Friday, January 9, 2015

Contingent Faculty and #FreeCommunityCollege

For the next few days, Community Colleges will be in the news, thanks to the president's proposal. #FreeCommunityCollege was the top trending hashtag in the U.S. yesterday. There are lots of news reports and surely hundreds of think pieces to come.

My basic assessment is that it's a good plan that if enacted, because it's not a "last dollar" plan (i.e. the money only comes after other means have been exhausted) will make 2 years of college more affordable for many Americans. It will undermine the for-profit market as well as the Frankenstein ASU-style for-profit wing of non-profits. The devil is in the details, but I'm pleased.

And now, dear fellow academics, here's the thing for which we must lobby.

These new students need to be taught by full-time, salaried, faculty.

If we're going to claim that Community College is a pathway towards a better life, better wages, better education. If we're going to claim that public education is a public good. If we're going to invest federal money in making higher education accessible. Shouldn't we then demand that the people doing the actual teaching are fully supported? They must make a living wage. They need health care. They need access to faculty development. They need offices.

We do this for the students. And we're going to hear a lot about the students in the next few days and weeks.

We do this for basic economic justice.

We do this for the profession.

We have to demand that this new investment in community colleges arrives with an appropriate investment in instruction.

My baseline, at the moment - Any school receiving funding for the America's College Promise must have 80% full-time faculty.

This is one of those moments in which a unified voice can have an impact, so let's start speaking up.

Update: Thanks to New Faculty Majority, I got a link to this report on the state of community colleges as of 2012. A shocking 70% of all faculty are part-timers. Yes, some of those will be people who only want to teach a course or two while working at some other profession, but most are adjunct profs trying to scrape together a living.

3 comments:

Anansi said...

Does anybody have any stats on how many units "average" contingency faculty teach? Isn't the state violating employment laws by not ensuring equal pay and benefits for those who are working over PT limits of ten units across multiple cc's?

David Perry said...

I don't have that data. Trying to find it. I also don't know enough about employment law.

Brent Peterson said...

Perhaps I am paranoid and elitist, but I worry about the impact of free community college on higher education in general. Quite aside from the clear danger that further squeezing adjuncts will make the finances work, I wonder wonder about the jobs focus of this initiative. Of course students can transfer to four-year institutions, but I'm not sure they will end up being able to speak a foreign language, delve deeply into history, or get degrees in physics as easily as if they had started elsewhere. I hope I'm wrong, but unless the aid is extended to cover the first two years at other sorts of institutions there could be a lot of unintended consequences for both students and colleges.