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Statement on Community College Governance

This statement is the result of several NEA higher education local affiliates. The statement originally appeared in a 1987 issue of the "NEA Higher Education Advocate" as a "Statement on Faculty Governance." In 1989, the NEA Executive Committee adopted this statement on "Community College Governance" and considered it to be an elaboration of the 1987 faculty governance statement.


In 1987 the National Education Association adopted and published a "Statement on Faculty Governance" in Higher Education.1 The principles set forth in that statement are explicated in the following document, which describes a system of academic governance that is equitable, reasonable, and consistent with the mission and goals of American community, junior, and technical colleges.

These educational institutions are established to provide educational and vocational training opportunities for students, and to advance scholarship and instruction. United by this mission, the faculty, administration, and governing board establish academic governance to regulate their relationships, establish policy, and administer their institution.

Academic governance requires a cooperative effort by faculty, academic staff, administration, governing board, and students. Also required is a commitment to the principle of collegiality between the primary parties: the faculty and administration. Neither created nor sustained to benefit any individual or particular group, governance must promote academic justice and excellence.

Governance comprises structures, procedures, standards, and time limits arranged to make decisions and policy in an orderly and effective manner. Good governance necessitates the delegation of authority to each party to make decisions appropriate to its responsibility and to accept the consequences of those decisions.

As observed in the "Statement on Faculty Governance," faculty and staff participation in institutional governance takes many forms in colleges and universities. Collective bargaining has been adopted at many institutions as the primary way to delegate authority and responsibility within the governance system. All employees, including faculty both at public and private colleges, must be accorded the right by statute or consent arrangements to organize for bargaining.

Faculty at public institutions are not yet permitted to bargain collectively in many states, while other faculty have decided not to exercise this option where possible. These faculty depend on moral suasion, political activity, and other methods to protect their rights and participate in decision making. This statement has been formulated to address their needs and concerns, as well as those with collective bargaining.

Faculty Participation in Governance

Faculty participation in governance is based on individual and collective expertise, credentials, and experience. Active involvement is justified by the fact that faculty are in daily contact with students, understand students' needs, and have the expertise to comprehend and explain what is necessary to fulfill educational goals. Indeed, this is one of the fundamental competencies for which they have been appointed.

The level of faculty participation or authority is relative to the issue or topic involved. It ranges from advice given--when requested by the administration on issues remote from academics--to the actual determination of educational policy.

Because of their responsibilities faculty are concerned about policies affecting their profession. They must be a full partner in the establishment, operation, and modification of campus governance. Effective governance requires processes which are open and encourage faculty participation by their ability to effectuate change when necessary. Faculty should be given credit for and, when appropriate, release time for participation in governance.

For good reason faculty claim an appropriate and significant role in decision-making processes. Studies of institutional effectiveness indicate that they are better teachers when their morale is high, and morale is higher at institutions where faculty play a major role in governance--where they have confidence in the system to produce results.

Collective bargaining has been selected by thousands of community college faculty to ensure participation in governance and enhance and protect their professional and economic rights. According to the "Statement on Faculty Governance," collective bargaining is a form of legally mandated collegiality which ensures the integrity of the joint effort (of governance). When conducted in good faith, bargaining focuses attention and energy on specific issues, encourages innovative solutions, and provides deadlines and processes for resolving these issues. Furthermore, it is recognized that "there is no one type of governance system appropriate for all." Where faculty deem it appropriate, bargaining and other forms of governance will supplement and complement each other. Because community colleges are influenced by actions of state legislatures, commissions, and state governing boards, faculty representation to these bodies is also critical. Statewide educational and employment policies should not be considered and implemented without appropriate discussion with faculty. In particular, state programs designed to improve education or assess what students have learned should only be implemented after extensive consultation with faculty.

Associations, agencies, and boards that accredit or certify programs or award licenses should include faculty representation or provide adequate opportunity for discussion with faculty.

A member of the faculty, selected according to procedures adopted by the faculty, should be appointed to the governing board of each community college.

Community colleges are established to provide educational and vocational training to all citizens, regardless of their economic, social, or ethnic background. "Open admissions" policies are the rule. Governance here should be even more democratic than at other institutions of higher education. Unlike universities, these colleges have no academic hierarchy of research directors, endowed chairs, and graduate faculty. Consequently, they are more egalitarian and democratic, which should be reflected in their decision making.

Faculty Status Decisions

Determining the status of colleagues is a primary responsibility of faculty because of their expertise, credentials, and experience. A common characteristic of all professions is the authority to admit members and to be involved in determining their status.

