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Group seeks changes in community college governance rules

December 12, 2012 |  6:28 pm

A nonprofit education policy group petitioned California's community college system Wednesday to restore what it contends is diminished power within local elected boards at the system’s 112 colleges.

California Competes, a group of independent business and civic leaders, filed a legal challenge with the chancellor's office to change regulations to clarify that the locally elected community college boards are responsible for the operation of the colleges and that faculty, students and staff should be consulted before policies are considered.

The group contends that current regulations unlawfully allow local academic senates, which consist solely of faculty representatives, “the ability to usurp the authority of local community college trustees,” the group said in a release.

The trustees, the group contends, are mandated by state law to gather input on policies from the surrounding community, but their decision-making power is outweighed by that of faculty representatives on campus.

Robert Shireman, the group’s executive director, said that the regulations create a tangled, dysfunctional  bureaucracy that does not respond to the needs of students.

“It creates a situation of gridlock instead of cooperation,” he said.  “In order for any large organization to move forward, somebody ultimately has to make a decision.”

Under the proposed changes, the 72 local governing boards overseeing the system’s 112 colleges would be required to seek input from the faculty, staff and students prior to policy decisions.

It would also recommend that the governing boards defer to academic senates on matters of academic standards, but require the board to explain in writing its own decision if it is in conflict with those recommendations.

Chancellor Brice W. Harris has 45 days to respond in writing, said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the chancellor.

“The chancellor’s office will review the petition filed by California Competes and respond in a timely manner,” he said. “California community colleges value the input of faculty and support effective shared governance in the pursuit of helping students achieve their educational and career goals


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--Stephen Ceasar