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Academic Affairs Committee (AA)

Christine Miller (Sacramento), Chair

“What is most important is to cease legislating for all lives what is livable only for some, and, similarly, to refrain from proscribing for all lives what is unlivable for some.” –Judith Butler, Undoing Gender.

Judith Butler’s words offer a nice frame for summarizing the activities of the Academic Affairs Committee since the last edition of this newsletter. The committee has worked diligently on several issues resulting from sweeping legislative actions and proposals.

Considering Butler’s words from within the context of Title 5, the Board of Trustees legislated for all (students’) lives what is livable only for some—namely, 120/180 units as both minima and maxima for baccalaureate degrees. In the aftermath of the disappointing rejection by the Chancellor’s Office of our resolution (AS-3158-14/AA) establishing an exception to Title 5 for engineering programs, the committee has forwarded for first reading another resolution (AS-3166-14/AA) offering advice on unit-limit exception requests for any degree programs seeking them, particularly when the stricture of 120/180 is not “livable” if the integrity and quality of a degree is to be preserved.

Also in the context of Title 5, the committee has been discussing for several months, proposals to amend language relating to master’s degrees. The committee’s efforts might be characterized here again in Butler’s parlance as attempting to refrain from proscribing for all lives what is unlivable for some. Our recommendations, offered in first reading (AS-3171-14/AA), will be considered from the standpoint of both large and small master’s programs, with an eye toward Title 5 amendments that don’t legislate small programs out of existence.

Of course, Title 5 is not the only means of influencing academic policies; the California legislature has also been known to make higher educators’ lives more difficult with sweeping legislation unlivable for some. The Academic Affairs Committee weighed in on two such issues.

First, AB 386 requires the CSU to establish a uniform set of definitions for online enrollment, so the committee offered for first reading AS-3169-14/AA, an attempt to designate different types of course modalities and to inform students about the percentage of a course that is “blended” prior to registration. Second, we offered advice on any legislation that might grant the statutory authority of California Community Colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees (AS-3163-14/AA). In this legislative session, SB 850 (Block) is being considered; the bill would authorize a pilot program to do just that. The ASCSU approved our resolution, and it was sent to Senator Block, whose staff member, Kevin Powers, expressed appreciation for the Senate’s input, and SB 850 was amended, but concerns about the bill remain.

Still, the gratitude for the ASCSU’s work expressed by Mr. Powers, and the willingness to amend legislation touching all lives that may be unlivable for some, is heartening. Personally, I hope Chancellor White and the Board of Trustees follow this lead as they consider the actions of the ASCSU at its upcoming May plenary.

For more information, contact committee Chair Christine Miller or visit the committee website.