Chancellor Bruce Leslie and His Gang of Five skip out on Special Board Meeting

Chancellor Bruce “Participatory Leadership” Leslie was a no-show at Thursday’s Special Board Meeting where all five Faculty Senates were invited to discuss the following critical issues with the Student Success committee:

1) Assessment
2) Majors/Transfers/Completion
3) Shared Governance
4) Administrative Accountability
5) Faculty Morale
6) The Faculty Member’s Role

Also conspicuously absent were Trustees Katz, Sprague, Rindfuss, McClendon, and Zarate. (Read and listen to their brash words about this event from the Tuesday Board Meeting, including Zarate’s indignant threat to not attend.) Chair Anna Bustamante had a scheduling conflict so she was not able to attend, although she did work hard to make the necessary arrangements for this Special Board Meeting.

Here’s the Express-News take on the meeting: Dialogue with faculty reveals split on Alamo Colleges Board

And here’s the linkup to the video.

Don’t see much there that would send them running to the hills! I think SAC math professor Gerald Busald stated it best in the Express-News article:

“The board members who are not here are speaking in volumes about what they think about faculty input. They’re speaking with their feet and with their absence.”

Bruce Leslie

What is Bruce afraid of?

AC Board of Trustees

What are they afraid of?

Welcome, American Association of Community Colleges

¡Buenos días a todos!

Wick Sloane has penned a firebrand of a welcome for the AACC over at Inside Higher Ed. Please read Sloane’s article about the rising threat our students face: food insecurity. Article commenter Virgil perfectly sums up the Alamo Community College District’s own cautionary tale of disconnect between community college “leaders” and the community they are supposed to serve:

The convention is being held in one of the most income and housing segregated cities among large municipalities. The local community college leadership (Alamo Colleges) can be introduced as artifact 1 to show evidence of the increasing disconnect between the harsh realities of students and the oblivious attitude of local board of trustees and administrators. Simply do a search on Alamo Colleges or visit the local AAUP website (sacaaup.org) and you will find that students have asked for the chancellor to resign (he happens to be the highest paid chancellor in the state and one of the highest in the country at one of the highest poverty cities in the country – $450K if you include bonus pay), faculty morale is very low, administrative bloat has been an ongoing concern for years, faculty and students have been excluded from bringing solutions to the table (a vote of no confidence did little to stop administrative bloat and questionable decision-making), students have fought to reverse district decisions numerous times only to be met with utter disregard by the chancellor and the board of directors, and that several board meetings in the last few months have been filled with student and community protests complaining of the horrific disconnect between the Board/administrators and the students/faculty. The Devil’s Workshop is a fitting title because colleges from across the country can see first hand how local community college leadership (San Antonio as the backdrop) can live with itself as they revel in meaningless “data” and continue to add administrators that contribute nothing to the classroom, all the while students and faculty scream for a chance to offer real solutions to real concerns…to no avail. AACC convention attendees, here is an assignment for you: Do a search on the Alamo Colleges and look for relevant articles. Then have a roundtable discussion how a board and its administrators could allow themselves to become so distanced from the community it serves. Use the questions in this article as a starting point of your discussion. And instead of attending Fiesta events, drive to the poverty stricken areas around San Antonio – it’s not hard, just travel east, west or south. Finally, select a scribe and another person to report out. Better yet, take your report back home to your constituents and tell them what you have learned while enjoying your time in San Antonio during Fiesta week…with their money.

Trustees Not Happy with Special Board Meeting

From PAC AAUP President, Tony Villanueva:

PAC AAUP and Friends of PAC AAUP:

Unhappy with Subcommittee Chair’s proactive effort to allow faculty to share concerns with Board members is met with criticism and allegations of impropriety.  After calling a meeting between faculty and the Student Success Committee (to be held this Thursday evening at SAC), the majority Board of the Alamo Colleges threatened to reign in efforts to promote what most would consider a BEST PRACTICE.

Watch the video of the Board meeting starting at 3:11:00 – http://acms.alamo.edu/Mediasite/Play/ff2aef43d0ab4917b480f4f98cce7a941d.

Folks, THIS IS ALARMING!

Trustee Alderete spearheaded an effort to allow faculty to voice their collective concerns at a special committee meeting this Thursday at San Antonio College.  The meeting was called in accordance with Board policies and all Board members were invited.

The meeting serves as an opportunity to allow faculty to have more time to flesh out concerns that have plagued the community college district.  It’s a reasonable action in light of the numerous protests, reversal of poor decisions by District leadership, questionable spending, and so on.  Such an effort to build trust when trust has eroded is commendable and should be encouraged.

NOT SO, according to the majority Board members.

