Part-time (“adjunct”) instructors at Pasadena City College deserve more respect and equity.
Part-time faculty are temporary-contingent employees and currently number an average of 49 percent of the faculty at post-secondary institutions in the United States. Approximately 42,000 part-time professors are employed each year at California’s community colleges. At Pasadena City College (PCC), the percentage is much higher: 678 part-time instructors compared to 394 full-time, comprising 64% of the entire faculty.
If the college cancels their classes due to low enrollment, or the dean of their department decides not to offer them a class for any unexplained reason, they lose their job and would have to go on unemployment. Many are “freeway flyers,” teaching at multiple colleges in a given day or week. Even though many have PhDs like their full-time counterparts, they get paid about 30% less.
Due to the severe lack of support experienced by many part-time professors at Pasadena City College, a recent faculty-student demonstration was organized on campus, which I attended, in an effort to bring awareness to the unfair situation part-time faculty in.
Pasadena City College part-time professor Professor Shannon Maraghy was in attendance, and has been teaching at the college since 2008. She, like other part-time faculty, has been calling for equity with full-time faculty in terms of health insurance, job security, equal pay for equal work, and compensation for meeting attendance, committee participation, course prep and grading, the latter for which there is currently a class action lawsuit at Long Beach City College. At PCC they can’t even vote on critical issues, like last month’s vote of no confidence on Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas.
Even the term ‘adjunct’ to describe a part-time professor does them a disservice: “added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part,” which is how they are treated and feel.
Professor Tracy Bodis has been teaching part-time at PCC for 25 years and also spoke at the rally, highlighting the stigma attached to being part-time. “They don’t want us to make decisions, they don’t want us to have a voice. We’re not permitted on committees to choose new faculty [or deans] to work within our own divisions.”
Over-reliance on part-timers
California Community Colleges increasingly turn to part-time faculty in order to reduce teaching labor costs and improve “staffing flexibility.” However, the college administration’s position of increasing the numbers of dispensable adjunct teaching faculty with low pay and minimal job security creates a problem of disillusionment and dissatisfaction for these highly-educated professionals. Although many part-time faculty members have taught at PCC for 10, 15, 20 years, and more, their prospects of becoming full-time are very low, as such positions rarely appear.
Disregard for satisfaction on the job is a lose-lose for all
The findings from my 2019 dissertation on part-time instructors at California community colleges show that part-time faculty feel under-supported, yet they still devote more than the required time to support the students. They seek to serve the students to the best of their ability, but find themselves in challenging circumstances.
I believe high job satisfaction in adjunct faculty is a very important factor which is disregarded by the college administration. Dissatisfied employees are likely to have low morale, and therefore their performance levels may not be as high as those with high job satisfaction. Some say they want to leave the profession but need to stay, and I have been told although the working conditions are problematic, their interactions with students and fellow employees bring satisfaction to their jobs.
Treating our contingent workforce in higher education isn’t just a labor-working condition issue. They are educational stewards for future generations in our community. Treating educators like second-class citizens denigrates the profession, and the exploitative practice of saving money off the backs of our educators, or anyone for that matter, is demoralizing and unacceptable.
Adjunct faculty members are an important component of teaching in community colleges. It will benefit all of us if their teaching expertise is used wisely by college administrators. We in the community must support the part-time faculty at our local Pasadena Community College.
Dr. Steve Gibson is a Pasadena City College alumnus and 20-year resident and community advocate in the Pasadena/Altadena area. He got his PhD in education with his dissertation on job satisfaction of adjunct instructors at community colleges in California. He is running for PCC Board of Trustee, District 3. For more visit www.stevegibson4pcc.com.