Early retirement plan could lead to 80% part-time teachers at SBCC

Lucy Marx, News Editor

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As City College faces a budget deficit and discusses the option of a supplementary retirement plan, the already-high number of part-time faculty may grow to be an even bigger majority. 

In fall 2018, City College employed 523 part-time faculty out of 770 total faculty, with part-time faculty at 67% of the total. 

This reflects the high number of part-time students at the school and nearly 15% exclusively-online students. 

Part-time faculty provide more flexibility for the school, as they are paid hourly and employed on a semester-to-semester basis.  

A California state law mandates that part-time faculty may only work 67% of a full load. Additionally, the pay is significantly lower at 60-70% of a full-time salary.

“It depends greatly on the department,” said Geordie Armstrong, a geology instructor and member of the Academic Senate. 

For example, a large department with lots of course turnover such as the math department may have a higher number of adjuncts than a small department like geography, for which Armstrong is the only part-time faculty member. 

However, there is a stark difference in the workload expected of full-time and part-time faculty. “A full-time instructor does a lot more than teach classes,” said Armstrong. 

In the job description, a full-time instructor is also expected to sit on committees, help with planning and contribute to discussions on funding and college policy. 

Armstrong said she believes that the low number of full-time instructors forces them to do more work than they should. 

“Way too much of it gets put on full-time instructors,” she said. 

However, part-time instructors are a necessity for college. When full-time instructors go on study-abroad trips or sabbaticals, it is important to have the flexibility of a part-time instructor. 

Additionally, part-time allows instructors to remain in their field. It is difficult to find full-time instructors in fields such as computer science and engineering where the pay is higher than teaching, and teaching part-time on the side solves that problem. 

Despite some of the benefits, the reality of the job can be challenging.

Physical Education instructor Sally Saenger has been part-time faculty for her entire teaching career, and she “used to joke that [she is] part-time, temporary for 37 years.” 

Aside from pay, part-time faculty face issues that tenured professors do not, said Saenger. One of the larger issues, she said, is the lack of office space. Many part-time instructors do not have offices or permanent classrooms and therefore find difficulty scheduling time to meet with students outside of class. 

Employing too many part-time faculty can also be hard on students, she said.

“Faculty working conditions translate to student learning conditions,” said Saenger. 

Vandana Gavaskar, the director of learning support services, said she doesn’t believe that the majority of part-time faculty always affects student learning negatively. For example, tutors are still given to courses taught by adjuncts because tutor hiring is based on the course, not the faculty, she said. Additionally, she said she believes that part-time faculty can bring a fresh view of education, with some of them having just finished graduate school. 

“You’re gonna see a larger turnover in terms of advancement of technology,” Gavaskar said.

As part-time faculty are already a large majority, the proposed Supplemental Retirement Plan has the potential to skew the ratio even more. With the plan offered to many of the tenured, more experienced full-time workers, it would call for more part-time faculty to be brought in as replacements.

The SRP would disproportionately affect different departments, said Armstrong, as “there is no guarantee that all those positions are going to be replaced.”

Despite the drawbacks, “the reason that people teach part-time isn’t always a bad thing,” Armstrong said. “For a lot of people, they’re doing this as well as doing other things.”

Armstrong has personally felt the benefits of teaching part-time. 

“It has allowed me to raise my daughter and spend a whole lot of time with her,” she said.

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