Faculty must participate in decisions to create new faculty positions and to make appointments to existing positions. They should also establish the qualifications for appointments to the faculty.

Faculty must be involved in interviewing and recommending candidates for academic appointment. Search committees will be composed of faculty from the appropriate department or area, who are selected by their colleagues, and have the primary responsibility of evaluating the credentials of applicants.

During the appointment process and other phases of determining faculty status, the administration should accept and implement faculty recommendations. If for compelling reasons the faculty's recommendation is not accepted, the administrators must explain their reasons and, if requested, reduce them to writing. Before a final decision is reached, the faculty should be afforded an opportunity to respond and elaborate upon its recom- mendation.

Any decision to reappoint, promote, or award tenure must be made only after consideration by appropriate faculty bodies, according to procedures adopted by the faculty. Untenured faculty should be evaluated by their colleagues and administrators before a decision to award appointment, promotion, or tenure is made. According to NEA policy, such evaluation procedures and the standards to be applied must be developed by the joint action of faculty and administration through governance or collective bargaining processes. Faculty recommendations on the status of their colleagues should be accepted and implemented by the administration and governing board. Once the administration has accepted the faculty's recommendation or has made a contrary decision, it must notify the affected faculty member in writing and in a timely manner.

When the decision is negative, the affected faculty member has a right to be informed of the reasons for the decision, and if requested, must be given these reasons in writing. The faculty member must then have the right to appeal to an appropriate committee of colleagues on grounds of inadequate or unfair consideration. Allegations that there was a violation of academic freedom or nondiscrimination provisions may require a hearing before another impartial committee. In institutions where faculty bargain collectively, this appeal will normally be made through the grievance and arbitration system. In all institutions, the burden is on the administration to prove just cause for the dismissal of tenured faculty members or untenured faculty members before the end of their contract. For probationary faculty who are not reappointed or denied tenure, the burden is normally on them to prove that the negative decision should be reversed. All faculty subject to a serious personnel decision must be given appropriate representation or counsel for the appeal before peers, an administrator, or arbitrator.

A sincere effort by the administration, the faculty member, and/or the member's representative must be made to resolve the problem prior to individuals being formally notified that they are subject to dismissal or serious disciplinary action. The administration may feel within its legal rights to make and implement a decision to dismiss faculty without consulting or involving other faculty. However, dismissal of tenured faculty, or untenured faculty in term of contract, raises serious questions for academic governance, and academic and intellectual freedom. At colleges with bargaining, faculty usually file grievances, which the faculty union may take to binding, third-party arbitration. Such procedures are negotiated and are, by definition, the result of joint action. Where collective bargaining does not exist, faculty must participate in establishing procedures designed to protect the interests of colleagues who are subject to dismissal or penalty. Termination of faculty appointments because of serious financial problems constitutes another threat to governance, academic and intellectual freedom, and institutional quality. Even a decision to eliminate unfilled faculty positions or otherwise reduce the size of the full-time faculty will have serious and lasting ramifications.

Tenured faculty appointments must not be terminated except in times of bonafide financial exigency and only when there exists no viable alternative. The institution's existence must be called into question before tenured faculty are retrenched or placed on unpaid leave or lay-off status. Prior to such a grave emergency, the faculty and administration should adopt procedures and standards designed to preclude the elimination of full-time faculty and to help the institution contend successfully with the situation. The basic elements of these standards and procedures include:

        The status of part-time and temporary faculty must be determined by policies and standards established primarily by faculty action or by collective bargaining. Regular   part-time faculty should be included in academic governance at the departmental or divisional level.


Academic Policy

Community college faculty should exercise substantial control over the academic program. Because of their expertise, credentials, and experience, faculty are best qualified to maintain and modify academic policy. Their voice in this area must be accorded great weight by the administration and governing board, while in fundamental areas of pedagogy and course content faculty should have effective decision-making authority.

Faculty should establish the general curriculum or course of study leading to associate degrees and certificates. Changes are to be initiated by the faculty and be implemented only with their prior consent.

Requirements for degrees, certificates, and programs must be determined by faculty. This applies to the establishment of new academic programs, the determination of admission requirements to such programs, the development of new courses, and similar academic policy areas. Faculty and administration must act jointly to create and implement new programs, or to modify or eliminate existing programs.

Types of degrees offered by the college should be determined by joint action of faculty, governing board, or state agency. Degrees are only to be awarded as authorized by the faculty.

Faculty must enjoy and exercise control over their classes if academic integrity is to be protected. This includes the authority for faculty to deny attendance to students for academic or disciplinary reasons, and the right to evaluate the work of their students and assign grades. Grades will not be changed over the objections of the faculty member involved; such action would be a violation of academic freedom and a breech of professional ethics.

