Statement from Faculty Senate President Beth Edmonds on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

If you had a chance to read the email I sent to all faculty on Jan 18th, you will have read about 10 of my concerns about the Academic Branch Task Force model document or what the task force has named its shared governance “manifesto”. The manifesto contained the proposed shared governance model which is on pg 22 of the manifesto document. If I am understanding the task force spokesperson (Tonia Hughes) correctly, the model is assumed to be that page only (the bubbles page) and none of the verbiage on the other 21 pages of the manifesto. I did not understand this on the 18th. I assumed that the entire document was the model.

In any case, that list of 10 wasn’t a comprehensive list, nor was it really my top 10 list. It was simply a list of 10 concerns. If you didn’t read my email, don’t worry about it. That’s not really what I want to talk to you about today. Instead, today, I want to share with you what I didn’t touch on in that email. That is, my broader concerns about Shared Governance and the consequences to this body and my fear of missed opportunities.

First, we have (or should I say had?) a unique opportunity to open a real discussion about Shared Governance at JCCC. So, what is shared governance? First, I should define governance as the way in which an institution of higher learning is operated. From there I would say that an institution that practices shared governance has faculty and administration working together to resolve issues, make policy, and keep the best interests of the students at the heart of all decisions. We should be able to use this description as a litmus test for our model.

I don’t assume that those of you in this room, the task force members, nor our administration (no matter the directive we received from the HLC) truly believe that we should be working under a shared governance model. But, if you do believe that, then we should be adopting a model which espouses the tenets of shared governance (that of working together). With sincere apologies to everyone the model we were presented (whether you are in favor of it or not) does not represent shared governance.
• It does not call for any decisions to be made jointly with faculty and administration.
• It does not allow for any forum in which important topics are scrutinized and discussed jointly by faculty and administration.
• It does not create any setting where all sides of a topic can be presented by parties concerned.
• It does not allow broadly elected faculty representatives to resolve issues on our behalf and in our interests.
• It does not provide any avenues that will mitigate the pain points listed in the manifesto or to prevent new, similar pain points from occurring in the future. It only provides a different avenue for us to protest them.
• It does not provide for broadly elected faculty members to represent me when discussions occur in settings like collegial steering or even IDC.

Instead the manifesto does the following:
• It clings to the notions of a separation of duties between administration and faculty.
• It shows how concerns can be brought forward (from faculty) for an all-faculty vote but does not show us how/when topics can/should be brought from administration to faculty and thus will continue current practice of omitting faculty from the decision-making process.
• It allows for an avenue for faculty to lodge complaints about decisions only after those decisions are made. And, even with that, it provides no process for administration to follow if such a complaint is lodged. Instead it says, “With due regard to administrative oversight and approval, decisions should be made at the level of those with the most immediate interests and relevant experience.” This is governance, but not shared governance.
• It does not obligate the administration to anything on any matters at any time.
• It implicitly marginalizes the Faculty Senate. By the way, leaving the faculty at large with the very uncomfortable position of having a FS that was voted in by the full faculty but has not been voted out of being in a similar manner.
• It contains bubbles corresponding to existing branch-wide committees (like olac and EA) but these committees already conform to the narrow definition of faculty purview given in the manifesto: those that pertain to the classroom.
• It calls into question the position of adjunct faculty in terms of their status as respected colleagues.

I am left to wonder if the removal of the Faculty Senate has become so important that instead of simply working to improve our current situation, we are willing to exchange it for one with a weaker faculty voice. There is so much that is concerning about the proposed model that I’m stymied by the fact that the members of the task force favor this non-shared governance model even to the point of sending me abusive emails. But the main weakness of this shared governance model is that it is simply not a shared governance model. In fact, if I pursue my line of thought, I might even suggest that this model is not a governance model at all.

And now, because we need to address two topics in today’s meeting, I move on to this body, the Faculty Senate. Depending on how this frighteningly constructed vote goes, it’s possible that all the work previously done by our colleagues and former colleagues to strengthen faculty voice will have been be ignored. And, any strengths that have been gained by the existence of a Faculty Senate during a decade of devotion and hard work by people we trust and respect will be washed away. For me, this will be a true loss for us at JCCC. Excluding the Faculty Senate and creating (in its place) an ABC with no governance in its mandate is incomprehensible to me.

It is true that, at times, the Faculty Senate has struggled to find its footing. But, despite concerted efforts by faculty and administration to weaken our Faculty Senate over the last several years there have been great accomplishments. Here a short list:
• Chairs report
• Cabinet censure
• Senate analysis of the HLC response document
• DEI task force
• First to gather information on all committees at JCCC
• Delegated representation on other committees, especially Collegial Steering (not forgetting that thanks to the Faculty Senate we currently have an adjunct faculty member sitting on Collegial Steering)
• Strategic Planning Collaboration
• Adjunct Affairs,
• Provided a platform to hear from Staff on everything from KOPS and guns on campus to Day One Access

If I could send a message to the task force and to the faculty at large it would be this: Don’t assume that if someone is objecting to the proposed model their issue is solely based upon the effect it may have on the Faculty Senate. I have been told that can be the only reason I could object to the model. But I assure you that is not even close. You’ve gotten a hint at that in my Jan 18th email and in my remarks today. In fact, I would like to reflect that idea back on to the accusers. If the exclusion of the Faculty Senate is the only reason you support the proposed model, then I suggest you have missed the point entirely.

However, depending on the outcome of the vote, we may soon be faced with a decision about the FS. We will discuss this shortly.
My final message to everyone (all faculty) would be this. Look deeper. Analyze thoroughly. Ask questions. Think for yourselves. And, no matter what model we end up with, get involved and stay involved. Don’t let us miss this unique opportunity.

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