Background: California Community Colleges

According to the California Community College Chancellor's Office, "The California Community Colleges is the largest higher education system in the nation. It is comprised of 72 districts, 112 colleges and enrolls more than 2.9 million students"#_ftn1. The mission of this system is varied and complex. "All California community colleges offer a full range of university-level coursework in the natural sciences, mathematics, social sciences, humanities, language arts, and fine arts." However, these colleges also offer coursework in basic skills, occupational education, and opportunities for personal enrichment.

The structure for decision-making begins with the California Community College Board of Governors via the Chancellor's office. Regulations, in particular, Title 5 regulations, are created that dictate to individual districts what they may or may not do. For instance, in order to offer a degree or certificate there are state-wide regulations for doing so. Additionally, the Chancellor's office dictates the CCC budget annually to local districts. Individual districts therefore can use that budget accordingly and can create individualized policies with regards to such topics as hiring, degrees or certificates to offer, and campus construction.

A majority of Districts are single college districts; however, districts can be multi-campus or multi-college districts such as the case in San Diego and Los Angeles. Each district is headed by a locally elected Board of Trustees to ensure that the goals of the community and regulations set forth by the state-wide Board of Governors are upheld. Moreover, each college has an administrative head or President.

The California community college system operates using the principal of shared governance. According to Gary Olson (Chronicle of Higher Education, "What is Shared Governance Anyway?" July 23, 2009), shared governance is "a delicate balance between faculty and staff participation in planning and decision-making processes, on the one hand, and administrative accountability on the other."#_ftn2 To ensure that shared governance takes place in California community colleges, in 1970 the state legislature formed the State-wide Academic Senate so that "community college faculty of California may have a formal and effective procedure for participating in the formation of state policies on academic and professional matters". The state-wide academic senate works to strengthen local academic senates and make recommendations to the Chancellor's office.