Rostrum Article on “no Confidence”: 9/03
“So, You’re Thinking about a Vote of NO CONFIDENCE”
10+ Questions to Ask
(Patricia Flores-Charter’s Responses to questions posed and considered by the Senate. Responses are organized on behalf of the Senate Executive Board in Bold/Italics in preparation for Academic Senate meeting, April 28, 2009)
Has your local senate considered taking a vote of no confidence on an administrator? At some colleges, there have been ongoing issues with long-standing administrators. At other colleges, new problems have arisen as a result of the budgetary constraints in the last year. At times of fiscal hardship, typically there are more instances in which local senates find their rights and responsibilities have been curtailed, so the discussions about a no confidence vote have increased. For example, it is easier and faster for some administrators to make decisions alone about budget processes or curricular offerings and bypass a college’s normal shared-governance processes. Before a local senate decides to take a vote no confidence on an administrator to their local Board of Trustees, senate members must carefully consider the justification and potential effects of such a vote. Below are some questions to stimulate local senate discussions about whether or not to take such an important vote of no confidence.
1.What is your goal or purpose? Open dialogue with the Governing Board and Superintendent President to address faculty concerns. What do you want accomplished by this vote? Speak with one collective voice as a faculty as to the seriousness of the concerns. Consider whether or not you expect a specific action to be taken after the vote. From whom do you expect an action and by when? We request action by the Governing Board by June 15, 2009. How will you know when the action is completed? The Senate Executive Board will receive a written response by June 15, 2009.
2. What might the overall results be of such a vote? We have explored all the pros/cons and exhausted all our options, time, and energy. Morale is at an all time low. Sometimes the effects are right on target; sometimes there can be unexpected consequences. Effects may be immediate, or it may take time to see a change. Explore all the pros/cons; examine the advantages and disadvantages of any proposed action. Consider how different groups may react: other administrators, trustees, staff, the community, etc.
3. Are your concerns about academic issues? (as opposed to union issues). Refer to the 10+1 areas of Senate responsibilities, to other areas of responsibility in the law, as well as at local board policies that are relevant in your situation. Academic Senate standing committees can not function in a cost effective and collegial manner under current conditions. Numerous violations of the 10+1 have occurred in the last 1 ½ years despite our attempts at collegial consultation to prevent or resolve them.
4. Are the issues compelling enough? Our faculty and academic committees do not have administrative support or input into planning and budget to function effectively. Have other avenues of recourse been exhausted? The Senate President no longer has access to the President. Collegial attempts at collaboration on planning, budget, and committee support have failed. Keep in mind that the Board of Trustees hired this administrator, and therefore will be inclined to support him or her. A vote of no confidence probably should be done as a last resort.
5. Is it best to take a vote as the Senate? This is an academic and professional matter relating to the 10+1. As the union? The union will address any contract and work issues. Both? A vote of all faculty, if you have a representative senate? As in past precedence Senate Representatives have asked for a vote of their constituents and will represent that vote in the Senate meeting. You could do all or any of these and the sequence could be varied. What are the pros & cons of each choice? What’s the union-senate relationship? Our relationship is united. Are the bodies in accord? Both bodies work together collegially. In opposition? Will the action of one group divide the faculty or unite them? This will unite them.
6. In a multi-college district, consider the ramifications of one college’s unilateral action. Should discussions or a vote be conducted by your District Senate, if you have one?
7. Discuss the issues widely across the campus, and consider first adopting a resolution laying out the concerns and calling for a vote. Since fall 2007 our Senate has been compelled to speak with one voice with a Resolution on Shared Governance and Collegial Consultation(approved April 22, 2008) and a Budget Crisis Resolution (approved December 9, 2008). Where is there resistance? The resistance is from Dr. Chopra. Have you explored the opposition’s perspective? A concerted effort was spent this past 1 ½ years to work with our Superintendent/President. Might they be right? With every new decision we have worked to see the rationale and logic of the decision making process. The Senate has worked to understand and support decisions. You could do a temperature check in advance of a vote, to see where people stand. Is there widespread concern or buy-in? Will the faculty support the senate?
8. What is the perspective of the classified staff? We are in communication with the classified staff. What’s their position? Should you work with them, either formally or informally? Can you incorporate their concerns into a statement of your own, demonstrating the administrator’s failure, for example, to adhere to principles of participatory governance?
9. After a vote is taken what will occur during the next six months or year? Our goal is to open constructive dialogue with our Governing Board and Superintendent/President to turn around this situation. Our commitment to our students and community keeps us focused on improvement of this relationship.
10. Are all discussions professional and focused on issues and behaviors and not on personalities? Yes, we have worked hard to not respond in kind to hostile and adversarial treatment.
11. Who else would be affected by a vote? Will other relationships the faculty have be damaged? How will the community react? Our students and community are at the heart of our issues. Should constructive outcomes not occur, we will reach out to our students and community for their support and help in solutions for our next steps.
A primary role of the local academic senate in the case of a “no confidence” vote is the same as its role the rest of the time: ensuring that the laws, regulations and policies established by the state and by local boards relative to the senate are upheld. When those are violated, the local senate needs to take action, making certain its own actions are above reproach.