What Does DEI Mean for Part-time Faculty?

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) appears to be trending in professional development agendas these days. In fact, just today I saw an announcement at my college for a DEI item as the flex day professional development theme in January. I should be thrilled with the announcement, but I am not. The intended content of the ‘E’ is ambiguous. I am pretty sure it skirts faculty equity. Same for the ‘I’ in a two-tier faculty structure which several of my part-time colleagues describe as a caste system -- embedded and normalized by administrators and many tenured instructors in our colleges, beginning in the 1980s.

But the way I see it, sociologically speaking, the caste-like two-tier faculty structure was constructed and, in true DEI spirit, should be deconstructed and replaced with an equitable single-tier faculty structure. I am one of many in higher education who see equity and inclusion for faculty as key to the restoration of professionalism, fairness, and integrity in our colleges. The administrative de-professionalizing of faculty into the caste-like two-tier structure has produced the crisis of inequality in faculty that endangers the faculty shared-governance role while enhancing administrative rule and shortchanging our students.

My understanding is the Education Code does not mandate a two-tier system in community colleges; it allows it. It also allows the unending ‘temporary’ hiring and rehiring that part-time faculty members are to be hired off the tenure track. This was the onset of non-tenure track part-time faculty inequality which, in California, was initiated by Ronald Reagan as governor.

So, how can we genuinely deliver DEI with part-time faculty in mind? How can we go about constructing egalitarian workplace provisions recognizing all instructors as valuable and equal? What benefits will follow?

On some steps to deliver on the DEI promise, I borrow four from Jack Longmate’s Part-Time Symposium presentation from November 7 on the ‘Vancouver Model’ of faculty employment at Vancouver Community College:

  • 100% pro-rated pay for part-time faculty,
  • Job security through regularization,
  • A pathway for conversion from temporary to permanent, regularized status,
  • A meaningful seniority system encompassing all faculty.

Notably also, the city of Berkeley has a single-tier teacher structure for K-12 education.

Among the benefits of a single-tier system are faculty equity and inclusion, the restoration of professionalism to the faculty as a whole, a stronger faculty voice with wider representation in the shared-governance role, higher faculty morale, and a substantial increase in student access to faculty support to enable their progress in academic and career preparation. Very significantly as well, on a moral level, creating a single-tier faculty structure to be the norm once again is the right thing to do.

I am interested in readers’ ideas about making the proposal above a reality and also about promising ways for gaining the active support of our tenured counterparts for this application of DEI.



FACCC blog posts are written independently by FACCC members and encompass their experiences and recommendations.
FACCC neither condemns nor endorses the recommendations herein.
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Comments on "What Does DEI Mean for Part-time Faculty?"

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Valerie Chau - Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Thank you so much for your post! As a brown skinned Romani(Gypsy) autistic woman who comes from generational poverty and as the oldest of 11 children is the first to attend college, I feel the commitment to 'DEI' is fake at most colleges including where I work temporarily as an adjunct. Why? Because it ignores the other discrimination that I and others with disabilities have lived. When I tried to bring up other diversity and equity issues to the people running our 'DEI' groups and initiatives, my views were dismissed and even mocked as if my diversity doesn't matter to them - which it does not. When they send out constant emails about how 'silence is violence' etc. and at home my adult non speaking autistic son was brutalized by police several times in 2019 when he ran out of our house yelling dee dee dee and hitting himself in the head, I feel angry.

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