The majority Board members are not in favor of having this meeting.  It is clear that the chair of any subcommittee has the authority to set the agenda and invite speakers as deemed necessary.  This is the prerogative of the committee chair.

YET, majority Board members pummeled Trustee Alderete with numerous unfair accusations.  One would think that instead he would receive praise for promoting much needed dialogue between Board and faculty.

Comments by Trustees along with my commentaries:

Trustee Katz:  “we are deviating from Board tradition”  – suggesting that Thursday’s meeting is not customary.  Maybe we should begin questioning board traditions.  Maybe the Board needs to make ongoing communication with faculty a board tradition.

Trustee Katz:  regarding the call for Thursday’s meeting – “aberrant action”  I’d rather call it a BEST PRACTICE, as most reports on how to run a board would suggest.

Trustee Katz:  she states that “as former director of school accreditation for the state of texas…[I am] concerned for accreditation violations”  Wow!  The Board attorney was present and made it clear to the entire board that there were no violations in holding this meeting.

Trustee Zarate –  he said that “best practices for Boards suggest that this should not occur”  Not sure what he is referring to, but reports pertaining to “best practices” mention that faculty inclusion and ongoing communication with faculty IS a best practice.  Trustee Zarate, if you want to discuss best practices, you may want to review “Best Practices:  Faculty Communication with Governing Boards” published by the American Association of University Professors.  Their recommendation is listed below (scroll down).  It states:  “Direct communication between the faculty and the governing board should occur through a liaison or conference committee consisting only of faculty members and trustees and meeting regularly to discuss topics of mutual interest.”

Trustee Zarate – he compared the actions of Trustee Alderete to that of UT’s Board of Regents Wallace Hall and Joe Kilgore.  Not even close!  Thursday’s meeting is to allow open discussion between faculty and board members – a BEST practice.  Imposing Covey’s 7 Habits on ALL faculty, staff and students is closer to Wallace Hall’s actions.  This was decided under Trustee Zarate’s chairmanship of the Budget subcommittee.  Not including faculty in this decision WAS NOT a best practice.

Trustee Zarate – regarding Trustee Alderete:  “one trustee on the board decided not to be part of the team” – Gees, talk about peer pressure.  Forget representing your constituents, you must FIRST be part of the team.  This is a clear sign of groupthink, where board cohesion is more important than your role as a representative of your district.   Truly alarming!!

Trustee Zarate – He stated:  “I don’t think I will attend the meeting on Thursday” –   Why not?  Faculty ARE constituents, taxpayers, stakeholders, employees, parents, educators, concerned citizens, professionals.  What part of BEST PRACTICE does he not understand.

Trustee Rindfuss – “A subcommittee is not a proactive committee; it is only to vet what comes before the board.”  I’m not sure what this means exactly.  My only comment is that if a subcommittee is not proactive – in obtaining information, then what is the purpose of a subcommittee?  Board committees MUST be proactive in obtaining information to govern the District effectively.

Trustee Sprague – Says he has “concerns of micromanagement” [in reference to Trustee Alderete’s call for a faculty-Board meeting]; Soliciting input from faculty and listening to  faculty concerns is somehow considered micromanagement.   How is “listening to concerns” micromanagement?

Trustee Sprague – He is afraid that employees will cry, “if we don’t like what the chancellor does, well let’s go talk to the board and see if we can get the chancellor’s policies changed.”  Was this a Freudian slip?   I thought the Board members set policies.  He called them “the chancellor’s policies.”  Did he just clue us in to something we don’t know…but have suspected for a long time?

Trustee McClendon – “I’ve asked the Chancellor to explore suggested adjustments to policy.”  Is Trustee McClendon asking the Chancellor to look for policies that would stifle faculty input and limit board communication with faculty?  This would NOT be a best practice.

Folks, this was one of the most alarming meetings I have seen.  It was an absolute ambush on Trustee Alderete (this is the second time it happens; the first one yielded a transparency award, so maybe something good will come out of last night’s ambush).

I’ve never seen such an aggressive attempt to squelch faculty input.  This should be alarming to ALL educators.  Is it time to call on all educator groups and associations to pay close attention to Board actions in their attempt to silence the voice of educators.  Should we be calling on the American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, National AAUP, and any other organization that fights to preserve the voice of employees vis a vis Board members and administrators?

Again, this was an amazingly clear attempt to diminish the voice of faculty.  As President of the Palo Alto College of the American Association of University Professors, and on behalf of educators across the city, I’m astonished at the Board majority’s behavior at what most would consider a significant step toward building trust at the Alamo Colleges.

