Balancing Free Expression, Academic Freedom, and a Safe Educational Environment

By Larry Galizio, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Community College League of California

During the Free Speech in Focus Workshop on Friday, September 22nd at Pasadena City College, I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion alongside Cal State Fullerton Political Science Professor, Jodi Balma; Dr. Earic Dixon-Peters, Vice President of Student Services at Pierce College; Attorney Sharon Ormond from Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo; and Peter Eliasburg, Chief Counsel for the ACLU of Southern California.

Seven key conclusions emerged from our discussion regarding free speech at California’s Community Colleges. CEOs, Trustees, faculty, staff and community college administrators should keep in mind these best practices:

  • Make sure your policies and administrative procedures are prominently placed and updated as needed. The League’s Policies & Procedures service provides legally-vetted policy and administrative procedure templates complete with Education Code and accreditation citations;
  • Consult legal counsel should you have particular questions concerning time, place, and manner restrictions and related issues;
  • Proactively communicate institutional values of equity, inclusion, and foster an educational environment conducive to inquiry and academic excellence;
  • Have safety and contingency plans for demonstrations and in- and out-of-class incidents;
  • Maintain communication with local law enforcement and alert them to events that may lead to disruption or violence;
  • Have clear policies and procedures in place concerning institutional and college-related social media communication;
  • Recognize that risk and liability can be mitigated yet not eliminated.

The challenge of balancing free expression and academic freedom with a safe campus and classroom learning environment has existed since colleges and universities in the U.S. opened their doors in the 17th century. Yet each generation of institutional leaders confronts challenges and opportunities unique to the prevailing political, economic, and socio-cultural environment. One need look no further than my undergraduate alma mater, UC Berkeley, for evidence of this truism.

Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement of the 1960s and the University’s attempt to ban and/or severely limit expression on campus, pit students-activists and faculty against the Administration and a state government led by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Almost 60 years later the university—at the forefront of student activism and free expression—finds itself embroiled in a much different environment as publicity-seeking provocateurs create conditions leading to violence and property destruction on and near famed Sproul Plaza.

Regardless of one’s political view of these issues, from the perspective of a Trustee or CEO, such incidents and events necessitate institutional planning, forethought, and resources (typically in very limited supply), to maintain campus safety and security, and to protect the institution from damaging legal action.

Of course, social media as we now know it wasn’t available to Mario Savio and those protesting university policies, the Vietnam War, and Civil Rights in the 1960s. The rapidity and omnipresence of social media outlets has created an additional set of issues and challenges for campus leadership to consider.

Although the panel session stimulated more questions than answers (and a recognition of the fragility of campus safety and security), there was little uncertainty concerning the need for all of California’s Community Colleges to proactively and vigilantly act and plan for the multitude of contingencies surrounding free expression on campus.



Two Recommended Books for Labor Day

By Larry Galizio, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Community College League of California

As the contested holiday of Labor Day is recognized on this first Monday in September, California’s Community Colleges are at an interesting point in their century-old history especially as it pertains to our mission and students’ professional lives. (I use the term professional life rather than workforce both to avoid the connotations of workforce as managed employees in replaceable positions, and to focus on the distinction between private life and the hours for which individuals receive compensation for their labor).

Educators legitimately concerned about “tracking” students of color and/or individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds into what had been called “vocational” programs have devalued skilled professions necessary for a functioning economy. This implicit and sometimes explicit communication and behavior has likely dissuaded many individuals from pursuing careers that may have proven fulfilling and well-suited to those uninterested in spending the bulk of their days working in an office environment.

The California Legislature’s substantial investment in career education acknowledges not only that positions once requiring a high school diploma now demand post-secondary education, but also that we must reframe and reconceptualize our approach to encouraging, counseling, educating, and placing students pursuing career education. (I use the term career education rather than career technical education recognizing that technology is omnipresent in 21st century work regardless of the color of one’s collar).

In acknowledgement of the one day of the year that we as a nation recognize the history and centrality of what most of us will spend the majority of our adult lives doing, I write to recommend two books for anyone interested in reflecting upon our dominant conceptualization, discourse, and educational approach to career education.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford was a highly successful book upon its release in 2009. Described as a “philosopher and mechanic,” Crawford earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago and served as a postdoctoral fellow on its Committee on Social Thought. After five months as executive director of a think tank in Arlington, Virginia, Crawford left to open a motorcycle repair shop. His description of how and why he made this change is reflected in the larger argument of the book and his empirical experience endows the work with significant credibility.

While the book’s primary focus and arguments aren’t upon the relationship between education and work, its relevance to the issues educators are concerned about such as matching individuals with productive and satisfying professional lives will find much to contemplate in Crawford’s work.

