The Academic Senate proposed a new draft to the university’s Academic Calendar Policy in their Feb. 5 meeting that would ameliorate some of the concerns of California Faculty Association representatives with regard to finals week scheduling.

The CFA took issue with the Academic Senate’s most recent Academic  Calendar Policy F17-242 for its requirement that instructors hold classes during finals week regardless of whether they intended to proctor exams, but S19-242, which would supersede the previous policy if approved, eliminates this requirement.

“For now, the optional final exam week is a significant and more palatable difference [in policy],” said CFA representative professor Larry Hanley. “Let’s wait and see what the final, approved policy looks like, but so far things are moving in the right direction.”

The union says they were not consulted on F17-242 before the Academic Senate approved it Oct. 31, 2017, and when they were alerted to it by confused faculty members last July just over a month before it was set to go into effect, they sent a request to the Chancellor’s Office invoking their collectively bargained right to meet and confer on policy changes that affect their working conditions.

“With something as significant as the question of the academic calendar, it definitely requires due diligence,” CFA’s SF State Chapter President James Martel said. “This has a huge impact on faculty time, on classrooms, on scheduling and on so many various issues that it would be negligent if we didn’t require a meet and confer as is required and made possible in the [union] contract.”

The Academic Senate and the Chancellor’s Office, however, held that F17-242 merely highlights the requirements of a 1976 policy that created finals week in the first place.

“San Francisco State University’s policy dating back to 1976 and the Academic Senate meeting minutes indicate that faculty will schedule a finals week every semester, and that all classes are expected to meet during finals week, regardless if a final exam is scheduled or not,” CSU Director of Public Affairs Toni Molle said.  “Academic Senate Policy F17-242 is not a new policy, but a restatement of the 1976 requirements.”

University spokeswoman Mary Kenny said that irrespective of whether more recent Academic Calendar policies failed to include language requiring classes to meet during finals week, the absence of such language didn’t supersede the old policy.

“The expectation for classes to meet during finals week has been in place since 1976,” she said. “Given the policy and expectation for classes to meet during finals week has been long-standing, there is no obligation to meet and confer.”

But because the Chancellor’s Office took the position that they were not required to meet and confer, Martel and Hanley spread the word to faculty on behalf of the union that the policy is invalid.

“Transparency and conferencing would help avoid these kinds of problems in the future,” Martel said. “The union is entrusted, as is the administration presumably, in [creating] policies that are
maximally helpful to the faculty, as well as following all required guidelines.”

More recently, Martel said, a representative for the CSU reached out to the CFA and offered to fulfill the CSU’s duty to meet and confer on policy changes over email, but the union viewed such an informal practice as insufficient.

Despite the Academic Senate’s stance that F17-242 doesn’t affect faculty working conditions and  is not a change in policy, they took a look at the issue anyway last week and came up with a drafted
policy proposal that offers some relief to the concerns raised by faculty members who believed that their academic freedom is being tampered with.

The Academic Senate will put the drafted proposal up to its first vote at their meeting Tuesday, but Martel stressed that the CFA will still request to meet and confer with CSU on this new policy as well as a matter of course, because of the deep impact any changes to the academic calendar can have on faculty.

In addition to removing the requirement for classes to meet during finals, the draft proposal would allow classes to meet at their regularly scheduled days and times instead of following the finals schedule.

“I think and believe and hope that this new addendum about classes meeting during finals week being optional represents progress,” Martel said. “And I hope it helps the administration understand that reference to doctrine from the 1970s is not an adequate basis for claiming that something is or isn’t a new policy, especially a policy that has been moribund for many years.”