Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I like your blog a lot, but can you tell me what a SAC is?

I got an email from someone within the California higher ed system with that line in it. So I tried to tell him....

Every instructor who teaches credit courses at PCC is a member of a SAC, I said to him. The SAC is made up of all the teachers who teach the same kinds of classes.

After a bit, he replied something like:

"So all the teachers in a given discipline get together to make decisions about their field, regardless of their address. Is that it?"

I would have liked to say "yes" to that question.....But I have learned, from these three years talking assessment wide and far across the district, that quite a few of our faculty members don't know that they are part of a SAC. Just like my e-mail correspondent, they don't know what a SAC is. He's from California, though. These are PCC teachers who don't know what a SAC is.... even though they are part of one!

Are you one of the faculty who don't know what a SAC is?
Or are you one of the faculty who don't know that many PCC faculty don't know what a SAC is?

First, with the acronym: Subject Area Committee.

PCC is a multi-campus college. Each campus has departments, with department chairs, deans, and a campus president (among many other important people). But the departments are typically not discipline-specific. For example, in my department at Cascade, there is one dept chair who hires, assigns classes to, and evaluates instructors in:

political science

(I think he must get tired.)

But within PCC, curriculum decisions (among others) are supposed to be made by the curriculum experts, and those are the instructors in a particular subject-area, from all the different campuses, all across the district -- like all the history teachers, or writing teachers, or microelectronic engineering teachers.

Voila! All the instructors who teach in a particular subject area are members of that Subject Area Committee.

SAC participation is mandatory for full-time instructors. But I have discovered a wide variation among SAC practices regarding part-time faculty. In some SACs, invitations are extended to PT instructors, and there is a clear welcome mat put out. (Usually, SAC chairs rotate among FT faculty, and this can vary by the rotation of the chair in a particular SAC.) In some SACs, invitations are extended to PT instructors, but there is not much outreach. In some SACs, invitations are not extended, and there is little to no consternation over low attendance rates. Some full-time faculty think it just isn't fair to ask PT teachers to engage in SAC work, given the pay inequity -- it would be further exploitation of over-worked adjuncts, they say. Some FT teachers say that, if all the part-time teachers in their discipline came to the SAC meetings, they would out number the full-timers by quite a bit. If they come, should they be allowed to vote? After all, it is the FT faculty who have ultimate responsibility for SAC work, not PTers.

Here's the problem, from my point of view. Program or discipline assessment is different from assessing individual students' learning. It is different from measuring the effectiveness of an individual teacher. Program assessment asks each SAC to ask the question, "How are we doing?"

To ask that question, there has to be a "we" -- and we need to know who the "we" includes.

For purposes of program/discipline assessment, adjunct faculty are part of the "we." At PCC, at the recommendation of faculty, program assessment is to be done by faculty, within the institutional structure of the SAC. If the SAC isn't inclusive -- if fewer than half of the SAC members even know there is a SAC -- the program assessment is not going to be adequate to assess the program.

Do you know who is part of your "we"?

I am posting this edition of Assessing PCC on the in-service day set aside for SAC meetings....
And I am asking you to consider who attended your Subject Area Committee meeting, and who was absent.
How many members of your "we" were there? Are you a member of a "we" that you don't even know about?

And what are you going to do about that...?

-- Shirlee

1 comment:

  1. My SAC, the Math SAC is one of the largest that there is at PCC. We usually have about 60 people attend full day meetings and 40-50 who attend half-day meetings. One of the biggest issues surrounding participation of part-time faculty is that they end up having to teach at other institutions on our SAC day. I hope all SAC's encourage their part-time faculty to come to meetings and extend voting rights. Who cares who outnumbers who?