ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart held his February Virtual Employee Town Hall on Friday, February 2. Below are highlights from the conversation, with links to read more about some of the topics.
ACC Safety Procedures
“There is a lot of good work happening to keep our community safe and secure, but there are also things we could do better,” says Lowery-Hart. “We can’t just be good when it comes to safety, we have to be great.”
The college hired an external auditing firm called McConnell Jones to help conduct a review of our safety and security efforts. The findings are being compiled and will be shared with the college soon. Dr. Lowery-Hart summarized the findings as follows:
- We do a good job in training and equipping our police department.
- We have a robust and effective emergency communications plan.
- We are integrated with local and state agencies to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
- We have a lot of information online and offer a lot of training.
Some things the college will consider in the future to increase safety include: mandatory safety training sessions, more regular drills, ways to improve access to information and increase promotions of safety procedures, and a business continuity plan. There will be additional opportunities for employees to share thoughts and provide input in these areas as those reviews begin.
Dr. Lowery-Hart said that he has asked Valencia College — considered the gold standard in the country for safety and security — if they could share their best practices.
Internal Audit Update
The next phase of our internal audit with McConnell Jones will include a look at the business side of the college. While the firm will continue to help with the ongoing safety review, they have moved on to an operations audit as well. This includes examining how we are structured, role clarity across departments and divisions, and identifying opportunities for improvement.
The firm is currently conducting interviews with leadership and frontline employees who experience our processes and bureaucracies. The plan is to finish the initial business audit by the end of March or beginning of April.
Free Tuition Proposal
Dr. Lowery-Hart once again discussed the college’s free tuition proposal and answered questions from attendees. Read the update here.
During the Town Hall, participants submitted more than 100 questions, and several themes emerged. Below are some excerpts from the common themes and responses they received.
Information Technology — Staffing levels and outsourcing?
The staffing challenges are very real and not unique to ACC. There is no plan to outsource IT. There are currently 25-30 IT positions posted for hire. The IT Department is funded for 150 full-time employees.
The total solar eclipse — Will the college be closed on April 8? Are there any events planned?
The college will remain open on that day. The Astronomy Department is coordinating a series of events leading up to and on the day of the eclipse. As those details are confirmed, information will be shared in the ACC Newsroom, the FacStaff InfoHub, the FacStaff Digest, on social media pages, and on our campuses.
8-week courses — Why do you think 8-week courses are more effective than 16-week courses?
There is a lot of research that students do well in 8-week terms — including surveys of ACC students. Our internal data and national figures show that when students can take just one or two classes at a time they come close to full-time status. They also can focus more on their coursework and complete in a shorter time frame.
There are, of course, some courses that would not be good in an 8-week rhythm (e.g., Welding, where there are safety concerns). Advising is key and allows students to better understand what to expect in an 8-week course. Faculty attention to how to teach their material in an 8-week rhythm also matters. During the Town Hall, the Chancellor shared that colleges around the country have seen increases in course success and completion when they transition intentionally to offering more 8-week options.
Are there plans for major reorganizations within the college?
While the college is exploring opportunities to restructure systems to improve our workflow, there are no plans for reorganizing the college.
Hiring — Internal vs. external candidates and opportunities for internal growth?
Search committees make every effort to find the best candidate, whether internal or external. Over half of our positions are filled by internal candidates. We recognize the need for more clarity around career development and succession planning. We’re in the process of developing a plan.
Campus closures due to under-enrollment?
There are no plans or discussions to close any campuses. There are efforts underway to improve course scheduling and how classes are offered, when, and where.
How to Get Involved
The Chancellor’s monthly Virtual Employee Town Halls are a great way for employees to share their feedback on college initiatives or get their questions answered.
Employees may also email the Chancellor on his 100 Days web page by clicking on the “Connect” tab at the top.
Virtual Employee Town Halls will be hosted on the first Friday of every month for the remainder of the semester. The next Town Hall is scheduled for March 1.
For more information and to watch recordings of the conversations, visit austincc.edu/townhall.