Published in the November 26, 2016 Santa Maria Times.
Two incumbents on the Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees — Tim Bennett and Bernard Jones — faced re-election challenges from Dan Hilker and Jeff Hall. Both Bennett and Jones have been on the board for 12 years, while Hilker and Hall are political novices, never having run for office before.
Hilker and Hall had the support of the Part-Time Faculty Association, the largest employee group on the Hancock campus, as well as that of the California Federation of Teachers, Central Labor Council, and in the case of Hall, the backing of the Santa Maria Democratic Club.
As of this writing, Hall appears to have won his race by a margin of 467 votes, and Hilker has pulled ahead of Bennett by 161 votes.
Like our candidates, getting involved in politics is something new for the Part-Time Faculty Association. We made our first venture in 2012, when we supported Hilda Zacarias in her successful bid to unseat long-time board member Henry Grennan. And while we know politics is a risky business, we have determined that changing the composition of the Board of Trustees is the most effective way to make meaningful changes at Hancock College, where, despite the recent comments of the president and some members of the board, all is not nearly as rosy as the public has been led to believe.
The most pressing issue is the continued overuse and exploitation of the colleges part-time academic workforce. While part-timers continue to teach approximately half of the classes offered each semester, and still outnumber the full-time teachers by a ratio of 3-1, we continue to be paid far less than our full-time counterparts for doing the same work, and we do so without medical benefits and without offices.
We are also expected to do our work without being paid for the time it takes to prepare our classes — full-time teachers are paid for this — or the time it takes to grade our students work, another example of what full-timers are compensated for and we are not.
Furthermore, Hancock College continues to lag far behind what other community colleges in our area pay their part-time teachers and academic support staff. As of the fall of 2015, a part-time credit instructor at Santa Barbara City College starts at $74.63 per hour, whereas at Hancock that same person begins at $52.25 per hour. The maximum a part-time credit instructor without a doctoral degree can earn at Hancock is $73.22 per hour, while at Cuesta College that rate is $99.47 per hour.
While these figures may sound like a very high rate of pay to most people, it is important to remember that part-time faculty are limited to 9 hours per week, and most work less. And, when you take into account that each class hour requires two hours out of class for preparation and grading, those figures are reduced by approximately two-thirds. Thus, a person starting at Hancock at $52.25 per hour is actually earning about $17.42 per hour.
I’m asked often why Hancock College is so miserly toward its part-time academics. My answer is that all California community colleges receive their money from the state in the same way. If a community college district pays its teachers poorly, that reflects the priorities of the administration and the board. At the PFA we want to see the priorities changed such students and those who teach them are at the forefront, and the way to do that is to change the Board of Trustees.
Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA