Statement from Faculty Senate President Beth Edmonds to the JCCC Board of Trustees on Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thursday, August 15th at 5:00 p.m. in GEB 137

Good evening. My name is Beth Edmonds. I am a professor and chair of mathematics at Johnson County Community College, currently serving as President of the JCCC Faculty Senate.

To quote the Higher Learning Commission’s upcoming 2020 release of its Criteria for Accreditation,

“Shared governance at the institution engages its internal constituencies—including its governing board, administration, faculty, staff and students—through planning, policies and procedures.”

Since its inception, the JCCC Faculty Senate has been dedicated to promoting the principles of shared governance. If you read our constitution (written 8 years ago) you will find a rich document which includes the following statement:

“The Senate maintains that high quality education and student success depend on faculty engagement beyond basic teaching duties, and those goals depend on faculty members being involved in decisions that impact instruction.”

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has repeatedly expressed that it expects JCCC to make improvements in two areas: governance structure and communication. We are tasked with submitting a second report by May 1, 2020 which will outline “…faculty voice within the shared governance system at JCCC.” At the same time the HLC, with some insight, provides a natural pathway to resolve these issues in which Faculty Association and the Faculty Senate (quote) …co-exist as long as their respective areas of responsibility and authority are clear.”

I will share two examples which demonstrate that the structure of the Faculty Senate enables it to bring to light issues affecting students and faculty from all areas that might otherwise be overlooked.

My first example is the most recent push to talk about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (also known as DEI) again at JCCC. At the September 2018 Faculty Senate meeting, a task force was created to address diversity issues at JCCC. Coincidentally, this was also one area of concern mentioned by the HLC. Last May the task force (an energetic and caring group of concerned faculty, staff, and students) met with college executives. As a result of these meetings, it was decided that JCCC would commence a DEI Assessment to determine needs and actions for addressing DEI on campus. This task force, created through the Faculty Senate has taken on a life of its own. And, while their work is still in early stages this is something the entire JCCC community can be proud of.

My second example is the action taken in May 2019, in which the Faculty Senate approved a faculty-created model for shared governance to be used as the template, or “starting point”, for future implementation, correcting the CAO’s proposed model which omitted the Faculty Senate. It remains our position that the Faculty Senate should be the body overseeing all faculty-based, non-contractual campus committees, and the first point of contact for the JCCC administration to seek faculty input for non-contract issues. Our model will provide the JCCC academic branch with a “starting point” for meaningful discussions about shared governance. The JCCC administration has a unique opportunity here because the proposed template “starting point” model has the added benefit of incorporating an excellent and very natural means of facilitating and evaluating effective communication.

Which allows me to briefly segue into the topic of communication at JCCC. As a result of the HLC’s insistence that communication must improve, JCCC has endeavored to make notable changes. But, it is significant that in the past year, instead of improving communication within the community, basic information has become more difficult to obtain. Two examples of this are the credit course listings which no longer give information about courses and our general announcements of daily campus activities which now require a login in order to actually see the announcements. The HLC has noted that there has been no easing of the existing “polarization” and I can assure you there has not been improvement in the communication protocols.

In the coming academic year, the Faculty Senate will urge the JCCC administration to seek open dialogue with faculty to work from our template model and turn this unique opportunity into the reality of shared faculty governance in more than just name only. This dialogue will allow us to stay focused on the pathway toward a resolution for the HLC’s two concerns of shared governance and communication. In fact, since the Faculty Senate is mentioned multiple times throughout the accreditation documentation, I take this as a strong indicator that the HLC has expectations of the integral role that the Faculty Senate should play in this process.

Before I conclude I will add this: I asked to be included on the agenda for tonight’s meeting. As President of the Faculty Senate, this seemed reasonable. I was refused. I will continue to request this privilege but will utilize the public forum if refused in the future.

Thank you