Project ACCEPT proposal passes in the Educational Advisory Council (EAC)

A hugely important step has just been taken by the EAC — an advisory committee made up of faculty, APs, and administrators from around the college. This is the main avenue for faculty members to participate in the governance process.

By a large margin, the members of the EAC voted on 12/9 to adopt the recommendations of the Task force on work place climate for “part-time” instructors. The vote at the EAC meeting was 27 in favor, 3 opposed, 2 abstentions. (Some members are administrators, and they were among the nay and abstain votes.)

The vote was put on hold at the insistence of the administration (and their lawyer) while we were in negotiations for a new contract. But the heroic chair — Sylvia Gray, long-time PT instructor in history before finally getting a FT slot — put the recommendations on the agenda of the EAC, month after month, symbolically letting the college administration know that the concerns were not going away. The report and recommendations are both of exceptionally high quality — well researched, clearly stated, and deeply thoughtful. The process took a long time, and many of the individuals who worked long and hard on the project are no longer with PCC.

The recommendations now go to Sylvia Kelley as interim District President. In a meeting at Cascade, she said she did not think that important initiatives at the college — like moving on the Completion Investment Council — would have to wait until there is a new District President. (1) We can hope that she will see these recommendations as among the important college initiatives.

If you haven’t looked the report, we recommend it as holiday reading. There are three “best practice” examples described there, and they are helping to guide the vision of our Federation bargaining team.

A basic principle of social justice is that as soon as enough people understand that the oppressive conditions that structure their lives are NOT inevitable — that a  better world is possible — the status quo becomes intolerable. Looking at how other, comparable institutions have created ways to overcome the faculty caste system — impeding both the joy in teaching AND fully effective student learning — makes it clear that we do not have to simply adapt to the workplace structures at PCC. We can do better!

(1) as heard by Shirlee Geiger in the CA TLC 12/7/2015

Another Must-Read

There is a comprehensive account of the troubles caused by reliance on academic contingent labor, this time from The Atlantic.

Go to:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/higher-education-college-adjunct-professor-salary/404461/

Here is short excerpt, appealing to evidence-based educational practice, which supports our negotiating goals of better job security and inclusion in institutional initiatives for  the majority teachers:

So the real question is whether the shift to adjunct teaching has helped or hurt education outcomes. That turns out to be a hard question to answer definitively, because comprehensive data on student outcomes is hard to come by[…]

A study of community-college students found that those who had more exposure to part-time teachers were less likely to transfer to four-year universities. Another detailed study of six public universities within one state found that at four of those schools, freshmen who had more time with part-time faculty were substantially less likely to return sophomore year. Interestingly, however, at the other two universities in that state, freshmen with higher exposure to part-time teachers were slightly more likely to persist to sophomore year. The difference, the researchers discovered, is that these two schools gave their part-time instructors more support, including them, for instance, in new-faculty orientation programs .

An Adjunct Manifesto

by sg

Here is a wonderful piece from an adjunct blog I recently found. I am pasting in the beginning of the manifesto, but invite you to go read the rest, and explore the archives!

The crisis of identity for adjunct faculty takes different forms, at different times, in different places, but is an undercurrent that flows through their lives. Adjunct faculty, a de facto underclass, carry the institution of higher education on their backs for just above poverty wages. Some [of us] are simply so busy maintaining a professional practice, and trying to make ends meet, under oppressive conditions, [we] hardly have time, between campuses, to consider [our] dismal fate. Rationalization is the dominant coping mechanism.

http://adjunctcrisis.com/about/

Project ACCEPT: A dream deferred—but not for long

This past Wednesday, February 25, 2015 was National Adjunct Walkout Day, a day for contingent faculty across the country to walk out of class to increase awareness of the plight of part-time college instructors across the country. PCCFFAP asked its members not to walk out; instead we and sympathetic PCC employees wore buttons and stickers with “76%” on it to show support for the 76% of PCC instructors who are part-timers.

On that same day, PCC’s Project ACCEPT was scheduled to deliver their report to the EAC, after many months of discussion and deliberation, for approval and forwarding to PCC President Jeremy Brown.

Instead, Chris Chairsell, PCC’s Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs, announced moments before the meeting that PCC’s lawyers had examined the report and decided that the EAC should not vote to put the report on Dr. Brown’s desk while contract negotiations were ongoing.

Coincidentally, those negotiations had just begun the previous Friday.

Additionally, she forbade all PCC managers (which included many at the EAC meeting) from not only voting on the matter but also discussing the issues at all. Some hesitant dialogue about the report—but not its contents—ensued, including several who stated their support of adjuncts and the work of Project ACCEPT. Then, the EAC voted to table the report until the end of contract negotiations. In the meantime, it will remain on the Action Item section of the agenda for each meeting so that it is clear that the report would not be forgotten.

PCC’s lawyers had examined the report many times. In addition, Chairsell had been involved with the drafting of the report, affecting its final language and shape; several recommendations were rephrased as “findings,” and language was inserted in order to avoid any appearance of bargaining outside of contract negotiations.

She could have brought this particular issue up many times, either in her private discussions with Project ACCEPT or in the EAC meetings during which the Project’s report was discussed. Her move was timed to be dramatic and surprising, and it certainly involved a generous reading of labor law surrounding this matter.

The timing was also ironic for PCC’s part-time instructors, since it came on Adjunct Walkout Day. On the same day that PCC’s part-time instructors showed their support for PCC by not walking out of our classes, the PCC administration reciprocated by blocking progress towards greater inclusion and acceptance of the adjuncts who represent the majority of their faculty.

We, the part-timers, offered reconciliation and support; the administration offered obstruction and silence.

While it’s easy to get discouraged by the news that the report will be deferred, it’s also clear that Chairsell and the administration are concerned that the EAC will vote to support this report, which would force the administration to take action on adjunct matters—or to at least acknowledge that PCC isn’t helping the majority of its faculty, and the students whom we teach, succeed.

PCC, it should be noted, treats its part-timers better than comparable institutions in the Portland area. (And, yes, that’s thanks to the efforts of PCCFFAP in contract negotiations). Our pay is better, and the benefits are easier to obtain, but more can be done, particularly in the area of job security.

Even assignment rights, our only assurance of ongoing job security, only guarantee us one class per quarter on a rolling basis, and that class can still be cancelled, or we can still be told “We have no classes for you” with little notice at all. One-year or two-year contracts would be a great step in the direction of job security and increased respect.

Whenever contract negotiations are concluded, the report will be again brought up for a vote. Indications are that it will be approved and forwarded on to Dr. Brown, who will then have to act on its recommendations—or explain why he cannot.

In the meantime, there’s plenty you can still do about adjunct issues. Come to EAC meetings to voice your support for Project ACCEPT or for adjunct instructors, or speak at PCC board meetings about adjunct rights.

Most importantly, if you’re a part-time instructor at PCC, be sure that you’ve joined PCCFFAP. Your voice and vote are always vital, but they are never more important than during contract negotiations—which are happening right now. Even though PCCFFAP always represents every member of the faculty, its power is magnified when it has more members.

In the case of adjuncts, low membership numbers diminishes your federation’s power at the bargaining table. When PCCFFAP tries to put forward a proposal that might benefit part-time faculty, the administration can just point to low PCCFFAP membership numbers for part-timers and say, “What do you know about part-timers? They are saying you don’t represent them.”

So increase awareness of the plight of adjuncts however you wish—speak to your students, your colleagues, to the administration—but please join us at PCCFFAP, your federation. Your voice matters.