The Parity Disparity

When a student enters an Allan Hancock College classroom, he or she does not know if the instructor is full or part-time. Nor should that be a concern to them. When a student walks into a classroom at our college, they have every right to expect the same quality of education regardless of whether the instructor is an adjunct or tenure track. And part-time instructors do deliver quality education to the students at Allan Hancock College. If they did not, our college would not have received the high rankings we were honored with in 2011, when we were named as one of the top five community colleges in California and one of the top 120 community colleges in the entire country. These honors would not have been given us without the unflagging contributions of the more than 400 part-time instructors who teach here.

While the student may not know if her instructor is full time or part-time, they might be shocked to learn that on average their adjunct instructors earn only 43% of what a full time teacher makes for doing the same work. The credits earned in a class taught by a part-time instructor are just as valuable as those earned in a class taught by a full-timer. Nowhere on the student’s transcript does it say, “This class was taught by a part-time instructor, therefore the units earned are worth less than if they were earned in a class taught by a person with tenure.” Nor does the student pay only 43% of the ordinary tuition rate to take a class given by a part-timer.

It is long past the time when this great disparity between what is earned by a full-time teacher and that earned by a part-timer should be addressed. For far too long community colleges have balanced their budgets on the backs of part-time instructors. When budgets are cut, as they have been over the past several years, it is the part-time instructors who have had to carry the burden and lose their jobs or see their workloads severely reduced here at Hancock College. Back in 2006, Hancock offered 4073 sections over the course of the school year. 2,523 of these were taught by part-time instructors. In 2011, 2788 sections were offered; 1,596 of these were taught by part-time teachers. Approximately 150 part-time instructors who were once employed here at Hancock are employed here no longer.

At its heart, the parity disparity is a moral issue. If you believe it is acceptable to pay people at widely disparate amounts for doing the same work, then the issue need not trouble you. But if you believe it is morally wrong for people to be paid at a far lesser rate for doing work identical to what someone else does, and to ask them to do so without any benefits, without office space, with little recognition and often little appreciation as well, you will begin to understand why this matters so much to the Part Time Faculty Association. You can also understand why we are demanding that Hancock College take the lead, and begin moving toward addressing this injustice.

In the past, the college administration and the Board of Trustees have shown leadership and vision in regard to part-time instructors. You are to be commended for your willingness to take a risk and agree to real seniority rights for part-time credit faculty. The seniority sections of our collective bargaining agreement are now held up as models for other part-time faculty unions. It took moral courage to take that step, and we at the PFA appreciate you showing that courage.

Now the administration and the Board of Trustees have an opportunity to show leadership once more. The Part-Time Faculty Association urges you to take the lead once again and begin the process of closing the parity gap. Work with us as we formulate a plan that will enable the adjunct instructors at Hancock College to get on the road to full equality.

The Part-Time Faculty Association realizes this problem cannot be solved overnight. The parity disparity has been years in the making. Solving it will require commitment, sacrifice, and dedication. But it can be done! In the weeks and months ahead the PFA will present ideas on how this problem can be addressed. We ask that you be open minded in assessing our ideas, and work with us in coming to a way to end the parity disparity.

Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA