Part-time faculty struggling

Part-time faculty struggling

Part-time instructors at Skyline College make up a 3-1 majority of all instructors employed at the school and often face struggles that go unnoticed by the student body.

According to the Skyline budget office, there are approximately 275 part-time and 103 full-time instructors working during the fall 2011 semester. Many of these instructors have to commute between two and sometimes three schools throughout the course of their day in order to earn enough money to live in the Bay Area. Their colleagues call them freeway flyers, and some of the demands facing them are overwhelming.


However, the Skyline administration pointed out that the numbers alone do not tell the complete story and was quick to minimize their impact on the school.


“I just want you to be aware that full-time faculty teach anywhere from three to five classes a semester, whereas a part-timer may just teach one class,” said Eloisa Briones, certified public accountant with Skyline’s budget office.


Because of their need to commute, part-time instructors must often work under sub-standard conditions, often having to do without actual offices or email password protocols through which to process student inquires. In addition, the very logistics of having to commute in the often congested Bay Area can add hours to travel time to the already hectic schedule of these educators. Part-time teachers often have little recourse but to work out of their cars, which then function as offices.


Younger part-time teachers may be further challenged by the lack of accommodation provided by the federal government in regards to debt they may have amassed through student loans. Although President Obama passed a loan forgiveness program which cancels student loan debt after ten years, the program is not available to part- time educators, whose debt is often exasperated by their wage earnings, which do not match those of full- time instructors.


Yet another of the myriad in- equalities that part-time instructors working for the San Mateo County Community College District have to deal with is the fact that they do not qualify for the same healthcare coverage as their full-time colleagues. They are awarded a small stipend to cover some healthcare costs, but full health-insurance coverage is not provided. However, neighboring schools like Foothill, De Anza and City College of San Francisco do provide health insurance for their part-time faculty.


“There is widespread concern among part-time/adjunct faculty about bread-and-butter conditions,” reported a 2010 American Federation of Teachers national poll. “About 57 percent of the survey respondents say their salaries are falling short. Just 28 percent indicate that they receive health insurance on the job.”


With the many imbalances in benefits and working conditions facing Skyline’s part-time instructor majority, it is a wonder that more freeway flyers are not more outspoken about these issues. How- ever, the lack of protest by Skyline’s part-time/adjunct community can be explained by Margaret Hanzimano- lis, the Part-Time Faculty Organizer for American Federation of Teachers, Lodge 1493 during the spring 2011 semester.


“Their vulnerability stems, in large part, from their relatively weak job security,” Hanzimanolis said via Skype. “In fact, despite union-negotiated seniority rights, PTF (part-time faculty) might not receive a course assignment because of biased evaluations, temporary changes in course offerings or program discontinuance, FT (full-time) faculty seniority rights for overload classes, or scheduling frameworks that make an offered course assignment impossible. In addition, PTF are afraid to participate in discussions or debate or political actions mounted against their low status, low pay, and low governance participation because they believe their outspokenness would ruin their chances for a FT position. Group solidarity (with other PTF) in this sort of political configuration actually may indeed diminish
the chance to jump status into full-time teaching.”


New students at Skyline may have questions for their instructors about how to navigate various ad- ministrative tasks, such as adding or dropping a class, or signing into Web Access, but an instructor who is trying to juggle multiple protocols and passwords for many different campuses may not have the answers the student needs immediately. Add to that the fact that Skyline has a much younger part-time/adjunct instructor population than other schools in the San Mateo Community College District. The reason for this newer crop of teachers is debatable, but one thing is for sure: They have not been here long enough to be fully integrated institutionally. As an example, the part-time roster for the English Department alone shows ten instructors with a 2011 hire date.


There is not currently a cohesive, organized group of part-time/adjunct instructors at Skyline speaking out on their own behalf, but perhaps that will change as their numbers grow and the amount of students aware of their plight and touched by their love of teaching join the fray.