Express-News article on Special Board Meeting

Dialogue with faculty reveals split in Alamo Colleges board

By Alia Malik, Staff Writer
April 17, 2015
Updated: April 17, 2015 6:41pm

More than 100 faculty members representing all five Alamo Colleges filled a lecture room Thursday at San Antonio College and calmly aired their grievances to three members of the student success committee of the college district’s board.

More than 100 faculty members representing all five Alamo Colleges filled a lecture room Thursday at San Antonio College and calmly aired their grievances to three members of the student success committee of the college district’s board.

Since the whole board is invited to and frequently attends committee meetings, the rest of the board was conspicuous by its absence.

But when the full board met two days earlier, some of them had blasted trustee Joe Alderete Jr. for arranging Thursday’s gathering — the first public sign that ongoing tensions between faculty and the district administration have begun to divide the board.

Some trustees said such a direct dialogue with faculty over their concerns would undercut the administration of Chancellor Bruce Leslie.

Alderete, who chairs the committee, said afterward the exchange had been “extremely healthy.”

“It should occur in some form or fashion on a monthly basis,” he said.

Faculty dissatisfaction has built over the past two years as the district introduced a series of controversial initiatives — a required leadership course, partially based on Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” to displace a humanities course in the core curriculum; a proposal to include electronic textbook fees in tuition payments and degree changes that would no longer list majors on many students’ diplomas and transcripts so as to streamline their ability to transfer to four-year colleges.

“Keep talking to us,” Dawn Elmore, chairwoman of the Faculty Super Senate, told the committee. “Keep listening to us. That’s what we need, because if we can’t do this together, we’re never going to be able to do it right.”

The Super Senate, so called because it has faculty from all five colleges, surveyed 238 faculty members from four of the colleges and found about 60 percent said morale was low or very low and 84 percent said district administration does not communicate well with faculty.

Speakers on Thursday also asked trustees for a transfer policy based on course-embedded assessments; degree plans that keep majors or concentrations on diplomas; a permanent spot for faculty concerns on the agenda of every regular board meeting and metrics that evaluate the district’s communication with faculty and effectiveness of initiatives, among other things.

“The board members who are not here are speaking in volumes about what they think about faculty input,” said Gerald Busald, a San Antonio College math professor. “They’re speaking with their feet and with their absence.”

Alderete, trustee Clint Kingsbery and student trustee Jacob Wong attended the meeting. Alderete said board Chairwoman Anna Uriegas Bustamante supported the meeting and helped organize it, but was unable to attend.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, trustee Yvonne Katz called the upcoming committee meeting “an aberrant action.”

“We hire a chancellor to create internal policies for internal communication channels, and we do have policies on that, so I don’t want us violating our own policies,” Katz said.

The board should stay “above the fray,” trustee Roberto Zarate agreed.

“If we are going to start undercutting the (five college) presidents and the chancellor, everything coming directly to us, that’s a slippery slope to take,” Zarate said.

Some of the other trustees were concerned the meeting would devolve into “three hours of people screaming and yelling and complaining at us,” Kingsbery said. At the end, he and Alderete praised faculty for their professional conduct and said critics of the gathering “might see it in a new light.”

amalik@express-news.net

Twitter: @AliaAtSAEN

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