further distance us.”

After a discussion, Aguilar finalized a motion for a town hall meeting with organization provided by the Faculty Senate officers.

Hunt introduced three other motions that were approved.

They are to extend the grade submission deadline to Tuesday after final exams instead of Monday, to extend Banner and eLumen submission deadlines for faculty at the end of a semester, and to accept the letter grade D as a productive grade that would not hurt a faculty member’s PGR score. The college accepts a grade of D as passing.

Currently, students who drop and students who make D’s lower the faculty member’s productive grade rate.

These motions will be presented at the Super Senate this week.

In other business, Hochmeister introduced concerns with the proposed Pathways initiative, which promotes more full-time schedules for Alamo Colleges students.

Faculty explained that this policy would fall apart because 82 percent of students are part-time.

The senate approved the rescheduling of monthly meetings to noon on Friday, instead of 3 p.m. Wednesday, to accommodate faculty who teach on Wednesday afternoons.

The senate also amended the way Faculty Senate representatives are elected to be more inclusive of smaller departments. Faculty in smaller departments traditionally have had more difficulty getting elected when running against colleagues in larger departments.

The Faculty Senate election begins April 20.

The group also approved a new website design presented by the communication committee representative, Tom Cox, American Sign Language professor.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is at noon May 4.

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5 Comments

  1. Random Citizen on

    “Sworn to secrecy” over the decision making model? Shouldn’t the decision-making model be a working document for all faculty to provide input? Bruce Leslie is quoted in this very same article that “the design team is focused on… a fair and transparent decision-making process…” “Sworn to secrecy” is not fair or TRANSPARENT.”

    I am astounded by the “win-win” document mentioned in this article. Is it really true that punitive measures will be taken if faculty don’t give out A’s, B’s, or C’s to at least 70% of students enrolled in the class. That’s a sure way to destroy quality in higher education. Diplomas will be cheapened if word gets out (esp to employers) that faculty are under pressure to give out grades. All the research that exists in higher education would strongly recommend against this INANE idea. It’s an absolute disservice to the students. Who is in charge of the curriculum and the classroom anyway? Apparently, not the faculty. Faculty are being pressured to lower standards. Who stands to win? It’ more like a “lose-lose” document.

    The highest standard of the best colleges and universities in this country follow strict observance of the principle of academic freedom. SAC will lose out on academic integrity (maintaining high academic standards) if it goes down this path.

  2. someone worried about academic standards on

    I wonder what SACSCOC would say about such secretive policies, whose end result is almost certainly going to be a lowering of academic standards in order to make the required PGR of 70%?

    The white elephant in the room is called grade inflation. I wonder how many times that is mentioned in these meetings? Oh, wait – we can’t know, its a secret.

  3. Mono Aguilar on

    SAC’s faculty senate will hold a town hall meeting to address these valid questions and concerns. I invite all interested parties to contact me at maguilar6@alamo.edu. I am compiling the points that will be raised at the meeting, and I will soon set the time and location for the meeting.

  4. Another concerned faculty member. on

    Make no mistake: tying wages to grades is a pathway to inflation. The 70% goal is not benchmarked against any in-state community colleges. It was made up. Now, 69% is the new “F.” And we claim we are “data driven.”

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