Is This Seat Taken? Don’t Mind if I Do.

NOTE: This post has been updated in a new post with a correction about the third paragraph.

In light of my post about the proposed new head covering policy, a few other people with knowledge of the proposed revision/consolidation of existing policies that there are more problems than that one. First a bit of background on the project: in an early January email to all District Presidents, VPs, Deans of Instruction, Deans of Student Services, Deans of Careers, Registrars, and 24 Vice Chancellors, Associate Vice Chancellors, Executive Directors and Directors, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Systems Michael Mutz, wrote:

As you know, we have reviewed each of our academic and student policies over the past few months with the following goals:

  • Streamline, simplify and condense policies.
  • Eliminate redundancy (between and within the Academic Policy Manual and Student Policy Manual).
  • Update/create new policies and delete policies that are no longer needed – focus on correcting policies with errors, that are out of compliance and/or create barriers to student success.
  • Separate procedures from policy.

Structural changes have been made.

  • Consolidated the policy content from the Academic Policy Manual and Student Policy Manual and created a new CCC Academic & Student Policy document
  • Revised policy content to achieve the four goals, above

Sounds like a good project! I like the clear parameters/goals. (Though, it should be noted that any policy manual ought to have a clear audience, and that a policy manual that has been streamlined for students would not include sections on “Faculty Program” and “Tenure Process” and a manual streamlined for, say, faculty and academic staff would probably not include information about sections on “Financial Aid Eligibility” and the like, which suggests that this project is really an effort to make things easier for Administrators, but whatever–no one but administrators reads policy manuals until they need them, so I’m willing to be open-minded and forgiving about this aspect.)

I do think it’s a bit strange that among those reviewing the only people who could possibly represent a faculty viewpoint are those who would do so through their imaginations and those administrators who, like Armen, for example, are former faculty (No CCC Union leadership? No FC4 leadership? Not even a nod? Puzzling), but perhaps that happened indirectly (i.e., someone on the list understood that they would pass this along) or by other means like administrators sending the link to faculty or something. Or, maybe, just maybe, they (AVC Mutz, the VC to whom he reports, or all or some of those at Campus Zero) concluded (or assumed) that this kind of project is an administrative one and so within their sole purview (a.k.a. a “Make-It-Work” Initiative). But that stuff, for now, is neither here nor there; I do not want to focus here about why faculty don’t (seem to) have a seat at this table, even in the review stage–to restate for absolute clarity: this is not a complaint about process–but instead seek an answer to whether there are substantive problems with this proposed set of policies that are going unaddressed or unconsidered (or, maybe, under-considered) on account faculty absence at the “table.” So I’d like to focus your attention here, on substance, at least for now.

Why limit the focus in this way, when process is such a big part of the current concerns? Because regardless of the process issue, I think faculty perspective on that third goal in particular (“Update/create new policies and delete policies that are no longer needed – focus on correcting policies with errors, that are out of compliance and/or create barriers to student success.”) might have some things to say that might be helpful and while the process discussion is important, we won’t get to the substance if we don’t temporarily bracket the process problems.

So, what is the substance of which I speak? Well, there’s good stuff, for sure! For example:

~8.02b: Preferred Name and Pronoun (Yay for this one!) It reads,

CCC recognizes that some students identify themselves with names other than their legal names and acknowledges that a preferred first name and/or pronoun should be used whenever possible in the course of CCC business and education. Therefore, CCC permits a student to designate a preferred first name and/or pronoun in addition to their legal name within CCC information systems. It is further understood that the student’s preferred first name and/or pronoun should be used except where the use of the legal name is necessitated by CCC business or a legal requirement.

CCC reserves the right to approve use of the preferred name and in which information systems and student records it will and will not appear. The preferred first name must meet the following criteria to be approved for use:

  • Is a first name which the student is already using in day-to-day life.
  • Is not used to avoid a legal obligation or otherwise
  • Is not offensive or otherwise inappropriate

A student’s designation or changing of a preferred first name is limited to once per academic year. A student’s preferred first name will be disclosed as “directory information” unless the student refuses to permit such disclosure.

Very progressive! I like it. Also this:

~10.23-Tenure Process: They will have finally fixed the god-awful Frankenstein version that had parts from six different policies and replaced it with a clear description of what new hires will have to do to achieve tenure; it’s a dream I have dreamed since 2008.

And this:

~3.13g-Voluntary Medical Withdrawal:

It reads:

A student who is experiencing a physical or mental health issue that significantly interferes with the student’s wellbeing, safety, or academic performance may request a voluntary medical leave. The student will notify the Dean of Student Services who will determine if a voluntary medical leave is appropriate. The student may be required to consent to the disclosure of relevant medical information to the appropriate CCC personnel. The Dean of Student Services will make a recommendation to the President whether or not to approve a medical leave of absence. Where a leave is appropriate, the Dean of Student Services will also recommend an individualized plan which will include conditions necessary to return from the leave and may include a recommended length of leave. The President will consider the recommendation and may either grant or deny the request for leave. The President’s decision to grant or deny a leave is final. If a leave is granted, the student will meet with the Dean of Student Services to review the individualized plan.