Another book you might enjoy with your Labor Day festivities has the wonderful title, I Love Learning; I Hate School, and is the work of University of Notre Dame Anthropology Professor Susan D. Blum. Blum’s analysis of our dominant educational approach from pre-school through higher education – with an emphasis on undergraduate education – is also very much the story of Blum’s conversion from unreconstructed academician dismissive of co-curricular undergraduate pursuits – which she viewed as taking precious time away from the scholarly work that should be the sole focus of their time – to unabashed critic of the “game of schooling,” and supporter of active learning found in service learning, student government, and other co-curricular activities. Blum employs anthropological methods and analysis to dissect an education system that ignores or directly counters learning theory and cognitive science as well as the reality of how human beings learn and develop skills.

Although very different books, together they inspire timely reflection on the relationship between work and career education.



2017 CEO Leadership Academy

Emblematic of the dynamic and unpredictable environment confronting California’s community college leaders, participants of the recently concluded inaugural CEO Leadership Academy experienced both unseasonably snowy conditions and a more typical mid-June day featuring clear blue skies and sunshine. The 26 California CEOs adapted to the erratic weather and enjoyed a highly productive and informative two and one-half days in the picturesque North Shore area of Lake Tahoe.

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As the only professional development program for California community college CEOs developed, organized, and run by experienced California CEOs, the 2017 CEO Leadership Academy included practical approaches and strategic insight concerning:

  • CEO-Board and CEO-Trustee relations
  • Fiscal management and financial leadership
  • Resource development and fundraising
  • Equity-minded leadership
  • Guided Pathways

The Academy offered essential information and promising practices for CEOs in the early years of their current positions, and fostered professional connections with colleagues possessing the capacity to provide confidential support, advice, and fresh perspectives on issues confronting campus leaders. The Academy took place June 11 – 13, 2017 at the Resort at Squaw Creek at the base of Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and was generously supported by IEPI.

Opening Keynote Speaker Estela Bensimon, Co-Director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, launched the program with an informative and engaging focus on Leadership as an Equity-Minded Practice. IMG_3603Dr. Bensimon’s presentation and discussion was followed by a combined panel of seasoned Trustees and CEOs discussing the CEO-Board and CEO-Trustee relationship.

On Monday, June 12th, the morning session featured CEOs with considerable experience on fiscal matters leading a highly interactive session on the art of balancing prudent budgeting with strategic risk-taking. This hard-working session was followed by an inspirational keynote presentation by Bill Bellows, Deputy Director of the W. Edwards Deming Institute discussing the importance of collaboration, interdependence, and holistic approaches to leadership. The last working session featured College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, Lake Tahoe Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco, and Executive Director of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Keetha Mills, leading a session on the role of CEOs as fundraisers, relationship builders, and resource developers.

The third and final day began with a discussion of Guided Pathways led by San Diego Mesa President Pam Luster, and the final session of this year’s Academy featured State Senator Scott Wilk (R-Lancaster) offering an elected official’s guidance on the do’s and don’ts of advocating to policymakers at the state, federal and local levels.

The CEO Leadership Academy was designed based on several factors:

  • Leadership affects significantly the success or failure of organizations including institutions of higher education. One notable example of this being that in the first year of the Aspen Prize for community colleges, a common feature of the colleges earning recognition had CEOs with a decade or more in the position.
  • A generation of presidents and chancellors have been and will continue to retire in the coming years (Anticipating the Community College Leadership Void with an Internal Leadership Development Plan)
  • Median tenure for California community college CEOs is 3.5 years
  • The political economy of the early 21st century places new challenges and demands on institutions and their leaders
  • Governance issues have been cited by ACCJC as notable challenges in California, and CEOs reporting to a Board for the first time often have little to no preparation concerning how to effectively work with a Board of Trustees
  • CEOs may be hesitant to request continuing professional development out of concern with appearing weak or unprepared
  • Boards may have either unrealistic expectations of CEOs and/or concerns that supporting continuing professional development for the chancellor or president may be perceived by other campus groups as Board dissatisfaction with the CEO
  • California community colleges have some unique features – such as AB 1725 and a substantial body of regulations – making it especially challenging for district and campus leaders
  • Increasing diversity of the student body, external demands for completion, attacks on higher education and the public sector, and the constant pressure to do more with less, mean that college leadership in the early 21st century is an increasingly complex and challenging endeavor.

The Community College League of California is eager to continue supporting this indispensable continuous professional development for the leadership of our districts and colleges. IMG_3599The League’s work reflects the perspectives of the CEO and Trustee Boards, which recognize that fostering a culture where Boards of Trustees include in their contracts with CEOs the resources, time, and support for continuous professional development throughout their tenure.

