Published: Mar 20 2017 12:00AM
Any constituent at Montgomery College who wishes to share an idea or raise awareness of an issue may attend the 10-minute open comments period at the beginning of every governance council meeting.
During this time, constituents are invited to present their concern and council members may ask a few questions about the issue for further clarification. The item is then placed on the council's agenda for consideration at a later meeting. This is done to ensure that all council members have an opportunity to become more familiar with the issue and consult with constituents so they can make an informed decision about how to respond.
Constituents who are unable to attend a meeting in person may contact council members and ask them to share their comments with the council.
Constituents may also request to speak to a council about a particular topic as part of the scheduled meeting agenda. To do so, they would contact the council chair in advance.
<b>What Happens to Constituent Comments?</b>
One way a council handles constituent comments is to invite an individual from the appropriate College office to address the topic at a meeting. In this way, council members are able to share the constituent's concern, gather pertinent information about the subject, have an opportunity to ask questions, and make suggestions.
This two-way exchange of information and feedback between the council and College leadership leads to better understanding of the issue and many times results in a resolution or points to areas where further attention may be needed.
For example, in the fall constituent comments led to a conversation between the Faculty Council and the bookstore management to help resolve faculty concerns about pricing, edition changes, and books not being available and to better understand bookstore processes of sourcing books and the importance of timely submission of book adoptions to maximize savings.
In another example, constituent comments that distance-learning and working students as well as students using disability support services need access to the Assessment Centers beyond current operating hours prompted the Academic Services Council to invite senior leadership from Student Affairs to a recent meeting. The council learned about challenges the centers are facing, including changes in staff funding and the loss of temporary employees, as well as steps the College is taking to ensure the centers can continue to maintain service levels, streamline processes and review some practices, including the current closing time.
"Councils can provide valuable first-hand information sharing to and from college leadership on topics of concern that arise," said Cathy Giovannetti, chair of the Academic Services Council. "These presentations allow for clarification, questions, and perspectives to be shared with leadership from council members."
If, after researching and discussing an issue, the council determines additional action is needed, it may decide to make a recommendation. If a council votes to approve a recommendation, it would be forwarded to the appropriate senior leader or the College Council for consideration.
Many matters, of course, are complex and due diligence may require a longer process that ultimately may result in modifications to College policy. A constituent concern brought to the Employee Services Council led to the development of a proposed Employee Code of Conduct, and a constituent concern about bullying raised in the Staff Council led to proposed revisions to the College policy and procedure on the Prevention of Workplace Violence. Both are currently under review by the President's Executive Cabinet.
While councils are not intended to serve as "help desks," councils can help point individuals to College resources they may not be aware of. And sometimes the "right person" who can help with a situation just happens to be seated at the table. In that case, issues can be resolved quickly.
When a concern was brought to the Germantown Campus Council about cars speeding on roads through campus, the vice president and provost - who is the leader liaison of the council - responded by asking the campus Office of Safety and Security to post signs along the roads and a message cautioning drivers to "Slow Down" on the LED board at the traffic circle.
In all cases, the chair should communicate the outcome of the concern to the constituent. Of course, the constituent is welcome to check on the status of the issue by following up with the council chair as well. It is important to remember that it can take weeks or even longer for an issue to move through the system and get due consideration.
For more information on governance, including council meeting schedules, please refer to the Governance web page. Click the new governance icon from the My MC homepage or this link: http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/mcgovernance