Published in the October 20, 2016 Santa Maria Times.

A lot is hinging on the Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees election this year.

Two challengers have come forward to take on two long-standing incumbents, and the outcome will determine the direction our community college will take over the next four years.

In Area Two, encompassing Orcutt all the way to New Cuyama, Dan Hilker is challenging Tim Bennett. In Area 4, Lompoc, Jeff Hall is challenging Bernard Jones.

The Part-Time Faculty Association of Hancock College, as well as the California Federation of Teachers and the Tri-counties Central Labor Council, are supporting Mr. Hilker and Mr. Hall.

Both have progressive, pro-education philosophies, both have a commitment to teachers and students, and perhaps most importantly, both are determined to restore to the Board of Trustees its primary duty as a watchdog over the administration, a duty the present board—with the exception of Hilda Zacarias, whom we also support—has largely abandoned.

A fair, pro-education outlook is especially important to the Part-Time Faculty Association. While some board members and the administration boast of Hancock’s glowing accreditation report, and that Hancock is ranked as one of the best 150 community colleges in the U.S., rarely if ever is it mentioned that without the contributions of the more than 500 part-time academic workers employed by the college, these accolades would not have happened.

Part-time instructors teach half the classes offered, counsel students, and serve them in myriad other ways—but do it for half the cost of a full-timer doing the very same job.

As a college president on the East Coast put it recently, adjunct or part-time faculty are like fine wine at discount prices.

When a student enters a classroom at Hancock, they have no way or knowing if their instructor is a full or a part-time teacher. Yet the part-time instructor is expected to and delivers the same quality instruction as a full-timer, but does it for half the pay.

When a student goes to see a counselor, there is no sign on the door that says he or she is entering the office of a part-time counselor. But the advice and guidance given is just as good and as important as that of a counselor employed full-time.

The argument often heard in response to this is that full-timers are called on to do work that a part-timer doesn’t have to do. My response is always the same—show me where it says on a student’s transcript the units earned from a part-timer are worth less than that of a full-timer and I will accept that. No one has ever provided a satisfactory answer.

We need a board that will honor and recognize the role of part-time academics, and we also need a board that will fulfill its duty to oversee the actions of the administration, a duty this board has largely given away.

For example, Board Policy 2430, adopted in October 2014, states that the superintendent/president only has to answer requests for information if it comes from the entire board. If an individual board member makes a request, the president only has to respond if, in his opinion, the request is not unduly burdensome. Only if the whole board requests something does the president have to answer. In other words, no room for dissension here, no room for an individual opinion, only a kind of group think is allowed.

We need a board that is willing to do its job, to ask questions and be more than a rubber stamp. The PFA urges you to vote for Dan Hilker and Jeff Hall on November 8.

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