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.”

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