The Austin Community College District (ACC) Board of Trustees virtually met for its regular meeting on Monday, March 1. An update was provided on equity hiring, student support, and an overview of the budget study. Below are highlights from the meeting.
ACC Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes informed the board that the college continues to assess damage across all campuses from Winter Storm Uri. Members of the Campus Operations teams stayed on campus during the closure to monitor, identify, and repair weather-related issues as they occurred. ACC’s Student Affairs team also is reaching out to all students to see who needs support from the storm. The college compiled a list of community resources for students and staff impacted by the weather.
Dr. Rhodes announced spring applications for the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRSSA) Act Student Aid are back open. Within the first week of applications, the college dispursed approximately $5.6 million to more than 3,300 students. Applications remain open for eligible students enrolled in classes this semester. Funds also will be allocated for summer and fall semesters.
ACCPD Racial Profiling and Training Report
The ACC Board of Trustees received the annual racial profiling and training report from the ACC Police Department. According to the report, ACCPD made 108 stops in the last year. Of those stops, 60 were White, 22 Black, 19 Hispanic, 6 Asian, and 1 American Indian. Of all the stops, only two searches were conducted, resulting in just one arrest. No physical force reports resulting in bodily injury or complaints of racial profiling were filed against ACCPD. Almost all stops involved community members who drove on ACC campuses, not ACC students or employees.
ACCPD has attended multiple training opportunities including school-based law enforcement, police dispatch virtual training, and crisis intervention. The department will continue to incorporate the latest and best practices in anti-racism and restorative justice.
Student Support: ACC Child Care
Dr. Shasta Buchanan, vice president for Student Affairs, presented an update to the board on child care and resources for students with children. The college has provided more than $1 million in financial assistance to students for child support since 2019. According to the report, child care support for students is directly linked to increased persistence and graduation rates, especially among underserved students. Students who received child care scholarships or other support were more likely to continue enrolling or graduating at 88 percent versus 67 percent of students without additional support.
Student Success Report: ACC Nursing Program
As the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the ACC Nursing Program, the board received a departmental update. An expansion of Health Sciences, including the nursing program, has been identified as a priority in the ACC Academic Master Plan. ACC currently has 58 full-time and 59 adjunct faculty teaching more than 900 nursing students.
The following measures are now underway for the program:
FY 2021-2022 Budget Discussions Begin
The first of five months of discussion began on the FY 2022 budget process. The board received an update on the process, current trends, and potential issues that could impact the college budget. Essential budget items this year include Texas Retirement System contribution increases, new facilities at Highland Campus including the campus chiller plant and buildings 2000 and 3000, and the reopening of the Rio Grande Campus main building.
The Board of Trustees is expected to approve a final budget in July 2020. The new budget is effective beginning September 1.
Equity Initiatives on Faculty Hiring
Gerry Tucker, Human Resources vice president, and Dr. Gaye Lynn Scott, Academic Programs associate vice president, provided an update on equity initiatives on faculty hiring at the college. In 2018, a committee composed of department chairs, deans, and staff began work on an equity-minded faculty hiring process to ensure faculty accurately reflect ACC’s student population. Since then, ACC has changed the language on job postings to focus on its mission, values, and benefits to attract a diverse applicant pool. All faculty must now submit an equity statement and provide an example of equity teaching during the job interview.
Since the initiative, ACC is closing the gaps in faculty hiring. In 2019, the new faculty cohort was 79 percent White, 13 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Black, and almost 2 percent Asian. In 2021, those gaps narrowed to 66 percent White, nearly 19 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, and almost 6 percent Asian. Future steps include adding teaching fellowships and applying new strategies to adjunct faculty hiring.
Texas Dream Act
The board voted to reconfirm support for the Texas Dream Act for the 2021 Legislative Priorities. The Dream Act provides a path to citizenship for undocumented young people, including the thousands of students currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Construction Equipment at Pinnacle Campus
The board authorized Dr. Rhodes to negotiate a contract with Colorado River Constructors JV to store and operate construction equipment and materials in the vacant Pinnacle Campus parking lot. The construction equipment is related to the Highway 290 widening project. Use of the ACC parking lot will help facilitate the project, reduce construction traffic on the already congested highway, and generate rental income. ACC’s Pinnacle Campus remains closed as the college evaluates future development of a new campus. Follow updates on the Pinnacle Campus website.
Winter Weather Disaster and Continuing Effects of COVID-19
The Board of Trustees unanimously approved giving ACC Chancellor Dr. Rhodes authority to delegate contracts for the replacement, construction, or repair of college district equipment or facilities related to Winter Storm Uri damages. All repairs must already be in the approved ACC budget and presented in a final report to the board. The resolution also extended the board’s previous delegation allowing the chancellor to make emergency purchases as needed to address the ongoing issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.