Effective Practices: Part-Time Faculty and Local Academic Senates

April
2012
Lesley Kawaguchi, Educational Policies Committee Chair

At the 2010 Fall Plenary, Resolution 13.09 “Best Practices: Integrating Part-Time Faculty into Shared Governance” passed with the following resolved clauses:

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges administer a comprehensive survey soliciting quantitative and qualitative information about local senates’ bylaws and best practices regarding the recruitment, encouragement, and inclusion of part-time faculty in the voice of the academic senate through such means as local senate executive committee participation, department representation, compensation, voting or non-voting status, and inclusion on senate and local committees; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges compile and disseminate information regarding participation of part-time faculty via a paper, Rostrum articles, or other appropriate venues, and report on the progress of the resolution at the Fall 2011 Plenary Session.

In the Spring 2011, the Academic Senate sent a survey on part-time faculty to all local academic senate presidents, who were asked to pass it on to their part-time faculty or respond themselves. While 61 colleges had at least one respondent among the 261 individuals who participated in the survey, a handful of colleges accounted for disproportionate representation in their participation. However, while such a distribution of respondents might lead one to fear that the survey results would be skewed, the responses point to critical areas in which part-time faculty need to and can be more fully included in the 10 plus 1 areas that cover professional and academic matters.

As California community college faculty, we live in a world where part-time instructors are often the majority working in individual departments and throughout a college. Of the 212 respondents to the survey who specified their role on campus, 133 part-time faculty or 62.7% acknowledged that they were local part-time union members. In marked contrast, only 23 part-time instructors (10.8%) were members of a local senate committee, though 45 part-time faculty (21.2%) identified themselves as local senate members.

When asked to “Describe your overall sense of whether your college actively encourages the participation of part-time faculty in wider academic and professional activities beyond their scheduled classroom hours and class preparation,” 65 of the 226 respondents (28.8%) were neutral, while 96 (42.5%) either felt that very little or nothing at all was done to encourage part-time faculty to participate beyond teaching. This lack of encouragement extended to the college as a whole, where 63 of 224 respondents (28.1%) were neutral and 127 (56.7%) felt that there was little to no “level of actual participation of part-time faculty in the wider academic and professional life of the college.” As one respondent stated, “I teach, that's all . . . I don't feel there's any point in speaking out . . . I would have to personally track someone down to do so . . . I live too far away to go to the occasional 4 o'clock meeting.” And even part-time faculty who participate noted, “I feel welcome to participate in every way, and I've been willing to do so. Of course, there's the issue of money and status, and although I feel welcomed, I still sense that I'm getting underpaid and that I'm seen as ‘of lower status.’"

The majority of respondents noted that they participate through their departments or their disciplines. However, because of the wording of the question and because full-time faculty also filled out the survey, it is unclear whether the respondents were full-time or part-time. Out of 187 individuals who responded, 143 (76.5%) said their primary participation occurred at the departmental or discipline level, though 92 (49.2%) responded that they participated in college governance. Most got involved because of ad-hoc peer encouragement (86 of 183 respondents or 47.0%). But more importantly, college policies, senate policies, union contracts, and stipends overwhelmingly accounted for why people participated.

Yet, half of respondents noted that their local academic senate barely encouraged or did not encourage part-time faculty participation by specific resolutions or actions, nor did local academic senates actively solicit the views of part-time faculty on particular issues (98 out of 216 or 45.4%). These results suggest some possible practices that could encourage better participation by part-time faculty. If college policies, senate policies, union contracts, and stipends were crafted to encourage part-time faculty participation, then local senates might consider ways that encourage part-time faculty members to join in important areas of the college, including development and assessment of student learning outcomes, accreditation, program review, curriculum development, and student success initiatives, in which the overwhelming majority noted part-time faculty do not participate.*

Most respondents indicated that part-time faculty were allowed to vote in department or division meetings (110/198 or 55.6%) and that they had dedicated representation on local academic senates (143/182 or 78.6%). In addition, the results appeared to indicate a trend toward counting part-time faculty votes as whole votes compared to proportional.

