Academic Senate

Faculty to Faculty April 2013

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This Month's Issue
Front Page
Report on the ASCSU 50th Anniversary
Reports from Standing Committees

Academic Affairs
Faculty Affairs
Fiscal & Governmental

An Update on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA)
Capitol Watch
Report from the Faculty Trustee
Resolution Summaries

Message from the ASCSU Chair

Much has happened in the past few months.  As noted in our February newsletter, the ASCSU (AS-3109-13/AA) and several campus senates requested that WASC reinstate the guideline regarding upper division general education, and I am pleased to report that the Commission reinstated this guideline at its meeting in late February.  In response to AS-3102-12/EX/AA entitled “A Smoke-Free California State University,” the CSU will begin the process to ban all tobacco products and initiate tobacco cessation programs throughout the 23 campuses.  At its March plenary, the ASCSU selected Bernadette Cheyne (Humboldt) and Steven Stepanek (Northridge) as Faculty Trustee nominees; their names have been forwarded to Governor Brown, who makes the appointment.

Also during the March plenary, we paused to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ASCSU (see Senator John Tarjan’s report herein).  Executive Committee will be working to archive the event and to follow up on the recommendations shared by those in attendance with respect to strengthening shared governance. 


The founding chair of the Academic Senate, Dr. Leonard Mathy (Los Angeles),
was present to share in the festivities.

Dr. Leonard Mathy, founding chair of the Academic Senate CSU, joins in celebrating the 50th anniversary.

Photo by John Tarjan

The Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS), which is composed of the Executive Committees of the California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC), met March 26th and approved the faculty nominees to the California Open Education Resources Council (established  last year in SB 1052).  The three CSU faculty nominated are Diego Bonilla (Sacramento), Lawrence Hanley (San Francisco), and Christine Renne (Fullerton).  As of this date, matching funding to initiate the work of the Council per SB 1052 has not been secured.

The CSU already has several initiatives to help reduce the costs of textbooks under the Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) program. AL$ enables faculty to provide quality educational content free or at a low cost to students. CSU students typically pay about $1,000 per year for their books. Reducing their expenses can provide a better CSU learning experience and increase students’ persistence to the degree. Affordable Learning Solutions includes the following:

  • Rent Digital provides options for students to access selected textbooks at 60 percent or more off the cost of the same traditional hard copy textbooks. Faculty can choose from thousands of titles from the CSU’s Rent Digital partners--Cengage Learning, CourseSmart, Follett, Barnes & Noble, W.W. Norton and Milestone Documents--that students can use on a variety of devices.
  • MERLOT is a repository of more than 40,000 free open course materials for a wide range of disciplines. Faculty can access peer reviewed online teaching materials, share expertise with colleagues and create learning materials with MERLOT Content Builder.
  • AcademicPub gives educators the ability to easily create their own custom textbooks for classroom use—in e-book and/or print format. Features include real-time copyright clearance, ability to access and manage course materials from anywhere and a robust array of embeddable assets including links, QR codes, PDFs and JPG files.
  • Campus AL$ Initiatives build on the campus programs and partnerships between libraries, bookstores, academic technology, faculty development and others to deliver campus-specific service for lowering the cost of course materials.

ICAS members also spent considerable time discussing bills introduced in this year’s legislative session, particularly SB 520 (Steinberg) and SB 440 (Padilla).  You may have seen the open letter to UC faculty about SB 520 written by the UC Academic Council Chair Powell and Vice Chair Jacob; members of ICAS made concerns known to Senator Steinberg’s representative at the meeting. The ASCSU Executive Committee wrote a letter on SB 520 on April 4th opposing the bill unless amended.  Also of particular concern to the ASCSU is SB 440, which would require that CSU campuses accept transfer model curriculum (TMC)-aligned AA degrees for transfer in each of the CSU degree options within a major field. Our view is that this would require a restart of the CSU degree approval process for the transfer degrees.  ASCSU will watch both of these bills (and others!) closely. ICAS will lobby on April 29th.

Many bills this year reference the length of time students take to graduate, suggesting that time to degree is taking longer and that access needs to be expanded (for example, through online courses).  I recently looked at our systemwide data to understand historic patterns.  Although only time will reveal the impact of recent state budget cuts and tuition increases on student success during the past several years, CSU data show that our students have been moving toward shorter time to degree.  Figure 1 shows the cumulative percentage of first-time freshmen students graduating in 4, 5, 6, or 7 years across three cohorts (including the first and last reported on our system website).  It is clear that greater percentages of native students are graduating in fewer years now than in the past, that graduation rates increase dramatically between 4 and 5 years, and that increasing percentages of students persist to graduate in subsequent years.



A similar pattern exists among students who transfer to the CSU, as shown in Figure 2.  Between 24 and 28% of transfer students across these cohorts were enrolled part-time.



As CSU faculty know, our students are diverse and do not fit a single pattern—and especially not that of a student taking a full-time schedule living at a residential campus.  As shown in Table 1, across several decades of “good” and “bad” budget times, CSU students on average enrolled in fewer than the number of units required to graduate in four years. 

Table 1.  Average units per student for the academic year by student level 

Academic Year

Lower Division

Upper Division




























Table 34,

We know that eligible students have been denied access to the CSU in recent years in response to dramatic cuts to state funding.  However, systemwide data show that time to degree has actually improved across the past decades. What should our graduation rate be? This is a message we need to develop, because CSU students tend to balance their university studies with other aspects of their adult lives, including work and families. Metrics based on a four-year full-time student body do not reflect the strategies adopted by our population of students in response to their busy lives.