Monday, December 15, 2008

Will Obama let colleges keep treating faculty like Walmart workers?

The Huffington Post ran a good article on how colleges and universities abuse most of their faculty by having two separate and unequal classes: one paid far less per class to do the same job and usually given no job security or health benefits.

The best part of the article is the bit when she asks administrators if they aren't ashamed of doing this (which I have included at the end). I asked the same thing on the discussion board at The Chronicle of Higher Education, and administrators actually said it was our own fault because adjuncts are stupid enough to take the jobs.

Gina Nahai
Posted December 14, 2008 | 09:30 PM (EST)

The Great Shame of America's Colleges

You think Wal-Mart employees are exploited?

What if I told you that all over this country, major institutions created and sustained with a mission to pursue the betterment of mankind, colleges and universities that sit on billion dollar endowments are using the current economic crisis to further enrich themselves at the expense of the meager livelihood of long-time faculty? That at the same time as they claim to be the guardians of knowledge and the champions of the arts, they treat their faculty to the legal and financial equivalent of what migrant day laborers earn by standing outside Home Depot?

Freeway Flyers: aka "adjunct professors", aka "teaching professionals." They're the dirty little secret of universities and colleges all around the United States. They're the PhDs with decades of teaching experience, award-winning artists, published authors whose names and reputations draw students to the universities, whose work justifies the $50,000/year tuition, raises the million-dollar donations, earns the sought after rankings in USA Today's annual poll.

In exchange for all that, they are hired only on a part-time basis, made to sign a pledge that they will not work more than twenty hours a week and will not--not now, not ever--have a claim to health or retirement or any other kind of benefits, not even a parking pass. That they are "at will" employees who can be let go at any time, for any reason. Their salaries are so meager, they have to teach two, three, sometimes five classes a semester, at five different universities, just to pay their rent. That's why they're called Freeway Flyers. One writer I knew taught for twenty years at a Southern California college with more money than the GNP of a small country. He was paid so little, he had to supplement his income by working the graveyard shift at airport gift shops. He was the author of one of the biggest literary novels of the 20th century; when he died, his family couldn't afford to bury him. Another guy--a teacher of mine from the days when I was a student of writing--drove four hours each way to teach the same class for twenty-seven years. He made something near $3,000 a semester. He was recently let go because the school could take advantage of the rising unemployment rates to hire a younger person for less than $3,000.


Aren't the heads of these colleges ashamed of the exploitation? Wouldn't they want to do the right thing even if they don't have to?

I've asked many of them these questions, especially recently. One of them was a former peace corps volunteer. Their answers are short and scripted: "Of course we want to do the right thing; but only when possible." His colleague, another dean, lamented openly the fact that out of every professor on their payroll, there was one who could not be let go or forced to work for half her usual salary because that one, unfortunately, had a contract. Not that anyone's unhappy with the professor's work, mind you. They just don't like paying more than they have to.

Even during the darkest days of the Bush administration, higher education was an island of reasoned debate and progressive dissent. This apartheid faculty system, with a small minority given decent pay and job security, and the rest exploited and abused, is part of the right's decades long effort to crush any sources of opposition. As Karl Rove said:
As people do better, they start voting like Republicans --- unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.
Anything that threatens Karl Rove and his kindred spirits in the GOP should be protected and rewarded.

If you think this abuse of faculty is something that should change, tell the incoming Obama administration.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Next CA Senate leader supports equal pay for equal work--for LEGISLATORS

As part of their deal with Arnold on the budget, California legislators may be cutting their salaries, but only of those starting a new term this year, not those in the middle of a term, so three-fourths would get the cut and one-fourth wouldn't.

Wow, an arbitrary difference in pay scales not based on qualifications or work done, but strictly as a cost saving measure--who would allow something like that?

Not the California legislature, at least not when THEIR six figure incomes are at stake.

Will legislators now finally be as outraged about part time community college faculty being paid as little as 25% as much as their full time counterparts with the same qualifications to teach the exact same classes?

Part time faculty make up three-fourths of those who teach community college, but our hours are capped in any one district so we have to patch several jobs together to make a living, and unlike state legislators, it doesn't add up to six figures or often even include health insurance.

For 40 years, the California legislature has allowed this discrimination to persist, and hasn't changed the law that allows it, but only passed toothless resolutions that changed little to nothing.

Now that California legislators have had a taste of pay discrimination, will they take more forceful action to end it against community college educators?

The legislator quoted in the piece as opposing unequal pay, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, is scheduled to be a leader in the Senate.

Write him a letter, thanking him for supporting the concept of equal pay for equal work, tell him you look forward to his quick, real action on this for part time faculty who have been discriminated against for 40 years with the legislature's approval, and not just resolutions of intentions to do nothing.

Email contact page for CA state Darrell Steinberg

Since legislators filter out emails that aren't from their constituents, you may want to snail mail, fax, or call him:

Phone: (916) 651-4006
Fax: (916) 323-2263

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4035
Sacramento, CA 95814
District Office
1020 N Street, #576
Sacramento, CA 95814
North Highlands District Office
5722 Watt Avenue
North Highlands, CA 95660

You should also write your own state legislators and let them know you share their pain. You can find out who represents you and how to contact them HERE.

This is also worth a letter to the paper legislators read and that ran the story, the Sacramento Bee.

Sacramento Bee Letter Submissions


This story is taken from Sacbee / News / AP State News.
Most California legislators could be hit with pay cut
By STEVE LAWRENCE - Associated Press Writer
Published 12:09 pm PDT Sunday, June 8, 2008

Some California legislators might claim to be victims of pay discrimination if the commission that sets state elected officials' salaries decides this week to impose its first pay cut.

But Jim Evans, a spokesman for Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the Sacramento Democrat who is scheduled to become the Senate's top leader later this year, said a proposal to cut some legislators' salaries but not others "would seem to violate an equal-pay-for-equal-work standard and would be seen as inherently unfair."


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Part Timer Load Boosted from 60% to 67% in Bill Passed in CA Assembly 60-0 , Now Goes to State Senate

It's not equal pay, but it will make life easier for some part timers in California.

The California Assembly voted 60-0 in favor of AB591, a bill raising the cap on part time faculty loads to 67%.

For the past forty years, part time faculty have been limited to working 60% of a full time load in any one district. This has made life especially difficult for those who taught five unit classes like foreign language instructors since it meant they could only teach one class per district and would need at least three different districts to put together the equivalent of a full load.

This bill would allow those instructors and others to teach ten units in any one district.

AB 591 originally included broader reforms including requiring equal pay and benefits for part timers, but those provisions were cut since budget cuts this year makes bills with new spending unlikely to pass.

The CFT’s lobbyist, Judith Michaels, convinced the group that originally pushed the bill, the California Part Time Faculty Association (CPFA), and the legislator who sponsored the bill, Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally, to amend the bill to include the 67% cap since the part time faculty committee had recently asked for legislation raising the cap and the broader community college council voted in favor of it.

The bill could make an equally speedy passage in the California Senate if the people affected by it would contact their state senators and tell them what to do.

How to Contact CA Senators about Raising Cap on Part Timer Loads to 67%

For every person who contacts an elected official, they assume there are ten more people who have the same opinion but are too lazy to make the effort to bug them. So if you call or email your legislators, it’s like you’re getting to vote ten times.

You can find out who your state senator is and their contact info by going to this link and entering your zip code:


When you call or write, just tell them you support (or oppose) AB 591, and that you are a faculty member yourself.