Academic workload for faculty must be determined by joint action of the faculty and administration. This applies to the number of classes normally taught by faculty each term, the number of different preparations, and the size of classes. Faculty should be consulted before teaching or other work assignments are made, including the time and location of classes.

Teaching an overload is a decision to be made by individual faculty according to procedures and policies adopted by the faculty. Overload compensation should be at the individual's regular annual salary (prorated) rate.

Faculty should determine the amount and schedule of their non-class time on campus and in their offices. Faculty, full- and part-time, should be provided adequate facilities to confer with students and colleagues.

Although state law or regulation frequently dictates the minimum number of class days in an academic year, the actual number may be greater and must be decided by joint action between faculty and administration. The number of class days or duty days and the academic calendar should be subjects of collective bargaining. Such important issues should only be resolved after adequate consultation, discussion, or negotiations between the faculty and the administration.

Structures and Procedures

Structures and procedures providing for faculty participation in overall institutional decision making must be established, maintained, and modified only by joint action of the faculty, administration, and governing board.

Within this system and where appropriate, faculty may adopt constitutions or bylaws for self-governance, i.e., structures and procedures enabling internal faculty decisions to be reached openly and fairly. Such instruments of government may regulate the relationship of the faculty with the other components of the governance system.

Where faculty are represented by a collective bargaining agent, the governance system must recognize the primacy of the bargaining agent, especially in areas within the scope of bargaining. Every effort should be made to ensure that these two basic forms of faculty governance coexist and cooperate.

Standing and "ad hoc" departmental committees must be established and elected by faculty. Faculty should also be able to establish and elect standing and "ad hoc" college wide committees. Procedures for selecting faculty representatives to all governance bodies must be adopted and modified only by faculty action. All faculty must be eligible to participate in academic governance to the fullest extent permitted by law.15

Department chairpersons should be elected by department members to a definite term of office. Chairs should not be considered managers or supervisors or faculty, but as coordinators and representatives of the department to the administration. Chairs will be primarily responsible to the department.

Departments based on academic disciplines are the natural foundation of academic organization. Academic divisions or larger grouping should be avoided.

Each faculty and institution will develop governance suited for its particular circumstances, history, and legal environment. Any system must protect the basic legal and professional rights of the faculty, including part-time and temporary. A representative faculty council or senate may be created by faculty action. Voting membership in such an organization is limited to faculty, since academic policy will be its primary concern. Administrators and others may be invited to attend and participate in its deliberations. This body should elect its own chair, determine its agenda, and amend its bylaws. Its representatives should meet regularly with the president of the institution and the governing board.

Finances, Planning, and Administration

Faculty have a direct and abiding interest in the administrative and budgetary decisions made at their institutions. They should have an appropriate role in the allocation of resources within the institution and guaranteed access to pertinent financial data. They must be consulted prior to the allocation of resources within the academic program and other areas which would have an impact on the teaching and learning at their institution.

Faculty should be involved in the development and presentation of budget submissions and presentations to local and state funding agencies, including the legislature.

Faculty committees should exist to consult with the administration over the condition and use of campus facilities. Consultation relates to the academic use of these facilities, access to them, and their repair and safety. Short- and long-range planning will benefit from the direct inclusion of faculty in the process.

Programs for the continuing development of the expertise, credentials, and experience of faculty must receive adequate funding. Faculty must agree to the existence and components of such programs, and may elect to participate. Faculty should allocate faculty development awards and sabbaticals. Student evaluations of faculty may be included in faculty development programs when such programs are approved and administered by the faculty and will not be used for negative personnel actions against them, but are used for the sole purpose of aiding professional growth and the development of improved instruction. Collective bargaining is well suited to determining salary and fringe benefit policy. In institutions without bargaining, a faculty committee on compensation must confer with the administration over these issues prior to final decisions being made regarding the allocation of resources.

The misuse and abuse of part-time, temporary, and nontenure track faculty appointments has been addressed at length by NEA.16 Faculty and administrators should work cooperatively to consolidate part-time positions into full-time positions, while increasing the compensation and benefits provided to part-time faculty. A special faculty committee, that would include part-timers, should be created to monitor and regulate the use of part-time faculty. Each institution should develop, with full- and part-time faculty participation, a policy manual on the status, rights, and compensation of part-time and temporary faculty. Faculty should participate directly in the development of procedures for evaluating administrators on a regular basis. Such procedures should be helpful to those being evaluated and beneficial to the institution.

