California Community Colleges
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley
This article was updated May 14 to include more current information about the Academic Senate's position and information on a no confidence vote by the executive council of the California Federation of Teachers.

The California community college’s faculty association has voted a measure of no confidence in the administration of statewide chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, citing what the professors’ organization said was a lack of proper consultation and concerns about college funding and the new online college.

The unanimous vote last week was aimed not just at Oakley but at the entire central administration of the chancellor’s office and how officials there are making major decisions without enough faculty input, according to Evan Hawkins, executive director of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC).

The no confidence vote is only the second in the organization’s 66 years and was intended to “send a message loud and clear,” Hawkins told EdSource.

Oakley’s office insists the chancellor and his top deputies pay attention to faculty opinions and said they recognize that reforms can be “challenging” to traditional practices at the colleges.

The 9,000-member faculty association is primarily a lobby and policy group separate from labor unions which bargain for contracts and separate from the Academic Senate which represents faculty at all 114 colleges, and among other roles, helps establish curricula and majors.

The association insists that Oakley’s administration must listen to faculty voices more as part of shared governance in the 115-college system, Hawkins said. “Certainly faculty interact with the students the most. So that viewpoint would be very important, especially with the major initiatives that have come to our system over the past couple of years,” he said.

On May 3, the executive council of the California Federation of Teachers, the labor union representing 30,000 community college employees, including many faculty members, also approved a resolution of no confidence in Oakley. The statewide Academic Senate complained as well last fall but now says communication with the chancellor is better.

The tension between community college faculty and central administration comes at a time of much change, often pushed by the governor and legislature to improve student performance. For example, colleges increasingly are being rewarded or punished financially by the state based on their students’ rates of graduation and transfers. The enormous system of no-credit remedial education is being overhauled amid some turmoil; more students otherwise headed for remedial classes in math and English will be getting the option in the fall to take for-credit courses instead.

Lines of authority are murky since individual colleges are more directly governed by local elected district boards while Oakley’s statewide administration and the state board of governors do not wield as much power as the central leaders at the state’s public universities.

Among the controversial issues is the establishment of a separate online community college that is expected this fall to start offering workforce training to adults without college degrees. Many faculty and local campuses fear that the new school will duplicate existing programs around the state and drain money and resources that should remain local. “We believe those resources would be more effective put to other uses,” Hawkins said.

That online college is expected to receive $240 million over the next seven years. Particularly upsetting to some faculty is the $385,000 annual salary of the school’s new president, Heather Hiles. That salary is higher than Oakley’s ($311,928) and tops nearly all executives’ pay at community colleges statewide.

Another issue is the new statewide Student Centered Funding Formula that will give extra state money to community colleges that have larger numbers of low-income students and to those that achieve better track records in graduation and transfer rates. The faculty association said it fears that schools, hoping to boost their statistics, will focus on students who are close to completion and possibly abandon students who need much more help to earn a certificate or degree. “We are worried that students will be left behind,” Hawkins said. The faculty also thinks there won’t be enough state money appropriated for the program.

In response to an EdSource question, Oakley’s office said the chancellor has had a lot of consultation with faculty and takes their concerns seriously. The chancellor’s office forwarded a statement from Tom Epstein, who is chairman of the statewide system’s board of governors. The statement said:

“California Community Colleges, under the leadership of Chancellor Eloy Oakley, are committed to reforms enacted in recent years by strong bipartisan majorities in the legislature. These reforms are necessary to transform a system that has failed to propel its students quickly to successful completion of their studies and career advancement. Legislatively mandated programs creating clear academic pathways for students, eliminating unfair placement tests, revising the funding formula and launching a new online college for adult workers challenge the status quo and drive innovation with the urgency that is necessary.

We recognize that the pace and scale of change we are pursuing to enhance student success is sometimes challenging to college faculty, but it is vital to the future of the more than 2 million students who attend our institutions. The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges calls upon faculty groups to continue to share their views with the Chancellor’s Office through the extensive and longstanding statewide participatory governance process. The faculty’s input and active engagement is vital to the creation and execution of a strategy that will provide our students with the excellent education and job training they deserve.”

Oakley became statewide chancellor in December, 2016 and previously headed the Long Beach Community College District since 2007. He has been pushing the community colleges statewide to improve their completion and transfer rates and to be more transparent about their successes and failures.

In a prepared statement, the faculty association president Adam Wetsman said: “The faculty have attempted to offer their input and expertise to the Chancellor’s Office, but efforts have been largely ignored. Rather than engage us early in policy conversations, faculty have been forced to react to an onslaught of initiatives that haven’t moved the needle for our students. This prescriptive approach has been detrimental to our colleges, as we can see with the chaotic rollout of the funding formula and online college.”

Last fall, the statewide Academic Senate issued a formal complaint about the chancellor over similar issues of not listening to faculty voices on major topics. But then in March, the Senate president John Stanskas noted that communications and relations with the chancellor had improved noticeably even if things were not perfect. In a letter to the faculty, Stanskas wrote “that this year is an improvement over last year and that we are approaching the level of collaboration and collegiality expected from a chancellor that was selected to implement systemic change.”