Most part-time faculty members have access to specific services or benefits from their colleges that are fundamental necessities to basic instruction. These services include a college mailbox, a college phone and voicemail, a shared common office space (most have little or no access to individual office space), a college e-mail address, access to computers and printers, duplicating or printing of large jobs, self-service copiers for small jobs, office or classroom supplies, and cost-free professional development opportunities such as on campus workshops. However, benefits that could substantially and substantively help part-time instructors in improving the quality of their instruction and participation are lacking, including having a faculty mentor, reimbursed professional development expenses such as, conference registration fees, compensated faculty governance activities such as a salary or stipend for hours spent at local senate and other committee meetings, and compensated professional development activities other than required flex, such as salary for hours spent at a conference.

While most of the respondents have access to optional health benefits paid by the employee, retirement benefits paid by the college or district, optional retirement benefits paid by the employee, regular evaluation by students and peers, seniority or rehire preference for part-time positions, and parity pay goals that have been defined by the college or district, most do not have health benefits paid by the college or district, a part-time hiring process essentially the same as the full-time process, preferential consideration for full-time hiring, and parity pay goals that have been met. While these practices and benefits do exist at some institutions, not all have been endorsed by statewide or national faculty bodies, and therefore local senates and bargaining units should consider locally which of them would be appropriate for their specific colleges or districts.

Perhaps the most troubling results of the survey point to a disparity in the view that part-time instructors are at a college to teach and yet not being provided all of the tools to be more effective instructors, including active engagement in critical processes in the life of a department.

  • Office hours, 90/188 or 47.9%, little or no participation
  • Department meetings, 98/187 or 52.4%, little or no participation
  • Curriculum development, 129/186 or 69.7%, little or no participation
  • Course level SLOs development, 104/187 or 55.6%, little or no participation
  • Course level SLOs assessment, 91/187 or 48.7%, little or no participation
  • Program review, 135/185 or 73%, little or no participation
  • Discussions of pedagogy, 117/184 or 63.6%, little or no participation
  • Evaluation of faculty peers, 153/187 or 81.8%, little or no participation
  • Selection of textbooks and materials, 116/189 or 61.4%, some, little, or no participation
  • Basic skills initiative, 113/179 or 63.1%, little or no participation

 

When asked if part-time faculty at their colleges or districts have other concerns or issues about their academic and professional environment, the 88 who responded offered almost 88 different answers, ranging from parking, lack of communication, and hostile full-time faculty or department or division chairs to lack of time and being demoralized. Perhaps more importantly, however, in response to the question “From the academic senate perspective, are there incentives that would make part-time faculty more likely to become involved in the academic and professional environment at the college/district?” the answer was more uniform: compensation or a stipend for participation.

The survey results clearly show that part-time instructors are generally not engaged in significant aspects of their departments and their colleges. Some respondents expressed hope of eventually being hired full time. But unless part-time faculty are provided faculty mentors and opportunities to engage in their departments and their colleges as a part of the work that is expected of full time faculty, many may find themselves unable to discuss their potential contributions to their students, their departments, their colleges, and communities in concrete terms during a hiring interview. Thus, local academic senates might be well served to explore ways to incentivize the participation of part-time faculty, not only to help in department and college initiatives but also to help in student success.

*The survey responses in specific areas under the purview of the academic senate were telling:

  • Accreditation self-study, 122/185 or 65.9%, very little or no participation
  • Academic senate meetings, 94/185 or 50.8%, very little or no participation
  • Academic senate committees, 105/180 or 58.3%
  • Curriculum approval process, 139/184 or 75.5%, very little or no participation
  • Full-time faculty hiring teams, 154/174 or 88.5%, very little or no participation
  • Part-time faculty hiring teams, 162/176 or 92%, very little or no participation
  • SLO development, 87/182 or 47.8%, very little or no participation
  • SLO assessment, 72/183 or 39.3%, very little or no participation, though 65/183 35.5%, some or all participate
  • Evaluation of administrators, 121/175 or 69.1%, very little or no participation
  • Basic skills initiative, 101/179 or 56.4%, little or no participation

 

In contrast, for union activities, 76/182 or 41.8%, were mostly or completely participating.

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