The League would like to recognize and thank the members of the CEO Pathways Committee, the Academy Advisory Committee and Design Team for their contributions and support. For a complete list of the committee members, please visit our website.



Renewal and Progress in California

What enduring qualities and conditions are critical to the efficacy of future college presidents?

What new qualities and conditions will be required for effectiveness in the future?

In light of these qualities and conditions, what needs to be done to strengthen the college presidency?

The three aforementioned questions inspired the work of the Aspen Institute Task Force Report on the Future of the College Presidency: Renewal and Progress: Strengthening Higher Education Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change, (May 2017).   The 35-member Task Force informing the work includes chancellors, presidents, and education leaders from community colleges, liberal arts institutions, regional and research universities.

Renewal and Progress is a timely, thought-provoking report that I recommend California trustees and CEOs take the time to read. Going beyond the familiar data of looming retirements of sitting college leaders, the report identifies specific substantive issues confronting CEOs and trustees, and presents recommendations for what higher education stakeholders can do to prepare and support those charged with overseeing and implementing institutional missions.

As an organization whose mission is to strengthen California’s Community Colleges through advocacy, leadership development, and district services, the League is uniquely positioned for this important work. With Boards that reflect and represent approximately 440 trustees and 137 CEOs statewide, we look forward to working with our institution’s leaders to enhance student success and to advance the mission of higher education’s most dynamic sector.

Beginning with our new CEO Leadership Academy taking place in Lake Tahoe June 11-13th, the League will be developing and strengthening its efforts to support CEOs, trustees, and the critical partnership they must possess for the well-being and success of our institutions.

Two Roads Diverged: Quantitative Literacy versus Algebra for All

What constitutes an efficacious academic program of study? What should an undergraduate student of political science, engineering, art history, or nursing read, do, and experience to earn a certificate or degree?

Such questions have occupied the minds of academicians, administrators, and policymakers as long as we have had organized institutions of higher education. So it’s no surprise that the effort to offer a quantitative literacy pathway largely for non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors in place of a long-standing requirement for algebra, has generated disagreement within our public higher education community.

Recently, our state’s Intersegmental Curriculum Workgroup (ICW) chose to accept the CSU Chancellor’s Office recommendation of adding a competency in intermediate algebra to Transfer Model Curricula (TMCs) in the following disciplines:

  • Administration of Justice
  • Agriculture Animal Sciences
  • Agriculture Business
  • Agriculture Plant Science
  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • Kinesiology
  • Psychology
  • Public Health Science.

This decision coincides with the March 2017 release of a five-year national study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: Carnegie Math Pathways 2015-2016 Impact Report: A Five-year Review (Hoang et al., 2017), and related studies such as Capacity Unleashed: The Faces of Community College Math Pathways (October, 2016) by the California Acceleration Project and RP Group which demonstrate that students enrolled in Statway, Quantway, and similar quantitative literacy pathways have – in the words of Dr. Karon Kipple – executive director at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, “…higher completion rates, subsequent math enrollment and success, credit accumulation rates, and transfer rates from two-year to four-year colleges” (Hoang et al., p. 2, 2017).

The analytic sample in the Carnegie 2015-2016 Five-year Impact Report assessed 15,869 students from 35 colleges, including five from California State University institutions. Employing weighted average success rates over five years, students participating in these pathways achieved two and three-times the success rates of students in traditional mathematical sequences (Hoang, et al., p. 7, 2017). Additionally, transfer rates of these students averaged between 11 and 14 percent higher than those in traditional math sequences (Hoang, et al., p. 10, 2017). And in 2015-2016, 80% of the CSU students in the sample completed the full pathway with a success rate of 73% (Hoang et al., p. 5, 2017).

Despite the compelling evidence of student success in completion and transfer, and CSU institutional participation in this quantitative literacy pathway and pedagogy, the CSU Chancellor’s Office has recently recommended adding an intermediate algebra requirement for the nine aforementioned approved Associate Degrees for Transfer. This proposed change essentially ends the pathways pilot for these nine degrees by pre-empting the collection of any data concerning the efficacy of this promising and innovative work.

A communication from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges outlines the recommendation and the rationale for this sudden, unexpected change:

Eager to work with its public higher education partners in support of academic rigor, student success, and equity for underserved populations, at its April 28, 2017 meeting, the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) and Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) Boards unanimously approved the following resolution:

In response to encouraging and impressive preliminary data that alternative math pathways have demonstrated the potential to dramatically increase student success and lead to greater completion of degrees, the Boards of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) and Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) are gravely concerned that the proposed recommendations from the CSU Chancellor’s Office will be a significant setback to our shared interest in closing equity gaps and increasing completion of degrees. Specifically, we are troubled that requiring demonstrated competency in intermediate algebra will disproportionally impact our historically underrepresented students and prevent colleges from gathering additional data to determine how students enrolled in alternate pathways perform in upper level courses. Accordingly, we will work with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to share our concerns about the ill-conceived recommendations with a goal of continuing the alternative math pilot programs as previously agreed.

