Nuts & Bolts

“Nuts and Bolts about the Academic Senate”      10-08


Ed. Code 53200:Academic Senate means an organization whose primary function is to make recommendations with respect to academic and professional matters.” * The role and authority of the academic senate is defined in both the Education Code and Title 5 and the senate can indeed be a powerful organization at a college or within a district!

 Your local SCE Senate:

The SCE Academic Senate was created in April 1989 and is your noncredit faculty voice in “academic and professional matters” for 26 full-time and over 330 part-time SCE faculty (as of fall 2008). We have a Constitution and By-laws that further defines our obligations and processes. In addition, all senates are open meetings that must adhere to the rules of the Brown Act. As of fall 2008, there are 26 full-time teaching and counseling faculty in the senate and 4 adjunct faculty representatives. The senate faculty serve on over 20 SCE and District governance committees as well as additional committees such as hiring and tenure review. The SCE senate meets once a month during the school year and sometimes calls special additional senate meetings.

 There are 3 senates in the NOCCCD. Fullerton College and Cypress College each have an academic senate. The leadership of the 3 senates works closely together on matters of mutual interest and often also meets with the leadership of the 2 unions.

 Our SCE Academic Senate is very unique and is one of only 2 solely noncredit senates in the whole state of California (the other is San Diego). Other senates are college and district senates that may or may not have noncredit faculty representatives on them.

 The State Senate - ASCCC:

Local senate members are automatically members of the State Senate called the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges (ASCCC). Each local senate has a Delegate that attends the Fall and Spring Plenary Sessions to participate and vote on statewide resolutions. Local senates can bring forward resolutions for consideration if they have statewide interest. The State Senate uses the resolutions to advocate for statewide academic and professional matters and is our voice on the state level. The ASCCC has numerous standing and ad hoc committees, including the Ad Hoc Noncredit Committee concerned with noncredit issues.

 There are 109 community colleges in California and 72 community college districts. The ASCCC has divided these into Areas A, B, C, and D which have meetings before each Plenary Session. We are in “Area D”.

Senate VS Union Purpose:

The academic senate is different than your collective bargaining unit (United Faculty and Adjunct Faculty United). The unions deal with collective bargaining, salary, working conditions, etc. There are a few instances when union and senate matters of interest may somewhat overlap, but usually each serves faculty in different ways. There may be liaisons of the unions who attend the senate meetings; the SCE Senate has both a liaison for United Faculty and Adjunct Faculty United that sometimes give bargaining updates. Union matters and issues are not usually discussed at senate meetings unless the issue affects academic and professional matters.

 Faculty Participation in the SCE Senate

 The SCE Academic Senate is a “senate of the whole”, which means that all full-time faculty are senate members, with four elected part-time faculty representatives. Colleges with many full-time faculty have a “representational senate’ in which faculty are elected to the senate by divisions or departments to represent those faculty.

 A senate of the whole expects all full-time faculty members to participate in senate meetings, activities, and serve on governance committees, especially if they are few in numbers and have many committees to participate on. The more active participation of senate members means we have a stronger voice in academic and professional matters and can be more effective in promoting academic and professional interests.

 “Effective Participation in Governance”

As senate faculty members, it is an opportunity to “effectively participate” in decisions about the governance of SCE and our district. You may hear the term “shared governance” used, but this term, although commonly used, is not actually in regulation and may lead to misperceptions about participation, for both faculty and administrators/managers. We also have the opportunity to “effectively participate” in decisions about academic and professional matters in statewide issues through the ASCCC. Our right to do this is in Ed Code and Title 5, and is supported by our policy agreements with our district to “collegially consult” with the faculty on matters of academic and professional matters.

“Collegially consult” means that the District has either agreed to “reach mutual agreement between the governing board/designee and representatives of the academic senate” or “rely primarily upon the advice and judgment of the academic senate” the faculty in the following “10+1 academic and professional areas”.

 NOCCCD has agreed in board policy (BP & AP 2510) to “rely primarily” on the senate/s for:

  1. Curriculum
  2. Degree and Certificate requirements
  3. Grading Policies
  4. Standards or policies regarding student preparation and success
  5. Faculty roles and involvement in accreditation processes
  6. Policies for faculty professional development activities

 And to “reach mutual agreement” with the senate/s for:

  1. Educational program development and program discontinuation
  2. District and college governance structures as related to faculty roles
  3. Processes for program review
  4. Processes for institutional planning and budget development
  5. Other academic and professional matters as mutually agreed upon between the governing board and the academic senate

In addition to the 10+1 areas, the  Ed. Code and Title 5 guarantees faculty involvement in deciding minimum qualifications for administrative retreat rights, curriculum committees, equivalencies to the minimum qualifications, faculty hiring, and faculty evaluation of administrators.

 Responsibilities of Senate members:

Basically, attend senate meetings, listen, participate, ask questions, and learn about your local senate and local and statewide issues! Be an active participant and volunteer to be on a governance committee of interest to you. And if you want to get more involved, consider attending the ASCCC Plenary Sessions or some of the Institutes held every year: Leadership, Curriculum, Teaching, Counseling, and more.

 Responsibilities of your local senate to its members *

  • Be familiar with the statutory context in which the senate operates-know the Ed Code and Title 5 in order to protect and honor the governance responsibilities that include but are not limited to representation on all governance committees
  • Advocate for faculty interests in academic and professional matters
  • Promote an effective relationship with the Board of Trustees
  • Maintain contact with the ASCCC; attend and participate in Plenary sessions and activities, remain vigilant about legislation affecting the CCs
  • Maintain effective relationships with other governance groups, such as bargaining agents, staff, and students
  • Develop senate participation and Leadership, orient new faculty, encourage participation
  • Foster communication; engage faculty in ongoing issues of the day, facilitate developing faculty views and positions, foster communication between faculty and the Administration and governing board, communicate with the ASCCC
  • Secure resources to ensure Senate success; assure adequate resources for senate and manage them, develop agendas and conduct meetings, archive senate materials
  • Further efforts to appoint and maintain qualified personnel; participate in hiring committees, appoint faculty representatives to committees
  • In a multi-college district: be the representative for your campus, be the conduit for district-wide information to the faculty

 Last word on Nuts and Bolts

If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a lot of faculty participation to have a strong and effective senate! We are in a unique position to be able to advocate for both local and statewide noncredit issues because we have our own noncredit senate. Every individual faculty counts and is important, and we can all contribute in our own different ways to build and keep a strong senate voice. And a strong senate means that we can be effective in academic and professional matters and be able to serve our students in the best way we can.


 “Empowering Local Senates: Roles and Responsibilities of and Strategies for an Effective Senate”, ASCCC paper, 2002