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UPTE-represented community college faculty organize for equity

UPTE-CWA’s community college members are organizing for a stronger voice and better protections at their workplaces. UPTE represents part-time “associate faculty” at three community colleges: Butte College, Mt. San Jacinto, and College of the Sequoias.

faculty
UPTE-represented associate faculty from Butte College donned humorous t-shirts about their lack of paid office hours to meet with students, as they got ready for a meeting with management. As part-time faculty, the college provides them with only 2.5 hours per semester to meet with students, while their tenured colleagues get 80 hours per semester. (Jodi Rives, photo)

One effort has been to expand the time associate faculty are allowed to conduct office hours. “Full-time faculty get approximately 80 hours of office hours,” said UPTE member and geography instructor Peggy McCormack, “or 1 hour for every class.” Part-time faculty, who often teach the same classes, get only a fraction of that – at most, 2.5 hours per semester.

“That does not help students,” said McCormick. “For a while, we had $100,000 in funding at Butte Community College to fund office hours for all the part-time faculty, and they bumped us up to 7.5 hours per semester, but then they transferred half of that to the general fund, and we’re back to just 2.5 hours. It’s a matter of priorities,” she added.

Local union members aren’t taking the cutbacks lying down. “We organized a presentation at the Board of Trustees, and are conducting a series of job actions to call attention to the issue.”

At Mt. San Jacinto College, where associate faculty pay is approximately 48% below market, members held a teach-in earlier this summer for students.

Chief bargainer and College of the Sequoias local union president Don Nikkel reports that the union is asking for a salary increase as part of bargaining for a new contract.

Conditions for associate faculty at the state’s community colleges are abysmal. An UPTE-commissioned study found that associate faculty make up the vast majority (68.9%) of teachers at the community colleges, but in contrast to full-time faculty, have little job security and often do not know whether they will have classes to teach from term to term, making their lives economically precarious.

 

Office hours key to fair working and learning conditions

by Stacey Burks

The Part-Time Faculty Association at Butte College in Oroville – UPTE’s Chapter 12 – has moved forward with plans for a series of escalating job actions regarding office hours.

For years, Butte’s part-time associate faculty fought to get them, and when we did, we were given $50,000 of funding per year. Faculty could apply for a total of 14 hours, which paid $25 per hour. Most associate faculty received only about 2.3 to 5 total hours per semester.

That’s laughable when you understand that full-time faculty are mandated to hold 80 hours per semester. Even if there had been money enough to accommodate all the part-time faculty requests, we still would have received only 14 total hours for the semester.

We complained, asked for more money, negotiated – and approximately four years ago the district agreed to increase our office hour money to $100,000 per year as a pilot. As news spread, more faculty applied for office hours. As a result, the amount of money awarded to each remained the same. During our next negotiations, the district refused to extend our pilot and our money was reduced back to the original $50,000, now with more faculty than ever asking for office hour time.

Why it matters

For those who are unfamiliar with the California community college system, the state recently released mandates as the result of findings of a task force comprised primarily of business people, bureaucrats and politicians. New laws came out of the findings, quantifying objectives on student completion rates, transfer rates and awarded certifications.

In short, we regressed back to the days when community colleges were originally called “junior colleges.” Community colleges were designed to serve “the community,” offering classes to people who wanted to learn how to paint, learn a foreign language, brush up on computer skills, etc. No longer is that the mission. Now it’s about transferring students and getting students certified.

Meanwhile, the new state mantra became “students first” because it was all about “student success” and student success was measured by completion rates, transfer rates and awarded certifications.

Clearly, any number of resources are needed to ensure that students succeed. Full-time faculty are mandated to hold 80 hours of office hours per semester, so it’s quite clear that the districts, as well as the state, believe in their importance. Students need to have access to their instructors. Yet our district actually decreased that opportunity for almost 60% of the student population attending Butte College.

We are judged and evaluated in the same way as full-time faculty, and student evaluations consider the question of access is front and center. Associate faculty are put in the untenable position of either providing office hours for free or working to contract and scoring low on the evaluations submitted by students.

As a result, Butte associate faculty are currently engaged in a series of escalating job actions to change the situation (see story at left). As we continue this fight, we will keep you posted.

Stacey Burks is president of UPTE-CWA Chapter 12 at Butte College, where she teaches philosophy.

 

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