Campus Equity Week Addresses Plight of Adjunct Faculty

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Campus Equity Week, which ran Oct. 28 through Nov. 3 around the country and on the GCC campus, is part of an ongoing movement addressing the working conditions facing part-time teachers at colleges and universities.

The state of California’s suggested ratio of full-time to part-time faculty is 75 to 25 percent, however, recent trends indicate that the reality of the situation actually presents a proportion with numbers encroaching on an inverse to the ideal standard.

According to an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) press release, 43 percent of faculty members nationwide are now classified under low-wage, part-time status, a 10 percent increase from figures obtained in 1987. The reasoning behind the disparity is rooted in the fact that colleges are able to employ more teachers for less money.

Many adjunct faculty members frustrated with the inequities they continue to suffer are taking measures to generate support and encourage participation for the cause. CEW was formed to create an atmosphere of heightened community awareness of the issues facing part-timers.
Phyllis Eckler, a part-time dance teacher at GCC and Vice President of the Glendale College Guild, which operates under the AFT, played a crucial role in bringing CEW to GCC. The week served to educate and encourage students, faculty and other staff members to join the guild in achieving its goal.

Although pleased with Gov. Gray Davis’ recent statewide allocation of $57 million in equalization money in support of part-timers, Eckler simply sees the victory as a gateway to making further improvements. The information booth established in the Plaza Vaquero throughout the week included petitions thanking Davis for his support, while also requesting for further allocations in California’s 2002-2003 budget.

“A lot more could be done,” said Eckler. “We could get better medical benefits, such as plans including full coverage. We could also use some kind of rehire rights so we’ll know where we’ll be in say, a year from now.” Most importantly, Eckler stressed the need for a pay level commensurate with the time adjunct teachers put in at GCC.

Andrea Rusnock, an art history teacher at GCC, claims that the problem with low wages is that there are simply insufficient funds available to support employee needs.

“I think it’s a societal problem,” Rusnock said. “As a whole, this nation just doesn’t care enough about education to justify paying more for it. As long as our country continues to hold out on funding, colleges can only do so much to better their respective situations.”

According to David White, Chair of GCC’s English Division, out of 186 classes offered this semester by his department, 51 percent are taught by full-time faculty and 49 percent by part-time. The school failed to provide him with ample room to expand upon courses, leaving White with no choice but to bend suggested standards, a decision that conflicted with his observation that adjunct instructors aren’t seeing the fruits of their labor.

“The part-time pay schedule is embarrassingly and exploitatively low,” White said. “It seems to me that a part-time instructor gets about 40 percent of what a full-time teacher would get for teaching the same class.”

Figures estimate that the national average for salary earnings of part-time teachers is 40 cents on the dollar. However, it’s hard to determine the exact disparity between full-time and part-time salaries as adjunct teachers are paid at an hourly rate, while full-timers are paid on a monthly basis. Salaries are also based on the degree held by incoming faculty. According to figures posted by GCC’s Office of Human Resources, a beginning part-time teacher receives $43.42 an hour.
For most adjunct teachers, the few hours and low pay equate to a necessity to search for extra work. As a result, many instructors become freeway-flyers, splitting their time between two or more campuses in order to generate adequate income. This chaotic schedule leaves teachers scrambling to provide a solid curriculum for their students. Instructors with too much on their plates are less likely to be able to give their students the necessary attention they deserve.
Linda Serra, Chair of GCC’s Business Division, believes that the school could benefit from an increase in full-time teachers.

“Part-timers are not expected or required to work as many hours as full-timers,” Serra said. “Since full-time teachers are under contract to spend a set amount of time on campus, there’s a greater chance that students will be able to meet with them for outside help.”

GCC student Sarah Whisler, 18, said she would prefer taking classes with full-time instructors. “If you need them, you know that they’re there for you.”

Julius Yu, another student, believes that while most adjuncts are “very accessible and willing to meet outside of class, without an official, reliable spot to meet at it’s hard to obtain the kind of quality time these teachers might otherwise be able to provide.”