Share Article

Comments (5)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. PR 2 months ago2 months ago

    It's interesting to see that the Faculty Association is making all these claims: "This new funding formula will hurt our students" – really the faculty and the association in only wanting to look out for their best interests and from my experience working with faculty, the only thing they worry about is job security. Also, if the Faculty Association really cared about the students' success, then why do time and time again, faculty make students … Read More

    It’s interesting to see that the Faculty Association is making all these claims: “This new funding formula will hurt our students” – really the faculty and the association in only wanting to look out for their best interests and from my experience working with faculty, the only thing they worry about is job security. Also, if the Faculty Association really cared about the students’ success, then why do time and time again, faculty make students purchase the faculty’s own published book (which tends to be extremely expensive) and becomes a burden for the student that either 1) ends up withdrawing from the class and negatively impacting their financial aid, or 2) failing the class and negatively affecting their GPA and possibly gets the student kicked out of school due to probation. Don’t be a hypocrite, Faculty Association!

  2. Arleen Elseroad 2 months ago2 months ago

    I have worked over 35 years in post-secondary education, 30 of those years in California Community Colleges. I started as a classified employee and advanced to Dean 7 years ago. I elected to retire 5 years early, primarily because of initiative fatigue. It started in 2006 with sweeping changes to repeatability restrictions on courses. It continued with the Student Success Act of 2012 where significant changes were made to the matriculation … Read More

    I have worked over 35 years in post-secondary education, 30 of those years in California Community Colleges. I started as a classified employee and advanced to Dean 7 years ago. I elected to retire 5 years early, primarily because of initiative fatigue. It started in 2006 with sweeping changes to repeatability restrictions on courses. It continued with the Student Success Act of 2012 where significant changes were made to the matriculation process. Millions of dollars were poured into the initiative, so much so that colleges could not spend the money fast enough. It took about 4 years to build an infrastructure with staff to efficiently and effectively offer these services. Many promises by the state Chancellor’s Office that the funds would not disappear. Hire staff and build your programs. In 2017, all these efforts nearly swept away in favor of requiring integration between Basic Skills, Student Equity and Matriculation. During this time, millions was spent toward developing a Common Assessment supported by the efforts of hundreds of people, which was virtually abandoned overnight without so much as a thank you for their dedicated efforts.

    Additionally, millions offered to colleges to reform basic skills education, which I believe has been highly successful by all measures. Most recently, establishing a College Promise, Pathways and implementation of AB 705 was thrust upon colleges. There have been so many changes so fast, there is no way to measure the effectiveness of any one initiative.

    We have turned our students into lab rats. Add to that, the changes in the funding formula adding a high degree of gamble and uncertainty to these new initiatives. History has shown when times get tough, colleges get creative and cross ethical lines for survival. I personally have no confidence that the state leadership has the grit to stick with a single initiative to determine it is actually effective. It is only a matter of time before they require colleges to chase the next shiny idea.

    One size does not fit all. I agree with others, colleges need to be allowed to return to actually serving their communities without the overreach of Sacramento.

  3. Skip 2 months ago2 months ago

    I was surprised by this, but I shouldn't have been. This is a long time coming. I work at a community college and the past few years have resulted in what is generally referred to as "initiative fatigue." The faculty and staff are exhausted from trying to keep up with all the new programs that are supposed to result in higher transfer rates (with little evidence showing that these actions will actually help, or that transfer … Read More

    I was surprised by this, but I shouldn’t have been.

    This is a long time coming. I work at a community college and the past few years have resulted in what is generally referred to as “initiative fatigue.” The faculty and staff are exhausted from trying to keep up with all the new programs that are supposed to result in higher transfer rates (with little evidence showing that these actions will actually help, or that transfer rates should be the measure of our success).

    Hopefully, we can get back to serving the community, instead of catering to a select few who will go on to transfer.

  4. Bo Loney 2 months ago2 months ago

    As an advocate for gifted education, and all the pitfalls they face since No Child Left Behind, I would vote to agree. Simply because of his stance on the SAT/ACT, which I feel are an extremely important safety nets for this minority group.

    When do we stop just pushing students through that aren’t ready for curriculum? University is often the first time gifted students can actually be pushed. Do we have to tank all of our educational systems?

  5. J Limbach 2 months ago2 months ago

    This is obviously a very complex issue. But establishing a brand-new school which is going to pay its new president $385,000 is clearly inappropriate. These "top-level" salaries are one of the top reasons for soaring tuition and fees for students. There is absolutely no justification for charging students current prices and restricting money for faculty to support this kind of upper-class cronyism. It's absolutely disgusting. How about we look for someone qualified to lead a … Read More

    This is obviously a very complex issue. But establishing a brand-new school which is going to pay its new president $385,000 is clearly inappropriate. These “top-level” salaries are one of the top reasons for soaring tuition and fees for students. There is absolutely no justification for charging students current prices and restricting money for faculty to support this kind of upper-class cronyism. It’s absolutely disgusting. How about we look for someone qualified to lead a school who is willing to do so without bankrupting the system to do it?