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EDITORIAL: The McCollege of Pasadena

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Community colleges throughout the nation seem to be teaching their students on the cheap. And is it in the best interest of the student to be taught almost 60 percent of their community college education by part-time professors? Probably not, but that is the reality.

Part-time faculty teach more than half of all credit-earning classes and about three-quarters of all the developmental classes at community colleges, according to a report released by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 2009, the 987 public community colleges in the United States hired more than 400,000 faculty members, and 70 percent of them were part-time hires. Between 2003 and 2009, the number of full-time faculty grew by about 2 percent compared with a 10 percent increase for part-timers during the same time period, according to the CCCSE report.

Currently PCC has 1,108 part-time instructors with 118 of them being hired since the beginning of this school year. But the college has only 373 full-time instructors, according to figures provided by the Faculty Association.

How can being taught by so many part-time professors be good for a student’s education and future? Especially when these part-timers are basically ignored by the administration and left to teach on the fly.

Part-time faculty usually will learn which courses they’ll be teaching just days before a semester begins and lack many resources they’ll need to help insure a successful education for students.

“Their [part-time professors] access to orientation, professional development, administrative and technology support, office space and accommodations for meeting with students typically is limited, unclear or inconsistent,” the report said. “Moreover, part-time faculty have infrequent opportunities to interact with peers about teaching and learning…and rarely are included in important campus discussions about the kinds of change needed to improve student learning, academic progress and college completion.”

At PCC  part-time professors get little if any benefits such as pensions or medical, dental, and vision insurance. They have no rehire status or seniority and only get paid about $3,000 per class, which forces many to have to teach at various campuses. Most also have full-time jobs outside of the classroom. Some declined to talk to the Courier, fearing that they would be denied future contracts.

PCC must find a way to better include part-time professors into our family of higher education and stop treating them as just visiting second cousins. We put most of our students’ education in these part-timers’ hands, yet we deny them a much-needed hand for them to do their jobs successfully.

Has this administration become so bloated and bureaucratic that sacrificing a quality education for students became the only way to save money?

Fast food chain restaurants are notorious for hiring mainly part-time employees with little or no benefits. With so many part-time professors, Pasadena City College should change its name to the McCollege of Pasadena.

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9 Responses to “EDITORIAL: The McCollege of Pasadena”

  1. Kevin Clinton says:

    I loved the part time faculty who taught me. The energy and vibrance my teachers brought to the class room made me passionate about so many subjects. For example my professor of theater arts taught with such love. That I still find myself paying attention to tiny details like how long a cut is in a shot. Or monitoring whether a movie is properly following screen writing rules.

    My adjunct professor made me love philosophy 30 logic, so much I changed my major to philosophy!!!

    My adjunct professors were wonderful at PCC and they are not treated that way. Adjunct professors need to be treated with respect, a pay that meets their education and experience, and reliable contracts that don’t leave them vulnerable to retaliation.

    A good first step would be reliable semester to semester work.

  2. Former Part-Timer says:

    Dear Aimee Scholz,

    While I understand the anger about community colleges’ reliance on part-time faculty to make your education affordable, I think your cartoon was highly inappropriate.

    If it was meant to support the article about lack of full-time positions, I think it failed. Your cartoon was more insulting to part-timers and the hard work they put in than it was revealing about the status of their working conditions or the inequality they face in the work force.

    I worked hard as an adjunct. The pursuit of a full-time position is a near impossible task. The lack of support at many colleges, especially PCC, where part-timers are often treated as second class citizens is appalling.

    I wonder that if in your attempt to draw attention to these inequalities you were asking the wrong question. Adjuncts do not offer inferior teaching experiences. The questions you should have asked instead is how can stable jobs create a better work environment? How could providing a stable job to teachers create a better learning environment?

    MCeducation is not a product of part-timers’ failure to do their jobs.

    McEducation might be laid at the feet of two rising trends. The first trend is the students who are searching for an easy A, little to no reading or lack of personal responsibility for your own actions. The second trend that leads to McEducation are administrators who ask us to fill seats in order to keep the money rolling in.

    I think arguing that part-timers, or at least implying that part-time professors are substandard is inappropriate….we make your education at $46 a unit possible.

    Sincerely,

    A former Part-time Instructor who saw your article

  3. jokerman72 says:

    It is important that we continue this very-important conversation about the exploited condition of adjunct faculty. All across so-called “public” universities, state support has dropped, student fees have risen, administrative salaries, bloat, and positions have skyrocketed and faculty salaries have remained stagnant. Readers looking for the hard data to back up these claims may wish to consult THE FALL OF THE FACULTY or ACADEMICALLY ADRIFT or any number of articles posted in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. How could these trends, in any way whatsoever, point toward a fair, just, and equitable system?

  4. Darlene Burton says:

    I have been an Adjunct since 1999 and I came to PCC with many skills and Credentials in my field. I have been supported by my fellow Child Development colleagues and I have provided the students with the expertise and knowledge to be successful in their field of study. My objectives at PCC were to pass the baton to those entering the field of Child Development and Special Education. The politics of any organization can be overwhelming and frustrating, but I keep my personal focus: The students deserve the best I have to offer.

  5. Part Timer says:

    Part time faculty who are employed in their field can often bring more to a course than full time faculty, if full time faculty are out of touch and never update syllabi. This is especially important in occupational and technical programs, to ensure the relevancy of the course to the job market. Obviously, support services and teacher training are important to the retention and development of these important members of the faculty.

  6. Still no fall schedule says:

    I am an adjunct who has been bullied by full time faculty, obstructed by full time staff, ignored by full time administration and, as a result, the teaching and the students have suffered. PCC has been the most frustrating experience. There is no guarantee of rehire, there is zero IT support, the is no guidance on the depth or scope of the curriculum, there is no communication, no vision and rampant cronyism and animosity eat away at fabric of the community.

    Did I mention the part time faculty are paid less than any other college in the region (save GCC)? What kind of part time faculty are attracted to such a broken and abusive system? How does this translate to student success? Why does the administration not care? Is PCC too monolithic too care or change? And, with this environment, does anyone really believe that PCC will be able to retain its accreditation upon review?

  7. fellow faculty says:

    Part-time have a chance to make a difference! They are only as strong as their union is. Next week faculty will be voting for union officers and an adjunct faculty member is running for office. Power to the people.

  8. Madame Senator says:

    This is one of the finest editorials I’ve read in the Courier. It really encapsulates one of the major problems not just at PCC but in academia. As schools save $, it’s only the students that are getting the short end of the stick.

    Thank you, Courier.

  9. Potential Target says:

    “Has this administration become so bloated and bureaucratic…”

    Yes.

    We currently have one administrator for every four full-time faculty members. That’s either too many generals or not enough privates.

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