English and math professors suggest this college regain unique branding.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
President Robert Vela fielded questions from faculty and staff here about the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions’ recommendations for autonomy at an open forum Jan. 20 in the visual arts center.
SACSCOC found this college in violation of six Comprehensive Standards during a visit in September, which include the focus of branding on “Alamo Colleges,” the processing of transfer credits, the lack of a true institutional grade-point average and district policies.
St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista Colleges received the same recommendations from SACSCOC, and the three colleges have been placed on a “warning” status.
Math Professor Gerald Busald questioned the board of trustee’s revision of Policy B.9.1, asking how the college can be considered autonomous if the policy still requires faculty and administration to determine a “single, districtwide” leadership program.
Busald said SACSCOC will not accept that edit if the agency is determined to correct the board’s infringement on the colleges’ autonomy.
Vela said he does not feel the revision to Policy B.9.1 is intended to imbed a leadership program into all curriculum, saying a leadership program should be implemented to assist students outside of the classroom through student life.
Busald said the policy infringes on the individual colleges’ ability to determine leadership that fits each demographic and said he doesn’t think the community will accept the revisions.
Vela said the challenge faced by colleges is making sure business leaders know graduates are receiving the leadership skills needed to be successful, such as speaking, writing and technical skills and emotional intelligence.
Making sure to clarify that he was not speaking for a department but for himself, Mariano Aguilar, English and Mexican-American studies professor, said the chancellor has overstepped his boundaries and infringed on faculty and staff rights for years with support from the board of trustees.
Aguilar said the colleges have an opportunity to regain autonomy and Vela is the leader faculty and staff should be following, saying this college and Northwest Visa and Palo Alto Colleges would support an effort by the respective college presidents to regain individual autonomy.
Vela said the board became very focused on success metrics and benchmarks after billboards went up around Austin saying 3 percent of Austin Community College students graduate.
Vela said the recommendations made by SACSCOC provide the time to “recalibrate” and focus on basic accreditation standards and autonomy issues that are unique to this college.
Vela said he does not criticize the board for their focus on success metrics and the colleges should respect the board’s vision for the district.
Tiffany Cox Hernandez, chair of the public policy and service department, said the college and district should consider “waiving the benefit of efficiency” by incorporating faculty members from different departments in a revised form of the transfer credit review board.
When asked about the inclusion of Principle-Centered Leadership in Policy B.9.1, Vela said he believed the mention of Stephen Covey materials was redacted from Policy B.9.1.
According to the Alamo College District website, Policy B.9.1 reads, “The Board holds that the Baldrige Excellence Framework, the principles of Achieving the Dream and the Principle-Centered Leadership concepts (AlamoLEADS) provide the foundation for the Alamo Way: Always Inspire, Always Improve.
“By integrating leadership competencies and experiences into the curriculum and in organizational learning opportunities for employees, the Alamo Colleges District empowers all students and employees to explore and realize their learning, professional, and civic potential.”
Busald joked he has not retired because he is hoping to hear Chancellor Bruce Leslie refer to this college by name rather than “Alamo Colleges.”
English Professor Alexander Bernal said the colleges should be able to brand themselves independently, referencing the General Motors Co. branding for Cadillac.
Bernal said the Escalade is not branded as a GMC product but everyone recognizes it as one; he said the individual colleges should be branded individually because, like GMC, the public knows the colleges are part of the Alamo Community College District.
Busald said the colleges and district need to make changes to the branding and policy to ensure SACSCOC’s recommendations are met.
“We have to do stuff to change perception,” Busald said. “We can’t just keep using the same materials and change perception.”