The new chancellor of the California Community Colleges system, Brice Harris, faces a legal challenge from an independent group that contends the system's academic senates exercise too much power. The group, California Competes, petitioned the community colleges' Board of Governors on Wednesday.
A group of business owners and elected officials – that includes the mayors of Long Beach and Pasadena – contends that professors are slowing the pace of reform at California’s 112 community colleges. On Wednesday the organization called California Competes formally asked the state community colleges' Board of Governors to change that.
Community college academic senates have existed for almost 50 years. The state legislature created them to give faculty a say in academic decisions and instructor staffing.
Bob Shireman of California Competes says those advisory groups routinely veto all kinds of decisions. His organization on Wednesday asked state officials to change policies so each college’s board of trustees could exercise final decision making power.
“Even in Pasadena and El Camino College, there in the Los Angeles area...they’ll even argue over the start date for the spring semester,” Shireman said.
Michelle L. Pilati, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, disputes the claim.
“Academic senates do not have veto power,” said Pilati, who teaches psychology at Rio Hondo College. “If there is any administrative gridlock, that is not a consequence of the current Title 5 regulations, but a failure of local leadership.”
The law that created academic senates doesn’t give them a veto.