Last week, residential faculty began to express nervousness after the Governing Board unanimously approved an item through their consent agenda whose operative portion reads as follows:
The Chancellor is charged to create and implement a new structure that overcomes the current challenges and provides both Residential and Adjunct Faculty individual and appropriate voice and representation in policy recommendations, as required by shared governance and accreditation criteria, by no later than June 30, 2022. Upon implementation of the new structure, the currently existing FACT structure will be dissolved. Further, the Chancellor is charged with recommending to the Board amendments to the Faculty Agreement that align with the new structure no later than December 1, 2022. For no period of time should a Faculty Agreement cease to be in effect.
This resolution could make anyone with institutional memory justifiably anxious, given that it sounds like a return to the Bad Old Days when a (drastically different) Governing Board unilaterally retired our Residential Faculty Policy manual (“the RFP”) and simultaneously abolished Meet & Confer. However, in reality this resolution represents the height of shared governance: it actually grew from a November request by the Faculty Executive Council (FEC) to decouple the residential and adjunct faculty workplace negotiations in order to accelerate both processes.
First, some recent history. FACT began in early 2019 in the wake of a Governing Board decision to end our existing policy negotiation process (“Meet & Confer”) and begin a new and untested replacement: the Faculty Administration Collaboration Team, or FACT. For its first task, FACT needed to quickly craft a new combined workplace contract for both residential and adjunct faculty: the Faculty Agreement (FA). To meet their tight timeline, FACT borrowed heavily from existing policies – primarily the now-expired Residential Faculty Policy manual (itself the result of four decades of accomplishments by the old Meet & Confer process). The Team did remarkable work, producing a first draft for a new policy contract in a relatively short period of time. However, given their time constraints, the Team deferred all points of disagreement for future negotiations, focusing exclusively on the completion of this flawed-but-functional document.
In February of 2021 the Governing Board approved the freshly minted FA, and FACT transitioned from the completed goal of policy compilation to their new goal of policy negotiation. Here, the process began to fail as its fatal flaw became increasingly clear. Undeniably, residential faculty and adjunct faculty perform a similar duty in the classroom. However, beneath that similarity lies a profound workplace asymmetry: full-time, tenure-eligible employees have more rights, more obligations, and a more complex relationship with their employer than part-time, at-will workers. Suddenly, FACT began to ask adjunct faculty to weigh in on nuanced issues of residential employment that lie outside of both their experiences and interests, which significantly slowed down the negotiation process. Additionally, since both groups wanted to focus on issues relevant to their own circumstances, the FACT meetings effectively became two simultaneous and overlapping conversations. The Team found it impossible to give either set of issues sufficient focus and attention to make suitable progress, slowing negotiations even further.
By November, FEC realized that the design flaws in FACT sabotaged its ability to negotiate changes to workplace policy in a quick and efficient manner. As a result, faculty leadership reached out to Chancellor Gonzales with wisdom that dated back to the Industrial Revolution: efficiency requires specialization. The faculty leaders urged the Chancellor to split FACT into a dedicated process exclusively focused on resolving residential faculty workplace issues and a separate, dedicated process exclusively focused on resolving adjunct faculty issues. Ultimately, specialized processes will benefit both groups by bringing clarity and focus to the team’s missions. Last Tuesday’s Governing Board resolution granted FEC’s request. The Chancellor is now collaborating with both residential and adjunct faculty to determine the shape of our replacement for FACT.
To summarize: at FEC’s request, Maricopa is replacing a unilaterally imposed process that was created without any faculty input. The Chancellor is relying on faculty feedback to shape the new process. This entire situation reflects our District’s new focus on shared governance and workplace democracy.
In short, something good just happened in Maricopa.
Sasha Radisich, Faculty Association President