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Update from Olympic College (Jack Longmate)

This evening (Thursday, 11/3/05) at Olympic College in Bremerton, we held a Campus Equity Week Legislative Forum. Four legislators, all Democrats, attended. The audience was made up of three trustees, about a dozen faculty, some full-time and part-time faculty, about the same number of students, and the higher ed lobbyist of the State's NEA chapter. Prior to the legislators, both the union president and I spoke. My approximate comments are below:

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As one of 344 part-time faculty at Olympic College, I’d like to welcome you all here.

This forum is part of Campus Equity Week, an international campaign to call attention to the lack of equity in the academic workplace. As part of Campus Equity Week, Governor Gregoire proclaimed last Saturday, October 29, as Adjunct and Part-time Faculty Recognition Day.

In a country ours, where we profess “all men are created equal,” that all citizens have the right “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and all have equal protection under the law, there should be no reason for an Equity campaign.

Yet in the case of part-time faculty, even though the grades and credits we award are equal to those awarded by full-time faculty, and even thought the tuition charged for our classes is the same, part-time faculty are paid only about 50 cents on the dollar.

During the last 8 years, there’ve been positive improvements for part-time faculty, which I’d like to briefly recount:

  • Pay. Eight years ago, part-time faculty on average were paid at 42 percent of full-time faculty for the same work. We had these buttons that say “End 40 percent Wage Discrimination” Now, according to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, part-time faculty receive 57 percent, which is a significant gain. And the buttons have been updated. But despite the progress, my net earnings, for having taught 7 five-credit courses, which is 70 percent of a full-time teaching load, was just $13,448.89 in 2004.
  • Health Insurance. Adjunct faculty in our state are now eligible to receive health care if they teach at 50 percent of a full-time load for two consecutive quarters, coverage beginning the second quarter. And now, thanks to the class action lawsuit, now adjuncts who work at 50 percent of a full-time during the academic year will receive health insurance during the summer, whether they teach or not. But there’s work to be done with the Health Care Authority:

    Consider this example - assuming one class is 1/3 of a full-time load:
    Part-time Instructor A teaches 6 classes during the year, two classes fall, winter, and spring quarter. Not only does she receive health insurance for winter and spring quarters, but she’ll also get it over the summer.

    Part-time Instructor B also teaches 6 classes during, two in the fall, one in the winter, and two in the spring, and one in the summer. But because poor instructor B has not taught at 50 percent for two consecutive quarters, she does not quality for heath care at all during the year.
  • Retirement. Formerly, retirement eligibility required a part-timer to be employed 80 percent of a full-time load; but since the cap imposed on adjunct workload at colleges like Olympic restricts adjuncts to no more than 70 or 75 percent, qualifying for retirement was a virtual impossibility. Now eligibility for retirement matches that of health care, at 50 percent of full-time. Retirement for adjuncts has also been helped along by a class action lawsuit. Of course, since part-time wages are meager, retirement contributions are likewise meager.
  • Sick Leave. Thanks to a bill proposed by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, now all part-time faculty accrue sick leave on a pro-rata basis. This came from the legislature, but it mandated that each institution locally bargain a sick leave system.

Three areas where new legislation is needed are:

  • Pay. In Washington state, part-time and full-time college faculty should be paid according to a common salary schedule, as they are in the colleges of British Columbia and as they are in our own K-12 system, where someone teaching at 50 percent of full-time would receive 50 percent of the pay, not some discounted amount. Remedying this inequity will mean an increased budgetary expenditure, but for the first time since at least 2001, a budgetary surplus is being projected, which increases the likelihood of progress in this area.
  • Job Security. Most part-time faculty in Washington state cannot be assured of a teaching beyond the current quarter, even when they have taught for a decade or longer or even when they hold a “Multiple Quarter Contracts” of the sort offered by Olympic College. If there is a silver lining to the lack of reasonable assurance of employment, it’s that adjuncts may qualify for unemployment insurance between quarters. The unfortunate thing is that few adjuncts who qualify for unemployment actually apply for it.
  • Professional Development and Professionalism. At present, part-time faculty are paid to show up for class, and are not expected to hold office hours nor are they compensated for their time when they do, and are not paid for course preparation, nor are rewarded for publishing a paper or earning a new Masters or Ph.D. This is no way to treat the personnel who teach 43 percent of all courses statewide.

In closing, I’d like to highlight two bills proposed during the last session, both of which are active now:

SB 5970—Instead of treating all of our state’s 11,074 part-time faculty as temporary, probationary employees, this bill would create a distinction between probationary and established adjuncts, who would then be granted some measure of job security. [link to bill]

SB 5304—This bill would do two things: (1) make the funding of increments a budget item, so that those funds would no longer require special appropriation each biennium, and (2) mandate that each college would collective bargain “equitable and comparable” increments for all part-time faculty. [link to bill]

Adapted from Jack Longmate's e-mail to the adj-l email list
see also the event flyer (PDF)

Faculty and Staff displaced by Hurricane Katrina can register at the Louisiana Board of Regents Displaced Faculty & Staff Registry.