Compelling and relevant preliminary data illustrate that quantitative reasoning and literacy pathways have demonstrated higher completion rates, subsequent math enrollment and success, credit accumulation rates, and transfer rates from two-year to four-year colleges. Recognizing our shared interest in providing evidence-based academic pathways and fostering inclusive and equitable opportunities for student success, the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) and Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) Boards urge the California State University Chancellor’s Office to immediately review and reconsider the imposition of an additional requirement for intermediate algebra for nine approved Associate Degrees for Transfer.

While important debates concerning the essential components of an academic discipline and program will always be a feature of our work, a willingness to examine and test long-held assumptions and beliefs about such requirements is a necessary condition of a healthy community of educators and students.

By Larry Galizio, Ph.D.
President/CEO, Community College League of California

Advancing Community Colleges in DC

At the 2017 Association of Community College Trustee’s (ACCT) National Legislative Summit (NLS) held February 13-16 in Washington DC, California brought a Community College delegation befitting the largest public postsecondary system in the US. Absent an exact number of those of us traveling 6,000 miles round trip on behalf of our students and institutions, our size was evident as we squeezed together for a group photo following our state’s breakfast session:


Once there, I had the pleasure of advocating for our colleges on Capitol Hill with California Community College Trustee (CCCT) and League Board Chair, Doug Otto, League CEO Board Chair Brian King, Board of Governor’s President Cecilia Estolano, Vice President Tom Epstein, Board of Governor’s and CCCT Board member Pamela Haynes, Board of Governor’s member Deborah Malumed, Chancellor Eloy Oakley, Vice Chancellor of External Relations Laura Metune, and League colleagues and government relations experts Lizette Navarette and Ryan McElhinney.

Thirty meetings in three days didn’t permit much time for attendance at NLS conference events. Nevertheless, the California congressional delegation, selected members of key committees, Department of Education leadership and staff, and budget and policy committee and elected- member staff, were overwhelmingly supportive and appreciative of the work and mission of our sector.

Although there has been a flurry of activity by the new Administration, our meetings made clear that far more is unknown than known about our issues of concern. Still, face-to-face meetings on the Hill with 70-80 California Community College leaders meant pressing our case for year-round Pell, inclusion of workforce development as part of any significant infrastructure package, and protection and support of DACA and Dreamer students, among other priorities. And concerning DACA, we heard from members on both sides of the aisle, that DACA students were not likely not be targeted in Executive Orders in the near term, and there was as yet no indication that students and their families faced imminent threat. Still, the future remains uncertain, and vigilance and support for our students necessarily continues.

A meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Lynn Mahaffie at the Department of Education left little doubt that the postsecondary agenda of Secretary DeVos is unknown to those largely responsible for implementing and monitoring it; which is arguably an ideal time for advocates to describe the challenges and advocate for our students and institutions.

It was encouraging that the new Education Secretary addressed community college leaders at the closing session of the conference. In Secretary DeVos’s eight and one-half minute address (without an opportunity for questions and answers), there were references to the success of early college programs, the flexibility and nimbleness of the nation’s community colleges, and the importance of our workforce and developmental education missions. Still, those present hoping for a substantive policy speech would have to wait for another occasion. And concerns about the vocationalization of community colleges were likely considering the sparse recognition of liberal arts and transfer education.

At Wednesday morning’s California Delegation breakfast, we heard from Kamal Essaheb, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center, who opened with a personal reflection on his experience as a Moroccan immigrant living in New York and being subjected to extensive questioning following the September 11th attacks. He also offered to assist districts and colleges concerned with a variety of issues including DACA and the legal status of colleges and undocumented students.

Although the League’s advocacy will focus on the budget and policy emanating from our state Capitol in Sacramento, it is clear that a more consistent and muscular presence in Washington, D.C. The League will be offering more updates and information as information concerning federal issues becomes available.

Quality Public Community Colleges for all Californians

The January 27, 2017 Executive Order suspending entry of nationals from seven majority Muslim countries serves to renew and reinforce the League’s commitment to the multinational, multiethnic, and extraordinarily diverse student body attending California’s 113 Community Colleges.

Indeed, California’s community colleges and the states’ pioneering tripartite system of public higher education represents a powerful countervailing argument to an overly broad policy premised on sweeping generalizations of entire national populations and religions.

With approximately one of every five community college students in the U.S. attending a California community college and more than 67% of California community college students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the League remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting and advocating for investment, policies, evidence-based educational practices, and campus environments that advance upward social mobility and a more democratic and prosperous California.