A simple search on best practices among Boards yielded this interesting gem:  “Board members…value the independent viewpoint they develop when not all their information is filtered through the executive director. And when staff-board contact is prohibited, the board is often the last to know about serious problems such as financial troubles, lawsuits, and repetitional issues.” http://www.blueavocado.org/content/should-staff-contact-board-be-restricted

One simple questions to Trustee Zarate:  Why have you elected NOT TO ATTEND Thursday’s meeting? (“I was not consulted therefore I don’t think I will attend.”)  It’s clear that everyone was given notice.  I wonder whether a premeditated decline to attend a formally announced Board meeting, without cause, is a breach of fiduciary responsibility of an elected Board member (Duty of Care).

Recommendations by the AAUP on Faculty Communication with Governing Boards:

 
“effective faculty-board communication is a critical component of shared governance. Its absence can result in serious misunderstanding between campus constituents and in significant governance failures leading to flawed decision making. The present statement has thus recommended the following:
  1. Every standing committee of the governing board, including the executive committee, should include a faculty representative.
  2. New faculty representatives to the governing board should participate in orientation for new trustees.
  3. Direct communication between the faculty and the governing board should occur through a liaison or conference committee consisting only of faculty members and trustees and meeting regularly to discuss topics of mutual interest.”

Thursday, April 16: Faculty Senates Present Concerns at Special Board Meeting

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday!!! At San Antonio College, Nursing & Allied Health Complex (NAHC) 218 A&B!!!
All five Faculty Senates have been invited to present and discuss the following concerns with the Board of Trustees:
1) Assessment
2) Majors/Transfers/Completion
3) Shared Governance
4) Administrative Accountability
5) Faculty Morale
6) The Faculty Member’s Role
Over 100 faculty members have already RSVP’d for this unprecedented event so if you plan on going, get there early to grab a seat. There will also be overflow seating and viewing in NAHC 213.
You can find the agenda here:
 
 
Board meeting videos can be found here:
 
 
There will be a special link during the live session. After the meeting concludes, the recorded version will be available on this page as well.

More cuts coming, but not to administration

Alamo Colleges Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Diane Snyder and Chancellor Bruce Leslie are already sounding the alarm and priming our emotional pumps for more budget cuts within the Alamo Colleges. Hiring chills, self-funded employee-related economic priorities, elimination of inefficiencies, and the further monetizing of the twin potential cash cows Continuing Education and distance learning. Everything old is new again.

But is all this really about a decrease in money from the state, or is it because so much of our state funding pays for administration?

Case in point from the New York Times on “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much:”

Interestingly, increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor. Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.

By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

The big question here is:

What critical college function do administrators serve with the District?

Do they…

  • teach in the classroom?
  • advise students?
  • tutor students in math?
  • assist students with research and writing skills?
  • help register students for classes?

And the list goes on for all the critical college functions staff and faculty work on every single day not to mention all the extra work that has been created by District vanity initiatives such as Covey 4DX. Staff and faculty are working their hearts out until they are almost burned out. What can we do for them? Is there any relief in sight?

In his latest “PVC Summary of Actions” memo from April 2, Chancellor Bruce Leslie states that “some economics for our employees is a priority, but must be self-funded.” We couldn’t agree more! Let’s move forward on:

  1. hiring more full-time faculty and staff to assist in the critical college functions listed above and
  2. paying our staff and adjunct faculty a living wage by cutting District administration positions and salaries.

To steal another quote from Chancellor Leslie, we should “accelerate them both, clear the path, and work collectively to eliminate resistant barriers.”

Amen.

TCCTA blog post: Gun Bill Advances in House

Gun Bill Advances in House

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 02:38 PM PDT

The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety voted 6-3 along party lines Tuesday to send House Bill 937, by Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), to the full chamber. The bill allows licensed handgun owners to carry a concealed weapon on college campuses.

It’s reported by Ryan McCrimmon, in the Texas Tribune. Please read the piece for an understanding of the politics and context of the debate. Also, please see this previous post for additional information, as well as advice on communicating with lawmakers.

The bill is a companion to SB 11, which passed the Senate previously. Any differences between the two measures must be reconciled prior to enactment.

TCCTA continues to ask that local institutions be allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow guns on campus. Ron Trowbridge, a trustee of the Lone Star College System, recently published this opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle. He makes an interesting point regarding the minimum age of 21 for a license to carry a concealed weapon:

Here’s an alarming projection: In the fall semester, 2014, 88,818 students enrolled at Lone Star College. Of these, 59 percent, or 52,000 students, were 21 years of age or older. If just 5 percent of these were to carry guns on campus, such would bring 2,620 guns to our campus. Studies suggest that a 5 percent-carry on campus among adults is an accurate projection.

As is so often the case, the common perception of student populations visualized by many policy makers is that of universities, not community colleges. The above statistics should prove instructive.

Finally, you will note that private schools, at their own discretion, are exempted from the proposed bills. Shouldn’t local community colleges have the same choice?