Resolved: That the Sonoma State University (SSU) Academic Senate expresses its unyielding support for shared governance as defined in the Higher Education Employee Relations Act; and be it further
Resolved: That the SSU Academic express its appreciation for the dedication and hard work of the Academic Senate CSU (ASCSU) and the Chancellor’s Office leadership team to define “shared governance” as reflected in the “Tenets of System Level Shared Governance in the California State University “ (herein referred to as “the Tenets document,”); and be it further
Resolved: That the SSU Academic Senate express its concern that because a comprehensive definition of curriculum and the criteria for invoking the expedited consultation process are not included in the Tenets document, the possibility exists of further damage to shared governance if the Tenets document is approved as-is by the ASCSU; and be it further
Resolved: That the SSU Academic Senate express its concern that the Tenets document is an “all or nothing proposition,” in that it must be adopted by the ASCSU in an up or down vote; and be it further
Resolved: That the SSU Academic Senate express its opposition to the Tenets document and urge the ASCSU to reject it; and be it further
Resolved: That the Sonoma State Academic Senate send a copy of this resolution, with the rationale, to Chancellor White, Executive Vice Chancellor Blanchard and the Academic Senate CSU.
Rationale: In September of 2017, Sonoma State University’s Academic Senate formally voted to oppose Chancellor White’s issuance of EO 1100 (Rev) and EO 1110 and called upon the Chancellor to rescind these executive orders. As detailed in “Regarding CSU Executive Orders 1100 General Education Breadth Requirements – Revised August 23, 2017 and 1110 Assessment of Academic Preparation and Placement in First-year General Education Written Communication and Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning Courses,” the SSU Senate conveyed its concern about inappropriate consultation procedures used to develop the executive orders and their implications for faculty’s authority under HEERA to oversee curriculum, as well as the SSU Senate’s concern for diversity as a core part of SSU’s mission statement and the extra workload and work availability for faculty that would result if the executive orders were not rescinded.
In September, 2017, the Academic Senate CSU also passed a resolution that expressed similar apprehension about the executive orders, including a “flawed shared governance process” and consultation, a disregard for HEERA, concerns about the implementation timeline for the EOs and their content and questions about the executive orders’ “deleterious effects” on student success and ethnic studies/cultural diversity curriculum.
Despite resolutions from SSU and other campus senates and the ASCSU asking Chancellor White to put EO 1100 (Rev) and 1110 in abeyance until further consultation could take place, the Chancellor made the decision to go ahead and issue the EOs.
As a result of concern over the state of ASCSU-CO relations after Chancellor White’s decision to go ahead with the Executive Orders, the ASCSU directed its Executive Committee to engage in a series of conversations meant to define shared governance at the system wide level. The Tenets document is the result of those conversations. The SSU Academic Senate appreciates those efforts and recognizes that the Tenets document is intended to establish a precedent for the meaning of shared governance at the system wide level. However, the Tenets document as written has potentially significant negative consequences for shared governance at the statewide level that could reverberate throughout the CSU.
In particular, the SSU Senate is seriously concerned about two aspects of the Tenets document, the lack of a comprehensive definition of “curriculum” as well as the expedited consultation process the document creates. The lack of a clear and comprehensive definition of curriculum jeopardizes faculty authority over curricular matters as reinforced in HEERA. This is particularly concerning in light of the CO’s repeated assertions that EO 1100 (Rev) is not “curriculum” despite its clear impact on campus GE and other programs.
In addition, “expedited consultation,” “expedited process” and the criteria by which to determine whether or not such a process would be used are not defined in the Tenets document, and are only referenced in the context of “rare circumstances that justify departing from the more comprehensive process intended by this document.” In addition, the document states that in the unlikely event that the CO and the ASCSU cannot reach agreement about the use of the expedited consultation process, “… the chancellor will decide.” We are left with the ability of the Chancellor to act unilaterally to impose an expedited process based solely upon his/her definition of “rare circumstances.” These provisions create a mechanism by which the administration can claim that its initiatives involving curriculum do not need to be vetted by the full ASCSU and its standing committees, with the possibility of feedback from campus senates between a first and second reading as is standard practice and should be the case for curricular decisions. Shared governance requires consensus, shared definitions, and a process that ensures that all stakeholders are involved. HEERA provides faculty the ability to check administrative actions, an ability that defaults to the Chancellor under the Tenets document.
Finally, we note that the Tenets document may only be adopted via an up or down vote. Such a process restricts the ability of the ASCSU to exercise its rightful prerogative to recommend changes to the Tenets with the goal of improving it, or to make suggestions for improvement based on input from campus senates. Such a process also eliminates the possibility of introducing new ideas into the document that could advance the principles of shared governance.
In California, the faculty role in shared governance and the centrality of joint decision making in that process is clarified in the Higher Education Employee Relations Act (HEERA); HEERA was to establish collective bargaining for faculty at CSU to insure that in doing so, traditional shared governance practices are not inhibited or undermined: “The Legislature recognizes that joint decision making and consultation between administration and faculty or academic employees is the long-accepted manner of governing institutions of higher learning and is essential to the performance of the educational missions of these institutions, and declares that it is the purpose of this chapter to both preserve and encourage that process. Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to restrict, limit, or prohibit the full exercise of the functions of the faculty in any shared governance mechanisms or practices...”
Report of the Board of Trustees’ Ad Hoc Committee on Governance, Collegiality, and Responsibility in the California State University. Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the California State. University, September 1985.