I love this. i know we’ve done it on occasion for students–I’ve had a few over the years who became ill during the semester and face the choice of full withdrawal (and loss of money/financial aid) or a semester of Fs on the transcript. It’s a humane response to awful circumstances. An email notes, though, that in the Procedures Manual, it says:

A student who desires to return to CCC from a voluntary medical leave must notify the Dean of Student Services of the student’s intent to return at least 30 days prior to the start of the relevant term.  The student will meet with the Dean of Student Services to ensure that all conditions of the individualized plan have been met.  The student may be required to consent to the release of relevant medical information to appropriate CCC personnel.  Based upon evaluation of the relevant information, the Dean of Student Services will assess whether the student is prepared to be readmitted and make a recommendation to the President.

A faculty member who contacted me to express concern about this policy writes,

“What about a student that has a child getting extensive medical treatment and a partner that can provide night care.  They may wish to stay in night classes and with this new policy they cannot. [Also, this requires] consent to release medical documentation to an appropriate CCC personnel—What medical information? How is it our right, if a doctor says there is significant need to not be at school, who are we to ask to reveal personal medical information? Seems like a huge violation of privacy. I will recognize that I am very sensitive to this policy since this past semester I had to help a student (who had 5 successful semesters under her belt) but one semester (4 years ago) where she failed all her courses (and she needed to be approved to take credits over 60—EVEN THOUGH she was still under the 150% max). That one semester was the semester she lost her baby.  We had to get documentation from her doctor and the death certificate—I FOUND THE WHOLE PROCESS JUST GROSS. I understand we need to “dot our I’s and cross our t’s” but we are interpreting DOE rules to meet our agenda——to get out those that we feel won’t complete a “credential” our help us increase our IPEDS numbers (IMO).”

A helpful reminder that the completion agenda looms in the background of all of this. Are these procedures driven by legal compliance issues related to financial aid or state reimbursement? By a desire to create policies that improve students chances of/remove barriers to academic success? By the district’s own drive to hit their metrics? Some mix of the two or all three? Hard questions to answer; maybe impossible. But that third question is the one we can’t expect District Officers to raise as vigorously as those of us who measure our impact by other metrics (or, at least, have some immunity/distance from the negative effects should those four reinvention goals not be met), which is why faculty need a seat at this table! Oh, wait..sorry, that’s a process issue. Back to substance.

Along with the policy changes I was pleased to see in print, there’s interesting stuff, too. While reading, I found a few policies I didn’t know had changed or had heard about but not read, or didn’t know about at all, including:

~3:05: Attendance (no longer states a minimum policy of two excused absences for students, as of 2013);

~4.10: Consortium Agreement among CCC Colleges: every college accepts credit from other colleges for courses (even if the accepting college doesn’t offer them) (since 2013);

~4.12 Pre-req substitions: higher level classes can sub for lower-level pre-reqs (e.g., a student who has completed English 102 is eligible for classes that requiring English 101, as of 2014)–sensible!;

~5.01 Governing Academic Catalog: students are switched to the new catalog requirements every three years (as of 2013);

~5.06 Graduation College: Students get their degree from the college offering their program in cases where it is college specific OR the college where they earned the majority of the credits (there’s even a tiebreaker!)–this one seems to be new, maybe so the colleges aren’t fighting over numbers and/or so students aren’t switching based on reputation assumptions or something?;

~5.08: Posthumous Degrees: Infamous, but since 2013;

But the place I think we have the most to question/help with is in Section 10 of the new manual. One emailer points out,  “Section 10 is very focused on faculty information… the whole section 10 deserves a solid read through by all faculty AND the union.” I agree. This section includes a variety of items that may be of interest. It has some brand new policies or old policies with new parts that you may have something to say about:

  • 10.32- Requires faculty to use the early alert system (e.g., Grades First). In 2013, this tool was the source of some faculty ambivalence. I wonder where people are now? Anyway, the new policy reads:
  • The City Colleges of Chicago utilizes a retention and communication tool used by faculty to record attendance, submit student progress reports, initiate and track student communications. All full-time and part-time faculty are required, at a minimum, to submit the following feedback each semester. College administration may elect to use the Early Alert system functionality above minimum requirements. Faculty will be notified if college requirements exceed minimum expectations. Faculty are expected to:

    • At a minimum, complete the Early Alert Attendance Campaign: during week 1 of each active course for each session in accordance with published guidelines and in advance of the campaign deadline.
    • At a minimum, complete an Early Alert Progress Report Campaign: each active course for each session in accordance with published guidelines and in advance of the campaign deadline.

    Although not required, all full-time and part-time faculty are encouraged to use the Early Alert system to maintain contact with student advisors who are trained to assist students with additional academic support, tutoring, referrals and reporting. The Early Alert system may also be used as a communication tool between faculty and students which helps to manage faculty/student conversations related to academic progress in one centralized location.

