Academic Senate votes no confidence in handling of website issues

By Juan Calvillo

Updated 3/14/23: This article has been updated to specify that no confidence vote was on Districts Office of Information Technology’s handling of website issues.

The Academic Senate unanimously voted no confidence Feb 28 in the Los Angeles Community College District’s Office of Information Technology’s handling of issues with the college’s website. 

The resolution asks for some very specific items to be addressed for further website changes. 

That before District IT makes substantial changes to the college website not requested by ELAC (East Los Angeles College) users, District IT will request the ELAC college president to convene a special ELAC shared governance committee that District IT will use to guide the process for updating the college website;

That this special ELAC shared governance committee will have representatives from the Academic Senate, Collective Bargaining Units and the Associated Students, as well as a sample of ELAC users of the website, including but not limited to Distance Education (Virtual Campus), Career and Academic Pathways and Counseling; and

That this special ELAC shared governance committee will be an ad hoc committee that will meet as needed before, during, and after the District IT website updates.

A vote of no confidence is the highest level of criticism the ELAC Academic Senate can place on an individual, process or policy. Jeffery Hernandez, Academic Senate president, said the vote was on the policy of the migration of the ELAC website.

Hernandez said the main issues with the migration are centered on the fact that the district OIT had not kept in mind the stakeholders at ELAC. These stakeholders include students, faculty and staff. He said certain key pieces of information were needed when it came to the college website that seem to have not been added.

Carmen Lidz, LACCD vice chancellor, said the website redesign initiative project proposal was won by a company called Sensis. The contract, which was an overhaul of the nine community college websites and the district website, cost $1,291,000 and started with the content review phase on September 30, 2021. Lidz said the colleges were asked to finalize any reviews they had of the content by June 31, 2022.

“During the content review portion of the project, each college was given an opportunity to review all of their old websites and identify which pages to delete, which need to be kept but require revisions, and what new content needs to be added,” Lidz said.

Hernandez said the various departments did exactly this. In a letter he sent to the district he said the OIT process was followed and yet there is still a good amount of information missing. One of the examples that Hernandez, and other faculty have talked about, is the fact that a main page listing the college’s departments was not in place. 

Lidz said all the sections that were chosen to be kept or migrated to the new site during the content review portion have been moved, and that a department page was in the works.

“Upon faculty request, a departmental landing page listing all College departments is being created and will be live on March 1. [It is] currently being validated by the College, but on track to be published,” Lidz said.

As of March 1 the ELAC website has a listing of the academic departments. This listing is located in the Academic drop down menu on the main ELAC webpage.

Lidz said missing content has been noticed not only on the ELAC website but on other sites within LACCD. She said these situations have been the result of people not being familiar with the new structure of the website.

“A design decision was made to focus the navigation on the Career and Academic Pathways [webpage] – since we were told that is how students look for information and the departments are under that,” Lidz said.

Steven Koletty, Anthropology, Geography and Geology department chair, said the website is just bad. Koletty said the process of the migration has undergone many years of work not only from himself but from the former chair. He said in November 2022, he was asked by the district to designate an author and editor for the website. The position is focused on managing the website. After submitting this information, the author has had issues getting access to the website.

Randy Adsit, Earth Sciences associate professor, is supposed to be the author of the Anthropology, Geography and Geology department website. Adsit said if students are looking for information it can be difficult. Before the addition of a main page for the departments, it was difficult to find specific departments. He said even if you find the information of the department, the page is lacking. 

Koletty said professor names, class information and descriptions are missing from the main department site. Koletty said it’s hard to engage with students about future events due to the lackluster website. He said the California Geographical Society will hold an event in April, but the department doesn’t exactly know how students will get engaged without information on the website. He said the lack of ability to use the website as a tool to get to students creates issues with student connection.

“It was not what it was promised to be. It’s not what we engaged in,” Koletty said.

Adsit said the issues on the ELAC website are happening elsewhere. He went to the website for Los Angeles City College and clicked on the Academic Departments section. He clicked on the Chemistry Department and the department’s site came up. He went back to the Academic Departments and clicked Earth Sciences and was once again taken to the Chemistry Department’s section of the college’s website.

Adsit said he contacted the district OIT looking for help to access the website to do his job as the site’s author. He said he did end up getting access to author the website, but the department website doesn’t really exist at the moment. Adsit received access within 48 hours, but he said the website and the work going on is inadequate. 

The ELAC website may have information missing and lack of access, but these are just some of the issues that directly affect students at ELAC. There were also issues with the website that directly related to the Brown Act and Title 5 on Education.

Hernandez said information and documents from the Academic Senate that should be accessible to the public under the Brown Act were inaccessible until recently. He said information should be easily accessed by the public; this includes things like committee motions and policies. 

He said the Academic Senate will seemingly be given access to make improvements to the Academic Senate website. He said this is something that has been previously complained about, and seemed to have been resolved. Then the recent migration set everything back as before. One of the Academic Senate website sections asks for single sign-on, SSO, or login information and is titled “Quick Links for LACCD Employees.”

“The label referencing the SSO login was…misplaced on this page and should not have been there,” Lidz said.

Hernandez said most of the content that should be accessible to the public currently is.

“The Senate and Senate [Executive] agendas should be publicly accessible per the Brown Act, and they are. However, the links to other Senate committees were incorrectly placed in the employee-only section and that appears to be in the process of being corrected,” Hernandez said.

He said a request like a department listing, which was asked for in early January, should not take so much time to accomplish. The Academic Senate’s proposal focuses on the idea that ELAC’s website is a local resource and should have insight from those that are local to ELAC. He said Title 5 requirements specifically about shared governance are key for a resource like the website. Title 5 is a California code of regulations that governs education.

Lidz said the district wide website project is currently stabilizing. She said this is the time to make tweaks that will coincide with what content owners need.

“We need to be mindful that the college teams had to review the content on 16,000 web pages and some things may have been missed during that review and final validation. Our Web Services team continues to work with the college’s web content owners to make any refinements needed,” Lidz said.

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