Faculty should be involved in the selection of administrators, especially those with academic responsibilities. This involvement should include the development of criteria for the position, and the selection of candidates for interviews. Selection of key administrators should be a process that is conducted openly and fairly.

Governance and Students

A community of interest between students and their teachers must be recognized. Appropriate procedures to involve students in overall institutional policy making will be established by joint action of the students, faculty, and administration. However, the primary role of the faculty, because of its expertise, credentials, and experience must also be acknowledged.

(1) "Statement on Faculty Governance in Higher Education," in "NEA Higher Education Advocate", January 30, 1987, Special Reprint Edition, p. 11.

(2) The term community college is used to refer to all two-year institutions covered by this statement. NEA recognizes that some two-year technical institutes are not considered postsecondary institutions but does not intend to exempt them from coverage by recognizing this fact. Aspects of this statement may apply to educators at all levels--from preschool to graduate school.

(3) Attempts to improve or reform education emphasize the need for establishing teaching as a true profession and including faculty more directly in decision making at their institutions. More than one study reflects this conclusion; see, for example, Carol E. Floyd, "Faculty Participation in Decision Making: Necessity or Luxury" (Washington, DC: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, No. 8, 1985).

(4) NEA Legislative Program for the 100th Congress calls for a federal collective bargaining law that would provide representation rights for all teachers--preschool through graduate school. See "NEA Handbook, 1987-1988", p. 258.

(5) According to the 1987 "Statement on Faculty Governance in Higher Education," which is cited in note #1, faculty members involved in peer review decisions are acting collectively to make recommendations to the administration as part of their professional duties. This action should not be construed to constitute managerial nor supervisory status under state or federal labor law. NEA is on record opposing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1980 decision in "Yeshiva University vs. NLRB" and is working with other groups on seeking a legislative remedy.

(6) See Howard R. Bowen and Jack H. Schuster, "American Professors: A National Resource Imperiled" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

(7) "Statement on Faculty Governance," cited in note #1.

(8) "Statement on Student Assessment Programs in Higher Education," in "NEA Higher Education Advocate", January 30, 1987, Special Reprint Edition, pp. 5-6.

(9) Tenure, permanent status, continuing appointment, and employment security are terms that mean about the same thing. More than 85 percent of colleges and universities in the country provide some form of tenure to faculty members, according to reports by the American Council on Education. Some institutions deny that their faculty have tenure, such as the community college system of Virginia and the individual community colleges in Texas, but employment security systems of some type exist even in these institutions. Under decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, tenure or the expectation of continuing employment is a property right, and an American citizen can be deprived of their property only by due process. The National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors have attempted to establish forms of due process appropriate for institutions of higher education. Tenure and academic due process, protected by a collective bargaining agreement, are the best protection for academic and intellectual freedom. (2) "Entering the Profession: Advice for the Untenured", (Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1988) , gives new and younger faculty candid advice about these procedures and the social context in which they operate.

(10) "Proposed Statement: Evaluation of Faculty," in "NEA Higher Education Advocate", January 30, 1987, Special Reprint Edition, p. 6. Peer review and merit pay provisions are viewed with great skepticism within NEA because of fears that school administrators will use them to divide teachers and weaken their organizations. However, NEA policy allows such systems where they are negotiated by, and acceptable to, the faculty bargaining unit. This "proposed" statement is to be reconsidered after additional study and discussion.

(11) These procedures follow closely with those set forth in the "Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure," "Policy Documents and Reports" (Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Professors, 1984) , pp. 21-30. Elaborate dismissal hearing procedures for tenured faculty and untenured faculty who face dismissal before their contract has expired have also been developed by the AAUP, see "Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal proceedings," AAUP "Policy Documents and Reports", p. 10-13.

(12) See AAUP "Policy Documents and Reports", p. 23.

(13) Collective bargaining contracts often incorporate the standards and procedures recommended by NEA and AAUP. However, some faculty and administrative negotiators have agreed to follow a policy of no reductions of tenured faculty during the term of the contract as a way of improving faculty morale and institutional stability. See "University of Detroit and the University of Detroit Professors' Union, MEA/NEA, Collective Bargaining Agreement, August 16, 1987-August 15, 1990", p. 44.

(14) See "Report and Recommendation on Part-time, Temporary, and Nontenure Track Appointments", Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1988.

(15) See U.S. Supreme Court decision in "Knight vs. Minnesota Community College Faculty Association", which held that a faculty member did not have a constitutional right to participate in governance where a collective bargaining agent has been elected.

(16) See NEA report on part-time, temporary, and nontenure track faculty cited in note #14.