Is This Seat Taken: A Clarification and UPDATE

In my last post, I suggested that the District Office had not included faculty in their process for consolidating and revising the Policy Manuals and that neglecting to do so had led to substantive problems in the proposed revisions. That is not, however, entirely and strictly true, and so I am writing this in order to correct some factual omissions in my previous post.

Last week, I learned that our District-Wide Faculty Council (FC4) has been aware of and involved in the project to revise and consolidate the policy manuals. Rasmus told me that back in July, in his first meeting with the new FC4 leadership, he told them of the project and invited them to work with him on it. FC4 put together a committee of faculty from around the district, which they expect to make a standing committee, and the committee reviewed the draft revisions and provided extensive feedback. Rasmus referred to the faculty involvement in the policy revision/development as “unprecedented,” which is certainly true with respect to policy changes of the last fifteen years or so under Chancellors Watson and Hyman until now, anyway.

(DIGRESSION: Perhaps some of our friends with longer institutional memories than mine can say whether or not faculty involvement in policy changes has always occurred from the outside looking in. I can remember various policies being championed by individual faculty members–I think it was Bill Muzillo (HWC English) who proposed and shepherded through the historic change to benefits recognition for same-sex partners back around 2001 or so? I’m sure there were others; I know that the union has had considerable influence on academic policy over the years, too, though I recognize the differences between those situations and this project. So, maybe its “unprecedented” because there hasn’t been a project like this until the last 15 years or so? Anybody know more? END)

So, I was wrong to suggest that faculty had been left out of the process of this revision; what’s worse is that I could have probably accessed that information without too much difficulty and I should have. Apologies to our district colleagues for the misrepresentation and factual error.

With that said, you might be wondering, like I did, about the faculty input and the response to it. I was told by both Rasmus and Charles Ansell that faculty “had tons of feedback incorporated into [the] policy manual.” So I asked.

The FC4 leadership was kind enough to share with me their original report on the policy draft which featured concerns or questions (or both) about 14 different policies (some of which had multiple concerns/questions). At the top of the document is a statement that reads,

District officers, When the discussion first began regarding the creation of a combined policy manual for all stakeholders of the district, it was this committee’s understanding that this revision was not to include any substantive changes. The items listed below are of concern to this committee and the concern has been indicated. As a standing committee of FC4, we would be happy to work to vet changes to these items in the future, but do not believe that the changes should be put forth without the appropriate conversations that include faculty. Let us know what next steps we can expect.

To which the district officers responded,

Noted. We look forward to working collaboratively. We may not always agree on what constitutes a substantive change. We very much appreciate the time and effort the FC4 team has put into reviewing the draft documents and preparing this feedback.

The FC4 Committee’s document then identifies questions or concerns about 14 different policies,  (some with multiple questions/concerns). Various district officers then responded with answers to questions and agreement with/rejection of revision suggestions, with explanations for the latter.

Of the original 20 or so questions/concerns noted, five suggestions were incorporated without qualification; they were:

~A change on the cover page about the office from which the policy is issued;

~The removal of a table from the document deemed unnecessary;

~Moving a paragraph about grade changes from the policy manual to the procedures manual

~Adding “Fellowship” to PTK criteria;

~Clarifying and updating procedures for program sunsetting.

As you can see, these are almost all format or language issues–important, for sure–but NONE of them entail making actual changes to the proposed policies.

Of the other 15 or so concerns, one proposed policy change related to graduate credit for hours awarded for Tenure Process requirements was changed back, pending “further vetting of this issue.” The proposed policy was to offer 2 graduate credit hours toward lane change, rather than the current 4 hours, for participation in the Orientation and first year seminar “because it more accurately reflects the Carnegie unit (credit hour).”  Two other concerns and suggested revisions were rejected with explanations that were accepted by the FC4 Committee, and one other (about summer office hours) was tabled because they “are looking into this question.” Some of remaining questions became moot points on account of the above.

That leaves five major issues. They are:

~Policy 2.04: The use of ACT and SAT scores for placement into classes other than English 101; District stated that CCC currently uses these scores for placement, and “we anticipate continuing this process;” FC4 responded by reiterating that “This is NOT a valid use of this tool, as the tests’ own websites attest…Using ACT and SAT scores to place students into developmental classes is not a valid use of these tools. This practice does a grave disservice to our students. Do we really need to keep having this argument?”

~Policy 2.09 & 2.10: The awarding of credit for CLEP, ACTFL, AP, and IB scores: in response to questions about the determination of the guidelines and alignment with other institutions, district responded that there is no change to the CLEP, ACTFL or AP policy and that faculty had two months to review/provide feedback on the IB scores and faculty input was incorporated. FC4 did not recognize this answer as being a valid one. (I can attest, though, that this effort was made by the DO. On August 28th, Autym Henderson (Coordinator of Academic Processes) sent an email to Department Chairs saying, “The City Colleges of Chicago will be establishing a policy regarding the acceptance of IB credit. A SharePoint site with a wealth of information on various IB coursework has been created – we encourage you to visit the site, review the information and provide feedback specific to your discipline by Friday, October 23rd. We will review all feedback and incorporate your input where possible.” My chair forwarded that to our department and we reviewed and responded with feedback (or, at least, I did). Obviously not all Chairs did the same. Perhaps a different method could be used in the future.)

