By Renee Fraser
One of the anomalies of the California Community College system is the arbitrary cap in California Ed Code that limits part-time faculty members to a .67 teaching load (10 units) in any one district. No other higher educational system in the country has such a limit. A 60% limit was first established in the 1960s as an effort to prevent the over-use of adjunct labor and to protect tenured faculty positions. Obviously, this was an utter failure, as the number of contingent faculty workers expanded each decade, until now, when approximately half of all courses are taught by a part-time faculty majority. As a result of this limit, part-timers in the California Community College District must commute long distances to cobble together a full load of classes.
As some of you may recall, our first victory on this front was due to AB 591, a bill introduced by Assembly member Dymally in 2008. The California Part-Time Faculty Association (CPFA) wrote the bill and one of the paid staffers in Dymally’s office, Peg McCormack, worked especially hard to get the load part-timers could teach raised to 80% (12 units). CPFA was joined by the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), but faced stiff resistance from the tenured faculty contingent at CFT, and so a compromise of .67 was reached. The bill passed.
The contentiousness experienced by part-time activists in this struggle made many hesitant to reopen the debate. However, this year, a part-time union activist named Veronica Miranda with the Cerritos College Faculty Federation proposed an 80% limit at the CFT Convention. The resolution passed overwhelmingly! This was a welcome turn of events. John Govsky, the Co-Chair of the CFT Part Time Faculty Committee, suggests that the culture of the CFT has shifted as a result of the Janus decision toward much greater support for part-time members. It seems that now is the time for part-timers to raise their voices at the state level on bread-and-butter issues.
Raising the load limit for part-time faculty members will have no impact on tenure or the Faculty Obligation Number (FON). It will not affect the 75/25 legislation, STRS choices, Social Security status, or other benefits. It costs nothing. It will, however, allow some adjuncts to make a living wage, to spend less time on the freeways, spend less of their incomes on gasoline, and give them more time to spend interacting with students, their unions, and shared governance committees. It will allow some instructors in math (post AB705) to continue to teach two classes if /when unit levels are raised. It will lower the carbon footprints of both individuals and the institutions at which they teach. The overwhelming majority of adjuncts want load limits raised or abolished entirely. Finally, the reality that a large percentage of “part-timers” actually teach full-time will become difficult to ignore, and may force the Community College system to recognize that part-timers should be equitably paid.
Mike Dixon, AFT Local 1828’s representative on the CFT’s Part-Time Faculty Committee, informs us that CFT’s legislative liaison, Brian Ha, says the ball is rolling on this issue: CFT is looking for a legislator to write and introduce the bill. Should the bill be passed, our local would be entrusted with negotiating new language in the contract to allow higher load limits for part-time faculty and to protect existing faculty member teaching loads.