In addition to the guidelines for forming a new senate that follows, 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 professionals 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.
Steps for starting a new Senate:
Clarify your purpose for forming a senate and see what the interest level is among the classified professionals on your campus. Your primary purpose(s) should be to improve district and college wide policies and services for the benefit of your students and community and, in so doing, enunciate the classified governance voice in such manners.
- Form a respected and small group of classified professionals dedicated to completing the work of forming a new senate. Including a union leader from the start that appreciates the value of a classified senate is a good idea. This is your group to work with on the rest of the steps.
- Start to evaluate if you have any wide spread classified support for the concept of starting a senate to increase governance participation. Check the atmosphere of other groups on your campus regarding the formation of a classified senate, such as the academic senate, student government, administration (College President), management and the classified bargaining unit(s). As you continue the formation of a classified senate, keep everyone informed about what you are doing. Providing information to your classified professionals and other colleagues is a very important part of the process.
- Schedule a meeting with a group of classified that will serve as your development team and that will share in the work and support you and the process. It is best to schedule your planning meetings on your own time to avoid any early conflicts with work responsibilities and between others concerned with your activities. Begin working on a timeline or list of things to be accomplished to build a successful senate. Make sure you create a timeline that is functional (realistic) and can be adjusted as needed. For many senates the formation has not succeeded on the original timeline. Be flexible and patient. Be sure in your meetings to describe specific steps or actions to be accomplished and document who will volunteer to accomplish them and by what deadline. Solicit input from others as needed. Let professionals know what you are doing. Ask for information from 4CS as needed.
- Create a Mission Statement, Constitution, and/or Bylaws. There are many examples and patterns to use as a guide. Just remember, what is right for one college may not be right for another. This will be your classified professionals ‘s senate and needs to meet the specific needs of your professionals. Try to have all classified represented, provide equality in voting and participation, consider time requirements, the numbers of classified to be represented, and district and college configurations in your proposed structure.
- If you have a classified union or unions in your college or district, propose that a “delineation of functions” agreement between the classified union and senate be drafted and approved, so each body will understand their complementary roles and focus. This helps to reduce future conflicts and establishes how the two separate classified bodies will share in representing the classified professionals, generally, one in the collective bargaining arena (the union) and the other in governance as a college “committee” (the senate). Do not be surprised if “gray” areas show up where both bodies need to work closely together. These functions can be listed for both.
- Disseminate information on your progress to your classified colleagues to encourage interest in participating and to receive ideas as needed. As you make progress, include more classified in the process. Request input from others when you are ready. Building positive relations for the senate is a very important part of this process. Keep professionals informed about what you are doing, what the process is, what a senate stands for and what it can mean for all. Share the benefits that have come to classified involved in governance work through their senates at other colleges and districts.
- Distribute the proposed Mission Statement, Constitution, and/or Bylaws to the classified professionals. You will receive many recommendations and it will slow the process. You may need to evaluate the urgency of incorporating the suggestions based on how critical they are to the success of starting the senate. Most senates adjust their structures after they begin to actually work. Inform the professionals that you want them to either vote yes or no; changes can and will be made once the classified senate is formed. If possible, have an information session. This will give professionals with concerns the chance to ask questions and to be a part of the process. With less procedural regulations on governance committees (senates) than collective bargaining associations (unions), voting can be less formal and more open if you prefer. All classified that will eventually be represented by your senate should be given the opportunity to vote. For many senates this includes confidential, supervisors, and managers that have no other governance representation method already established.
- Create a process for the classified professionals to vote on the Mission Statement, Constitution, and/or Bylaw’s package. If you use written ballots rather than a hand vote, you might consider asking a small group of classified, students (from the student government leaders), and/or academic senate members to tally and certify the votes with you. Announce the results to your classified professionals first.
- If approved, present the results of the vote and information concerning the senate to your College/District President and Board of Trustees for District recognition and inclusion in any existing governance policies that may need to be modified. Arrange for approval of the senate by the Board of Trustees and start forming your first senate. (Having elections, meetings, time lines, etc.).
- During your first few Senate meetings, vote on becoming a member of 4CS. Submit a copy of your Constitution and/or Bylaws and, as well as the names of your officers to California Community Colleges Classified Senate (4CS) to become a member.
All of the work above is to be done on your own time, at your own expense with the exception of items that can be funded as a Professionals Development Project. This is to protect your newly created organization from being disbanded. (Legal Opinion of State Chancellor’s Office regarding Minimum Standards for Professionals Participation in Governance) Later, while working with your administration, you can arrange for work time to meet and funding.
During this whole process, work with the bargaining unit. Remember, you are creating an organization that cannot deal with negotiable issues. Also remember, to a large extent, you are the same classified professionals that is served by and represented by your union(s).