Faculty Governance Updates, January 2013 (Part 2)

By Rob McCaffrey

Faculty Conversations Recap

We have concluded the set of four receptions intended to discuss important matters of faculty interest. I received a few requests to “live-stream” these meetings from people who couldn’t make any of the scheduled times. Although we didn’t want to change the casual setting of the conversations by having cameras in the room, I do want to share the points raised during these talks with everyone. I’ve briefly recapped them below.

I found the format extremely useful, and many of you who attended said as much to me afterward. I think Sandy, Susan and the campus presidents also found it useful, and we may try to find some way to do sit-downs like this more often in the future.

Now for the recap, which, unfortunately has none of the charm of the face-to-face talk…

Continuing Contracts: Two years ago, a bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature that, had it become law, would have ended tenure at community colleges. Several state college presidents were able to convince the sponsors that such a bill was not needed, and it was subsequently withdrawn. Following that event, the State Board of Education, hoping to avoid the introduction of similar bills in the future, began looking at its rule that governs the issuance of “continuing contracts”—what we commonly call tenure. They were concerned with two broad areas: ensuring the adequacy of people earning a continuing contract, and ensuring continuing adequacy once the contract had been earned. The board liked Valencia’s system for earning these types of contracts, and part of the changes in the current draft of the rule come from what we already do in our Teaching and Learning Academy (TLA). The draft has been reviewed at least twice in public forums and looks like it is nearing completion. Here are some of the likely results:

  • The process to earn a continuing contract will likely move to five years from its current three years. Language in the most current versions of the rule protect those faculty already in a process like our TLA. That is, they would finish the process under the same set of rules as they started.
  • Some form of post-tenure review process will be required. Valencia will have a lot of latitude in how it weighs the items in post-tenure review. In the most recent draft of the rule, those items include measurable effectiveness in the area of practice, currency and scope of subject matter knowledge, continued professional development, service to the college, and feedback from students and employers. Sandy mentioned that his strong recommendation back to the board is to drop the reference to employer feedback, due to the difficulty of measuring such a requirement.

Post-Tenure Review: Not long after the bill mentioned above was defeated, Sandy visited with the Faculty Council and proposed that there should be a faculty-designed system of ongoing review in place at Valencia. His reasoning was that even in a case of the state abolishing tenure, we should have an understanding between the college and our local board about a designation at Valencia that protected academic freedom, with clear guidance on how this designation could be earned and lost. The Faculty Council formed a committee that researched and discussed several models of post-tenure review, and presented a draft process to faculty and administrators in the fall of 2012.

The committee is summarizing the feedback from those presentations and getting ready to make its recommendations to the Faculty Council. The presentation documents will then be converted to a policy draft and presented to the entire Faculty Association for feedback before Faculty Council presents the policy to the board.  In its current form, the proposed process tries to address ongoing improvement of faculty using the current annual review process, while giving specific guidance with lots of due process in cases where faculty performance is in question.

Textbook Affordability: We are currently trying to update our Instructional Materials policy to reflect changes in state law and rule. Faculty Council is editing the current policy along with the bookstore, college general counsel and the campus presidents. There are several goals we are trying to achieve. One is to reduce the number of different textbooks per course. Our current policy allows for at least 10, and that number rises every time we add a new campus. Another goal is to have clear guidance on how self-authored materials are vetted and used. Another is to have the various elements of textbook affordability and alternatives to physical texts added to the considerations when selecting a text. Contact your campus faculty leadership if you are interested in contributing to this discussion.

Workload Policy: This is a completed policy update written by a group of faculty and administrators between fall 2011 and summer 2012. It hasn’t been presented to the Valencia Board of Trustees for adoption yet, due in part to confusion over what the new policy says about service to the college. It calls for a cursory accounting of service to the college at the same time a faculty member fills out their faculty workload form. Examples of service might include collaboration with colleagues, course and curriculum development, scholarly research, student club advising, meetings, TLA-related work, participation in collaborative governance, licensure renewal and attendance at conferences, and continuing education classes. The policy still has to be presented to, and adopted by, the Board of Trustees. When that happens, we’ll have clear communication with the IAC and Faculty Association about when the policy takes effect.

