Starting a New Classified Senate
In addition to the guidelines for forming a new senate that follow, consider contacting your 4CS Area Representative for ideas and assistance along the way. Also, contact and visit other nearby colleges that have either recently formed senates or been successful in maintaining and improving their senate. Their support, enthusiasm and experiences may be invaluable to your group as you begin. In order to meet the needs of its own classified staff and local district governance, each classified senate becomes a unique body as it takes form. When you have completed the process, 4CS invites you to join with us and become an active member of the California Community Colleges Classified Senate. 4CS is dedicated and motivated to working and sharing with others who also support high quality educational services and provide positive learning environments for our students and our neighbors. It is a great opportunity to meet your colleagues across the state. When your senate forms remember to send 4CS a copy of your bylaws, supporting documents and a letter requesting recognition and membership as a community college classified senate.
Classified Staff Create Classified Senates
Each senate is a unique creation by the classified staff for the specific environment at their college or district. Each senate must be an outgrowth of the classified staff's desire to contribute professionally to their community, to their college and district and to their own personal growth. There is no specific set pattern, structure or function, except that the senate must be designed to satisfy the participatory governance needs of classified staff. In order to most effectively meet that need, the senate's structure and function must successfully articulate with the existing groups and overall character of governance at the specific college or district.
It may take time for the senate to get started and functional. Be patient and persistent.
Discuss the concepts surrounding the formation of a senate with others that have a similar interest in participating in college and district governance as described in AB1725. Find others that wish to work toward improving and assisting the district’s effectiveness for its students and staff through governance. Many classified enjoy contributing more than their job requires and sees the benefits for everyone by doing so. If you believe that everyone should have the opportunity and access to a higher education, you may also have the desired community spirit to volunteer and work toward that end. Improving our educational services and learning opportunities is a worthwhile contribution to our communities. Although we can certainly work to improve the services and environment provided to students through our official job responsibilities, participation in governance is one way to expand our efforts on behalf of our communities.
It is important that the senate you build is done so by classified staff, volunteering to do so. In the beginnings of classified senates, there were a couple of examples where senates and their agendas were created and determined by the administration and managers at the colleges. Senates should always be an outgrowth of classified initiatives and interests to contribute and participate. Your college and district must respect your independence and need to originate and operate responsibly. You must build positive relationships with your union leaders as well as the other governance leaders on your campus. You may need to assist them in understanding your motivations and dedications, since for some, the idea of classified staff caring about educational services and quality may be foreign and reason for suspicion. Your senate will gain respect as you work and professionally contribute.
4CS has several examples of the constitutions and bylaws that classified senates across the state are using. Contact us and we can provide you with samples. Depending upon the size of your district, and numbers of staff, some senate representational patterns may work better for you than others. Regardless of the method of representation and technique for the approval of the documents you and your planning group use, it is important that all classified have the opportunity to participate in the decisions that are made. After you have started your classified senate, you will need to elect your officers and have some meetings on communication, functions and roles. It takes a while to establish relationships, begin work on policies and be recognized by the other governance groups on campus. Consider polling your classified staff as to what non-collective bargaining concerns and issues (including district policies) they would like the senate to work on first and where they think the Senate can contribute best to the well being of the institution and the education of its students. Constant communication is the key.
The committee structure should be adapted to make room for classified participation if it has not so far. You may need to start slowly, establishing your involvement on key committees that classified have the most to contribute to. If, like many senates, you will be appointing classified staff to fill committee positions, begin on that process by carefully placing qualified classified staff that will make meaningful contributions, and establish a positive benchmark of classified participation. Look for individuals who will represent the needs of the students and community as well as the classified staff. Some people are eager to help, but have hidden agendas or old complaints; use them sparingly until they understand the different paradigms of the Senate. Much of the time you serve on a committee is not spent on “your” or a single agenda item. Individuals that participate for one goal or item often do not contribute to the other items being discussed and eventually drift away, failing to attend. This lack of consistent involvement does not build respect or desire for continued classified participation. Our ability to meaningfully contribute will be challenged. It enforces the assumption that classified only care about their paycheck and not about providing a quality learning environment. Unlike many collective bargaining situations where negotiation teams (members) are primarily responsible for and required to represent the classified collective bargaining interests of their constituents, shared governance committee members need to reach for a broader, more global level of representation. Your committee representatives must understand and accept the needs of others in addition to those of the classified, and can, without sacrificing classified interests, work for a mutually agreeable solution. Serving on governance is a different world than serving on your union, regulated and directed by different laws, directives, procedures and restrictions. On governance committees, one is often supporting or contributing ideas that benefit students, faculty, trustees, or managers as well as classified if it is best for the health and function of the District and all its staff and students. Ask yourself, does this idea or action meet the vision and mission of the District in the best way possible. A college or district that is responsive to student needs and is working as a team, respecting the needs of each other, is good for all the classified and everyone involved, overall. With hard work, governance solutions can be found that do not sacrifice classified’s other more personal interests and needs. All bodies and organizations must be strong and healthy for governance to work.
So establish yourselves as a group, place your representatives as needed and then clean up any functional problems of your senate first. Become more involved in shared governance, and become more aware of the dynamics and pressures that result in the final decisions being made the way they are. Share with each other what you have learned, and contribute in the name of the Senate to the activities of the District. This will increase your working knowledge base on issues (as a group). Often rumors can fly through the staff as to why something must have happened, rumors not based in reality but based upon conjecture. You don't want to react or base decisions on rumors; use first hand involvement and real facts instead.
One last comment on funding and release time for the senate. It may be advisable to work with your union and district on the issues of release time and funding support for the senate. There are laws and concerns surrounding these issues that others may have. Some senates have chosen to use voluntary funding to support their activities because of theses issues. It is to the advantage of all classified to resolve these issues correctly and carefully. Be sure that between your district, union and senate every thing is approved and documented for all to understand and in the proper manner according to local policies and appropriate laws that might regulate these matters. Across the state, classified unions and senates, both, receive funding for different purposes and in different manners, yet it is important that no group or organization is favored unreasonably and no legal provisions of contracts and laws are violated.
If you have suggestions or recommendations to share with others after you have successfully started your senate, please send 4CS what you have learned. Participatory (shared) governance is still a young and developing concept. Although there are some classified senates that have been serving classified and their districts for over twenty years, most are still young and, at some colleges, are not yet a concept in the minds of classified, let alone a reality. Thank you, and please enjoy the process and the challenge.
Discussion Topics - Building an Effective Classified Senate (coming soon)
Additional information is available within the 4CS Reference Guide written to assist 4CS and its member senates. The 4CS Reference Guide is a pdf download document (5.4 MB). View the Publications section of this Web site for other related documents.