Alamo Colleges commits to reducing energy consumption and emissions.
By Kyle R. Cotton
The Alamo Colleges board of trustees on Tuesday approved a faculty decision-making model, policies to reduce energy consumption and emissions by 2050 and a lease agreement with VIA Metropolitan Transit for a park-and-ride.
The faculty decision-making model gives the faculty representation in shaping district policy.
The goals for an executive faculty council are to help the district make better decisions through examining statistics and considering faculty input, build trust and respect between administration and faculty, create a culture of collaboration and be accountable through transparency and defined roles.
The board found it was necessary to implement the new model because the faculty had little say under the previous model.
“Super Senate had very little say in what goes on,” District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said in an interview after the meeting. “We would listen to their concerns, but they had very little input into actual policy.”
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the model is not set in stone and will evolve over time. He said he had stayed out of the design team’s way when putting the new decision-making model together and was happy with the way it turned out. He congratulated design team leads, Super Senate President Lisa Black and Mike Flores, president of Palo Alto College, on the way they put it together.
Black and Flores started designing the new model in fall based on a model Leslie presented to Super Senate in December 2014 after visiting Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.
Leslie said the Super Senate and the board agreed to develop a similar model.
Under this new model, there will be an executive faculty council with direct
access to the chancellor during the council’s meetings. A report from the council will be a standing agenda items during board committee meetings.
The council will have rotation representation at PVC with one faculty senate president serving one-semester terms and a vice president of academic success serving one-year terms.
The executive faculty council will be composed of the Faculty Senate president from each of the five colleges and a vice president, chair of the District Chairs Council, president of United Staff Council, chancellor, vice chancellor of academic success and associate vice chancellor of human resources.
Black said human resources being in the council is important because of the role the department plays in faculty training.
Along with those, standing member positions will include a college president, vice president of student success and vice president of academic success chosen by the Presidents and Vice Chancellors Council known as PVC to serve one-year terms.
“Faculty can’t and shouldn’t make decisions in a vacuum,” Black said explaining the administration’s perspective is important to the process as they often see happenings at the national and state level faculty don’t often see.
The council will tackle initiatives requested by the board, Faculty Senate, the chancellor, PVC and federal and state accreditation mandates.
New initiatives require one member of PVC to serve as its “champion” and work with the ad-hoc committees formed and disbanded by the council.
The design team composed of 17 members from faculty and administration recommended a faculty-decision-making website where agendas will be posted along with regular updates on the progress of ad-hoc committees.
Council members will have a retreat during the summer to determine roles, scope and work processes.
The retreat also will include training for the membership of the executive faculty council in the summer.
“It really is just conceptual right now,” Black said. “We need to decide what the processes and channels will be going forward.”
While transparency is one of the guiding principles, when asked whether the meeting would be open to the public or media, Black said, “We don’t know yet, but in my opinion it seems unlikely. That is something (the design team) will have to discuss this summer.”
“Just getting the model approved is a huge first-step, and we have a lot of work to do over the summer,” Black said.
Black said with this process decisions such as the one made on eliminating majors would have gone more smoothly under this model, as all those involved would be able to properly vet the policy before a decision would be made.
Leslie said he believes this is a strong first step compared with where Valencia’s model started.
“I think we are further ahead then they were in the beginning, in the sense that a number of things had already been taking place here around participatory leadership,” Leslie said, citing Alamo Engage, a district policy that encourages faculty involvement.
Representatives from Valencia even consulted on the model at the board retreat in November along with 80 Alamo Colleges faculty members, Leslie said.
Flores and Black said they also implemented all the recommendations — except for faculty representation on the board — from 1,250-plus faculty members who participated in their session during fall 2015’s Employee Development Day and the 73 email responses and surveys they got back after asking Nov. 7 for input from full-time faculty and adjuncts.
Black was asked to confirm this; however, she said she could not find the email in question among all the others related to the model.
“We wanted to go beyond a reasonable doubt to provide ample opportunity to faculty to participate in the process,” Flores said at the previous week’s Student Success Committee meeting discussion before the model was forwarded to the board.
Even though Leslie doesn’t believe critics who say the administration of Alamo Colleges engages in top-down decision-making, he does think the new model gives faculty a spot at the decision-making table.
“I don’t accept that perception; because so many of the things we’ve done involve faculty all the time, but not everyone has known about it or been involved and so sometimes people go, ‘well, they didn’t ask me, so whatever,’” Leslie said. “A lot of this is perception: ‘So I perceive that faculty aren’t being involved so I’m going to complain about faculty not being involved.’ This is a way of building more deliberately and structurally into our organization how faculty do get involved.”
Recently Faculty 180, a new evaluation model for faculty, was brought up as possibly being implemented during fall convocation and all the training, forms and programs related to it were only recently given to faculty at this college to get done before the end of the semester.
Psychology Chair Thomas Billimek said while there have been pilots and workshops around the program with faculty the last couple of years, it’s still flawed and the last minute nature of its implementation of has been time-consuming.
“It’s very labor intensive,” Billimek said. “It will require effort to minimize the disruption.”
In other business, the board approved a lease agreement with VIA Metropolitan Transit for 4.5 acres of land for a park-and-ride at the north central campus property at Interstate 10 East and Balcones Creek Boulevard.
VIA will pay the district $1 for its initial 25-year lease term.
John Strybos, Alamo Colleges vice chancellor for facilities, said this is a common practice for these kinds of agreements since VIA and the district are both government entities.
Strybos cited a similar agreement the district has with the city of New Braunfels as an example of these practices where the city leases the land and the building of Alamo College’s Central Texas Technology Center for $1 a year to allow the district to teach.
As part of the agreement, the Alamo Colleges will be able to use up to 25 percent of the parking spaces constructed.
The board also approved a policy to reduce energy consumption and emissions as part of an updated sustainability policy.
In the policy, trustees committed to six goals, the most significant being carbon-neutral and 70 percent domestic water reduction by 2050.
The American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment has the Alamo Colleges 2012 baseline carbon emissions at 100,502 tons of carbon dioxide.
The board announced President Robert Vela was named president-elect of the National Community College Hispanic Association.
Vela will shadow the current president, Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, interim chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, for two years.
Vela said despite his already busy schedule this would only take him away from this college twice a year for one executive meeting and the American Association of Community Colleges national conference, which includes NCCHA.
Vela said most of the organization business is done over a working lunch teleconference.