Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

State-Mandated Participatory Governance in California Community Colleges: Perceptions of College and Faculty Senate Presidents

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

State-Mandated Participatory Governance in California Community Colleges: Perceptions of College and Faculty Senate Presidents

Article excerpt

Since the political activist years of the 1960s, participatory governance has emerged across all sectors of the United States economy as a human and organizational system (Burgos-Sasscer, 1993; Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1995; Parilla, 1993). Thaxter and Graham (1999) described participatory governance as an organizational redesign that shifts levels of decision making from a typical top-down structure to one involving multiple levels within an organization. Over the years, colleges and universities have demonstrated a commitment to the principle of participatory governance. This movement can be seen through development of collegial models, which have given faculty primacy over areas of the organization relating to curriculum development, academic planning, and faculty hiring and promotion (Dill & Helm, 1988). For the most part, development of participatory governance in four-year colleges and universities has been ahead of two-year community colleges that arose from the hierarchical K-12 environment. In California prior to 1988, the more structured, hierarchical environment of community colleges resulted in community college faculty feeling disenfranchised from college governance decisions. Since passage of Assembly Bill 1725 (Community College Act, 1988, Cal. Stat. Ch. 973 3, 3093), California's community colleges have been legally mandated to have participatory governance structures in place. California community college faculties are required to have a voice and play a significant role in college governance processes.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to explore through a 3-phase Delphi process the perspectives of California community college and faculty senate presidents related to the state's legally mandated participatory governance structure. The study sought to identify the perceptions of these primary governance leaders to establish a profile of significant matters in the participatory governance system of California community colleges. An overarching purpose of the study was to understand how the California's community college governance system might be described in the context of one of the three Baldridge models of higher education governance (Baldridge, 1971). Given there has not been a study of California's community college governance structure in the context of Baldridge's models, this study adds an important dimension to the research. In doing so, it contributes to the theories of participatory governance and the general study of human and organizational systems.

Background to the Study

Community colleges are an American development and are a more recent development than the nation's universities. As Cohen and Brawer (2008) noted, the majority of the 1,100 community colleges in the United States were developed during the 1960s. During this time of rapid growth, community college governance was characterized by a strong, top-down, control-oriented leadership approach (Thaxter & Graham, 1999). Some elements of this bureaucratic structure were vestiges of more hierarchical K-12 ancestry, but most were out of necessity because a tightly controlled approach was appropriate during such rapid expansion. Decisions needed to be strong, quick, forceful, and unhindered by time-consuming consensus building of participatory governance in order to avoid chaos (Thaxter & Graham, 1999).

During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, the pace of growth of community colleges slowed; however, the colleges were still operating in an environment of prosperity. Governance of the institutions had matured and the atmosphere lent itself to development of more open and inclusive structures (Kater & Levin, 2004). The institutions began movement away from the dominant bureaucratic model. Faculty wanted more participation and a greater voice in college operations.

California Community College Governance

The history of governance in California's community colleges has been unique compared to other states. …

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