Communication is Key

Chair, Relations with Local Senates Committee 2009-2010

One of the major charges of the Relations with Local Senates Committee is to “augment the work of the Executive Committee in its efforts to provide an opportunity to share information on issues of concern at the local and state levels.” Last year, we sent out a survey to local senate presidents asking for examples of how they communicated Academic Senate activities and actions with others at their college. We are sharing some of these responses in the hope that they might help you at your college (and hey, maybe we can use some of these suggestions to be more effective at the state level).

As could be expected, many senate presidents talked about the benefits of email in the transmittal of information (although it was interesting that one respondent stated that “email sucks because it’s so convenient”). Email can be a curse and blessing—yes, you have a chance to reach everyone, but you do lose some personal contact. It should be stressed that use of email should reach ALL faculty –we encourage you to make sure that adjunct faculty have college email addresses and that you have the capability to have access to the full list of email addresses. Several presidents also talked about using blogs to provide immediate and up-to-date information. Still others mentioned that they send out regular communications (either electronic or written) to faculty, either as part of a faculty newsletter (possibly in combination with the union newsletter) or as a separate communication.

Resolutions for Senate plenary sessions and changes to the Disciplines List were cited as two of the most important pieces of information that presidents want to share with the faculty. Many presidents provide e-links to the resolutions as they are listed on the Senate website and others schedule discussion times on the agendas of the senate meetings before the plenary session. And you always try to make it relevant to the recipient. That is especially important with proposals to change (or add) a discipline on the Disciplines List. Many presidents (and I did this also) make a special effort to send copies of proposals to the faculty in the disciplines affected. The feedback is so important for the session delegates (many times the president) to get in order to make an informed vote at session.

What are some of the ways that we inform from the state level? The President’s Update, a regular message of the Academic Senate President, used to be snail-mailed to all local senate presidents. That was good to inform the presidents, but it wasn’t very easy to share it with others on campus. It is now emailed to all local senate presidents. Now that it is available in e-format, it is easy for senate presidents to turn around and forward the Update to all faculty (and others) on campus. Copies of the senate’s Rostrum publication are still mailed out to the local senate presidents for distribution, but it just isn’t cost-effective to get enough to each college to share with every faculty member. Luckily, the Senate now provides the Rostrum in e-format, in addition to mailing out paper copies. What I did when I was a local senate president is request fewer copies of the Rostrum to be mailed to me (I asked for about 50 even though there are almost 1000 faculty at my college). When I received the e-link to the Rostrum, I would send an email to all faculty, including a link to the Rostrum (and also touting my contribution to the environment by not using as many paper copies!). I would always mention that I could send someone a paper copy if they so desired (I got about two or three such requests each time). Now, I can’t guarantee that all 1000 faculty opened up my link to the Rostrum, but I think more people knew about the publication and the information available in it.

In closing, I wish to thank the local senate presidents who served on the Relations with Local Senates Committee this past year with me. They were instrumental in planning the program for the Faculty Leadership Institute, helping me answer questions from faculty in the field, and just being good connections with the colleges. Thanks to Dolores Davison (Foothill College), Don Gauthier (Los Angeles Valley College), Michele Hester-Reyes (College of the Sequoias), Chris Hill (Grossmont College), Rod Patterson (West Los Angeles College), John Stanskas (San Bernardino Valley College) and Karolyn van Putten (Laney College)—you were great!