Adjunct Faculty Recruitment at Odds with
SRJC's Legacy of Excellence?
On Wednesday, October 5th, in a letter to the college, Dr. Chong stated, as he has many times before, that “Many of us would agree that the reason SRJC is often regarded as one of the best community colleges in California, if not the nation, is due to the quality of our faculty.” We thank Dr. Chong for highlighting the faculty’s central role in maintaining our college’s cherished legacy of excellence. But we find it troubling and alarming that this praise prefaces the announcement, as a strategy for preserving that legacy, of SRJC’s first-ever Adjunct Faculty Recruitment Open House.
AFA believes that moving aggressively to hire adjuncts in order to preserve SRJC’s educational excellence is a bad idea for reasons that have nothing to do with the skill, talent, and commitment our adjunct colleagues bring to their work. The excellence that so many of our adjunct faculty bring to their teaching is not a feature of their status; all too often, it shows itself in spite of their adjunct status, which relegates them to second-class citizenship, without the pay, benefits, job security, professional opportunities, or in many cases simply the time to devote to their work that contract faculty have.
Full-pay for adjunct office hours was restored to adjunct faculty only last summer, after six years during which many or most adjuncts simply worked through their regular office hours at a reduced rate. And this exemplifies a regrettably common feature of adjunct employment—the pressure to do open-ended amounts of unpaid work, not just out of a commitment to ethical professionalism, but for fear of losing chances at assignments, and so losing part of what is already only a modest gross income. Our current conversion to the Canvas online platform is another example. The college has simply assumed that faculty will undertake this work, regardless of how long it takes, and AFA has been made aware that many adjuncts, feeling the pressure to do what they can to secure assignments, and so income, are in fact doing large amounts of unpaid work. And who doubts that the large swings in the size of our schedule in recent years have put a knife’s edge on those fears for many adjuncts?
Operating on the assumption that a relatively powerless, insecure, and exploited population of our faculty will work without pay for fear of unemployment is hardly a way of ensuring a legacy of academic excellence at SRJC. The ratio of adjunct to full-time here at SRJC—in the neighborhood of 50/50, in terms of FTEF, against the state’s ideal of 75/25—is already tilted way too far towards adjuncts, with all sorts of undesirable repercussions, for example, a growing workload burden on full-time faculty in their department, college, and district service. The panicked push to complete SLOs before the accreditation deadline in 2014/15, the huge backlog of adjunct evaluations in some departments, and, less visibly, the general exhaustion and near-burnout of many of our most dedicated full-timers, are just a few ripple effects of such a problem.
Job fairs will do nothing to make adjunct employment look more desirable than it does now. Econ 101 suggests that a first, best option, when faced with a shortage of teachers, is to raise teachers' pay. AFA believes that the other long-term solution to the college’s staffing shortages is, as it has been for years now, to hire more full-time faculty, and to begin moving our full-time/part-time ratio some way towards the still-distant ideal of 75/25.
Deirdre Frontczak, Michelle Hughes Markovics, Sean Martin, Terry Mulcaire, Warren Ruud, and Michelle Van Aalst.