  • 10.25: Credential Guidelines “The District Office of Strategy and Academic Governance maintains the current list of approved credentials guidelines necessary for the teaching of all academic disciplines, including foundational studies, credit and skills courses, and Interdisciplinary Studies 101.  Grandfathering of credentials will be prohibited, faculty must meet current CCC credential guidelines.  If a faculty member does not possess the requisite credentials to teach in a particular field, the faculty has 24 months to comply and provide evidence of obtained credential.” The sentence in italics is a new addition to the current policy. Draw your own conclusions as to why they may want to add such a sentence.

And also some old ones that carry over old omissions that have caused confusion (or will) but that could be adjusted with a few minor additions to clarify, such as:

  • 10.02-Criteria for Approval of Faculty Programs: This one is the same as the current policy and, like the current policy, makes no note of an important sentence in the contract: “Faculty members who have released time shall have their student conference hours and student academic advisement hours reduced in proportion to the reduction in their teaching load.” (VIII, D, 2).
  • 10.22-Lane Advancement: For example, this section is true, but incomplete; it describes the criteria for many faculty (those hired before 1013, anyway), but does not have any information for our colleagues hired under the current Union contract, which is a three lane system (thanks, Perry!)

And some old ones that, in light of new circumstances, are problematic:

  • 10.20–FT Faculty Teaching Online and College Success Courses: the policy is based on a 2008 MOU that limits online courses to one for load and one for stipend, with the following sentence: “Notwithstanding the provisions of academic freedom in the collective bargaining agreement, instructors teaching online learning courses acknowledge that the textbook, online course shell and teaching materials are highly integrated and fundamental to the pedagogical rigor and success of the course. Therefore, online course instructors must agree to use them as a condition of teaching the course.” This kind of arrangement made some sense in 2008 when online courses were pretty new and still separate from any of the colleges, but doesn’t make any sense any more in light of current thinking about online teaching (that, thought the mode of delivery is different, the objectives, outcomes and content should be the same as f2f), and the training requirements wherein faculty learn about best practices in this “new” mode, and the changes in f2f instruction since 2008 such as the normalization of Blackboard use, the ubiquity of online tools in classrooms and student life, and so on, this policy is archaic and likely to do more harm than good to the development and consistency of our online offerings.

There were a couple of other policies that provoked questions/concerns from faculty members who contacted me, but in each of those cases, it turned out to be about a policy that was already on the books (and had been for years), which tells me that we do not know CCC policies as well as we should. Considering the many policy changes made over the last three years and the importance of some of these policies to our advising of students, that’s a problem. In order to check out this new Manual (whether you wish to refresh yourself with CCC policy or to offer questions/concerns, as well as its PROCEDURES sibling, you too can go to the Policy Sharepoint site if you can get the link (maybe from your VP or President or Dean or fellow faculty member?). Once you have it, you can log in using your CCC credentials and get to the drafts. Unfortunately, the review and comments period ended January 22nd, so that the new policy could go to the board at the March meeting. It might be too late, but it might not!

One last little piece of joy…in Article I, there is something that I really don’t like. The section opens with our mission statement (the whole and correct one, so that’s nice!), vision, and core values. So far so good. Next come our “Service Excellence” mission and vision statements, which are fine, and then comes the definition of Service Excellence. It reads:

Service Excellence is a guiding value in the day-to-day operations of the City Colleges of Chicago. At City Colleges, when we say “Service Excellence”, we mean a comprehensive, collaborative, and system-wide approach that applies critical thinking which initiates a customer/student-centered approach to attracting, maintaining, and fostering relationships of lifelong learning.

The City Colleges of Chicago demonstrates Service Excellence by:

  • Professionalism – friendly demeanor, willingness to serve, respectful, acknowledgment of customer, “on- stage” demeanor
  • Accountability – owning the issue/concern, knowing your job, following up
  • Active listening – anticipating the issue, knowing the student’s needs
  • Respect – service with a smile, the Golden Rule
  • Training – educating all CCC employees, educating the customer

I will have to take up why I find this equivocation/insertion ‘customer’ with student and the whole related approach to be problematic in another post, but I will. First, though, I have to check out the Procedures manual. After I finish last week’s grading, that is.

2 thoughts on “Is This Seat Taken? Don’t Mind if I Do.

  1. A lot to think about here, thank you for posting. It doesn’t seem that faculty input has been solicited. Was there an email about that? And as you said, the deadline has passed and this administration seems to care very little in faculty thoughts. However, if people would like to compile some suggestions/concerns, what would be the mechanism for that? Would we post here and you would gather that into a list and forward to district? I don’t mind complaining about things but it would be nice to have a specific path forward which could at least pretend to influence meaningful conversation and change.

    • Great question. Sorry. I should have included some of that information.

      The original project had a mechanism for feedback, but I assume it is too late for using that. Typically I assume that some of the District people are reading what is posted here and would give their colleague(s) a heads up that a discussion is happening, but that may or may not be the case.

      So, I’d suggest that comments and suggestions might be emailed directly to AVC Mutz (mmutz@ccc.edu) or posted here for consideration/vetting and then sent to him or sent through what seem to be their preferred channels, the local administration and send them to your President/VP/Dean for discussion about whether your concern was raised, discussed, explained, or otherwise dealt with (and if not whether they could/should be).

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