~Policy 4.10: Regarding the Consortium Agreement: FC4 asked whether HLC has approved the agreement. DO responded that HLC has “seen a draft” and that “informal conversations have been held” and that “HLC seems open to the type of agreement we seek, but more details are to be worked out.” The committee’s response was as follows:

“HLC requires that such a consortial arrangement (one in which the consortial partners may award more than 50% of the credits for the home college’s degree) receive prior approval from HLC before implementing any such arrangement. This consortial agreement has been illegitimately included in Board policy for some time, and it must be removed until HLC has granted approval. The Commission makes clear that the substantive change  desired by District Office requires a “formal approval…by a Commission decision-making body” and “in no case will such approval be retroactive.” In addition to removing Policy 4.10 pending formal approval, we ask that District please inform FC4 with whom they’ve held “informal discussions,” supply FC4 with a copy of the draft Agreement, and apprise FC4 of the “details…yet to be worked out.” Such a monumental change (as is recognized by HLC) necessitates careful, thoughtful review prior to implementation; certainly CCC Faculty Council must be involved.”

~Policy 10.23: Regarding faculty participation in future changes to the Tenure Process: the new manual removes a sentence from the current policy. Current policy states, “Changes to the Talents of Teaching, the Tenure Assistance Program, tenure rubrics or other changes to the tenure process will be a collaborative process with the mutual agreement of District Academic Affairs and the district-wide Faculty Council.” The removal of this sentence was noted by FC4, but not addressed at all by the District Officers. Consequently, FC4 reiterated, “We find it completely unacceptable that DO has removed the line stating that changes to the tenure process will be determined collaboratively with FC4 and the Policy Committee feels we must push back on that.” They even include a proposal that “Perhaps we could have an understanding that the TAP Team (TAP Leaders and coordinator) are delegated by FC4 to approve changes on FC4’s behalf, but something has to be in place to ensure faculty approval of major changes.”

~Policy 10.32: Mandating participation in the Early Alert Attendance and Early Alert Progress Report Campaigns (i.e., Grades First Use). FC4 asked when this was vetted through FC4, noting that this policy constitutes an addition to current policy. DO responded, writing:

The early alert process (GradesFirst campaigns) serves to identify students early in the term who may be struggling or need support. Alerts and the resulting support are key components toward our shared goal of maximizing positive student outcomes. This new policy was vetted by VPs and Deans, and it was patterned after the existing learning management system (Blackboard) policy. The addition of this new policy is considered a high priority.

So, in other words, it was NOT vetted through FC4 and (arguably) constitutes a change/imposition in working conditions. FC4’s response was right on the money, I think; they write,

Many concerns have been raised and this committee respectfully requests that this policy not be included at this time until it is vetted through FC4 with a good faith effort toward shared governance.  This committee would like to see data supporting the usefulness and effectiveness for student retention versus a control for multiple courses. DO is saying it is of high importance but who has determined that?

The week 1 requirement is a problem. If the student is not showing up they will be assigned NSW and the early alert then becomes irrelevant. The instructor does not have to reinstate the student.

Additionally, ordering faculty to use a particular software tool and requiring “at a minimum” faculty to submit feedback each semester is top-down management at its worst. Not only were faculty not included in any discussion, but the vagueness of the dictate is careless at best  (“at a minimum” and “faculty will be notified if college requirements exceed minimum expectations”). This is not only disrespectful treatment of faculty, but it is likely a CBA/Union issue. We ask that you remove this section or make it fully optional.

So, if you’re keeping score, that’s five suggestions incorporated (all minor format/language related) a handful that were delayed or resolved, and five that were rejected and continue to concern FC4, including mandatory use of Grades First, which is “a high priority” and, apparently, NOT a “substantive revision.”

So, I’ll leave you with the question: is this what “shared governance” looks like?

2 thoughts on “Is This Seat Taken: A Clarification and UPDATE

  1. So, the tenure process, the one truly collaborative initiative between current District, Faculty Council and the Union, is the first thing to be “adjusted.” Seriously, it is as if they (they being District) can’t help themselves. Build a relationship with multiple stakeholders that seems to work? Let’s do that and then ignore the relationship and do what we want.

    And please… did District asked faculty about Gradesfirst? Did anyone ask faculty when we know students are in jeopardy? FYI- it is not always in the time frame required by Gradesfirst. This year that deadline was February 7th. February 7th, most professors wouldn’t know the names of half their 100+ students. Cut teaching loads or reduce class sizes and perhaps professors could have that level of knowledge about their students in the first two week…or not, because how many quizzes, tests, papers or speeches occur in the first two weeks?

    Ask professors today about their students and they could provide some insights about students in jeopardy. Why doesn’t District ask faculty to identify students now? Does it NOT matter now? There is still time before midterm to turn around a student’s grade and VERY FUTURE. Is there some reason why District only cares in the first two week? Some statistical reason?

    If only we have a communication structure with District which didn’t only flow down, down, down. If only we had a conversation of peers where faculty could utilize our experiences to guide District policy to help our students? You know, something like when TAP was enacted….

    Oh wait, see above.

  2. I appreciate that FC4 continues to try and work with DO. I do hope that no changes are.made to TAP without communication with the Union and FC.

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