General Education Curriculum Changes: This part of the talk focused on the history of HB 7135 and the changes it creates for general education. This topic in particular became a point of dialogue between faculty and administration over the course of the four receptions, and during the last meeting on West Campus, a new approach was proposed. The idea is that we should temporarily commit to offer six credit hours per discipline, and then map out the resulting course selections to our general education outcomes and see if we are still meeting them. This is a change from the idea that the numbers of hours per discipline were open for discussion, and would be set only after discussing the outcomes. The rationale behind this new approach is that we were already happy with our outcomes, and so changing as little as possible while following the requirements of the law might be the best place to begin.

Additionally, we discussed a ‘glitch bill’ designed to address unintended consequences from HB 7135. It seems likely that one of the fixes will be an extension of the implementation deadlines by as much as a year.

Online Learning: Susan Ledlow, our vice president of academic affairs and planning, has been doing a lot of research into the college’s current practices and has discovered a strong desire to improve our current system of offering online courses. The recurring theme is that we have to ensure that students, faculty, and course content are all prepared for online learning before a course is offered online. Susan is working with a consultant who has also worked with the Florida Virtual School on how this work should move forward.

Staffing Challenges: Sandy has asked the Senior Team to prepare a budget that allows the college to offer at least a step increase for this year. This is similar to the work he did last spring, and the same issues are at play. The state support of Valencia is approximately 25% lower per full-time student now than it was five years ago, and both the policy leaders and the public have expressed exhaustion with tuition increases. If we can’t get more tax support from the state, and the Board of Trustees remains resistant to increasing tuition, then the only revenue generator left is increased enrollment. Sandy will continue to push on the issue of tuition, citing the recent high performance of the college, the low percentage of full-time faculty, and the difficulty the college is currently having hiring faculty in key disciplines such as math and science. Another staffing issue on the horizon is the implementation of the health care law. The college is facing additional costs between $2 million and $10 million per year in order to cover everyone who works an average of 30 hours per week at Valencia and the legislation includes adjunct faculty, although final guidance has not yet been issued on how to calculate adjunct hours. This means we may have to be even more reliant on our full-time faculty in the near future.

Dispute Resolution: There were two main updates on this topic. The first is that a group of faculty, staff and administrators is taking a holistic look at all of our dispute resolution processes, including the various grievance policies at the college, with the intent of clarifying and updating existing policies. On a related issue, I am to schedule a meeting with college counsel, Bill Mullowney, and the faculty leadership on all campuses to discuss the issue of creating a faculty ombudsman. The Faculty Council had a short talk about the second issue in the fall of 2012, and there wasn’t a clear agreement among the campus leaders about what to do on the issue. The purpose of the meeting I call will be to come to some consensus on the topic and define the way forward.

Faculty Load Restrictions: In 2007, we moved away from traditional load restrictions (two overloads per term for full-time faculty, four courses total per term for part-time faculty) in reaction to massive, unfunded growth in enrollment at the college. We are past the demand issues created by that jump in enrollment, and over the course of a year have moved back to our original load restrictions. There are still pockets of high demand in some sections of the college, and the campus presidents have discretion to allow higher loads on a case-by-case basis, but the goal is to keep the normal load range at five classes with an option for up to two overloads for those who want to work more than a full load.

If you’d like further clarification or discussion on any of these topics, get in touch with me at rmccaffrey@valenciacollege.edu.

1 Comment

  • Bob Gessner said:

    Very informative; thanks Rob!

    AMTue, 05 Feb 2013 09:34:07 +0000Tue, 05 Feb 2013 09:34:07 +0000am13,9:34 am

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