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By: Deirdre Frontczak, Debbie Klein, and Louise Mackenzie
Part-time faculty are the consummate paradox of the California Community Colleges. Although the Education Code deems part-time faculty “temporary,” they are a permanent part of the landscape. Adding insult to injury, the state law does not require this 40,000 corps of faculty professionals to be paid for anything beyond the classroom hour (collective bargaining agreements can add more), and they are limited to teaching 67% of an equivalent full-time load in a single district.
Moreover, this exploited underpaid and under-supported strata of the faculty often teach the most vulnerable students in our state, creating a dynamic that no one would call a recipe for success.
While the origins of the current two-tier system between full- and part-time faculty date back to the 1960s, it was not too long afterward that the system began proposing partial solutions. Dating back to the 1970s, the system recognized that this two-tier structure had a corrosive effect on students but never exercised leadership to eliminate it altogether.
In 1978, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors (CCCBOG) approved the principle of limiting to 25% credit instruction taught by part-time faculty. A decade later, the state enshrined the system’s goal of 75% credit instruction taught by full-time faculty into the Education Code. Over the subsequent 10 years, the Legislature approved measures establishing state funds to incentivize districts to offer paid office hours and health benefits to part-timers, which was followed in the early 2000s by a line-item in the state budget (meant to be the first of five) to achieve pay equity between full- and part-timers.
These efforts continued in more recent history, including a 2012 legislative affirmation in the Student Success Act linking the principle of student success with access to faculty, along with a call for more full-time faculty and increased support of part-time faculty. Last year, AB 1690 (Medina) and SB 1379 (Mendoza) successfully connected negotiation for part-time faculty seniority to student success, and this year, FACCC-sponsored ACR 32 (Medina) calls upon the community college system to prioritize achievement of both 75/25 and part-time equity.
Despite these legislative efforts, the basic inequities between the two classes of faculty have intensified with the system claiming powerlessness under the guise of the Legislature’s failing to direct specific money for this purpose. Over the past 10 years, there has been no real progress in the percent of instruction taught by full-time faculty, which today hovers at just over 56.
Part-time faculty, as academically qualified and talented as their full-time colleagues, are hired to prepare, teach, and assess their classes. Most part-time faculty offer office hours even though many colleges do not provide compensation or appropriate office space. Limited to teaching 67% of a full-time load at any one institution and paid at a rate much less than the full-time equivalent, and provided with little or no health care benefits and professional development, many part-time faculty are forced into a frenetic work life traveling from one college to another, often hundreds of miles each week, leaving minimal time and energy for consultation with students, which is critical to their success.
FACCC, faculty unions (CFT, CTA, and CCCI), and the Academic Senate (ASCCC) have a long history of advocating for part-time faculty rights, and continue to push for compensation parity (equal pay for equal work), job security, and medical and other benefits. Faculty groups are also leading the conversations about creating a state-wide system and culture that fosters respect, inclusion, collegiality, and professionalism among all faculty.
How can the system remain complacent under this permanent two-tier structure? While studies affirm the negative impact on our students, the corporatized model of education finds it too convenient to eliminate a non-benefitted underpaid workforce.
Community college faculty and their representative organizations are re-envisioning community college education through the lens of equity and social justice. As the system implements best practices for student learning, engagement, growth, and success, it should also lead the way in implementing best practices for part-time faculty inclusion and equity.
If we want to move the needle on part-time faculty equity while also better serving students, the California Community College system will need to:
- Fully integrate all faculty on aspects of community college policy, including student success, equity, workforce education, and Guided Pathways.
- Make progress on part-time faculty workplace equity—compensation parity, seniority, paid health benefits and office hours, personal leave, and access to full workload if desired.
- Meaningfully address this two-tiered system in which the majority of faculty must function under unjust and physically exhausting conditions.
- Support the elimination of practices that marginalize part-time faculty so that student outcomes improve and our colleges become more equitable learning environments.
Deirdre Frontczak and Louise Mackenzie are part-time faculty members, teaching philosophy at Santa Rosa Junior College and English at Santa Barbara City College, respectively. Debbie Klein is a full-time faculty member in anthropology at Gavilan College.
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