The Need for Full Time Faculty (again)

April
2010
Jane Patton, President

These days at board and district governance/budget committee meetings, faculty all over the state are making the case for why we need full-time faculty. While in some cases, a district’s 75:25 ratio may be better than a year ago (because the sections that were cut from the class schedule were those taught by adjuncts), we continue to have serious concerns over: 1) the erosion of the 50% law (Education Code §84362, requires each community college district to spend at least half of its “current expense of education” each fiscal year for salaries and benefits of classroom instructors); 2) the 75:25 ratio (75 % of the classes should be taught by full-time faculty); and 3) the full-time faculty obligation number (FON).

In September 2008, past president Ian Walton’s Rostrum article, Academic Excellence: Why California’s Community Colleges Need the 75/25 Full Time Faculty Standard, laid out the fundamental principles behind the legislative intent to ensure that at least 75% of the courses offered be taught by full time faculty. Citing AB 1725 he said,

In 1988, the California Legislature in section 70 of AB 1725 (the fundamental California Community College reform bill) found and declared: “Because the quality, quantity and composition of full-time faculty have the most immediate and direct impact on the quality of instruction, overall reform cannot succeed without sufficient numbers of full-time faculty.”

The AAUP Policy Statement on Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession said this:

The proportion of faculty who are appointed each year to tenure-line positions is declining at an alarming rate. Because faculty tenure is the only secure protection for academic freedom in teaching, research, and service, the declining percentage of tenured faculty means that academic freedom is increasingly at risk. Academic freedom is a fundamental characteristic of higher education, necessary to preserve an independent forum for free inquiry and expression, and essential to the mission of higher education to serve the common good. This report examines the costs to academic freedom incurred by the current trend toward overreliance on part- and full-time non-tenure-track faculty. (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/conting-stmt.htm)

At the November 2009 Board of Governors’ (BoG) meeting, the BoG determined that because of the current fiscal circumstances and especially the unprecedented reductions in categorical funding, districts that are found to be out of compliance with the 50% law will be “. . . allowed to submit to the Board of Governors, as part of its application for exemption, evidence that all or part of the district’s noncompliance was attributable to the use of general purpose funds to backfill cuts to categorical programs.” The BoG agreed to allow exemptions through 2013. I took the opportunity to remind the BoG that despite the state of the economy, their current action represents a move away from the principles established in AB 1725, Education Code, Title 5, BoG positions and recommendations of the Academic Senate.

So at the March 2010 BoG meeting, I distributed a packet of materials which provide reasons why colleges and students do better with a predominance of full-time faculty. Below is the cover letter to the BoG and a list of the resources I provided them (with contributions from Richard Mahon and Janet Fulks). Now is the time to educate trustees, administrators and your colleagues about why full-time faculty matter, so when more colleges are able to hire, they are committed to the same values. I hope these will be useful to you as you make the case locally. Know that those of us working in Sacramento will continue to argue for these well-established positions and principles, as challenging as that may be.


Dear Members of the Board of Governors:

Previously I spoke to you about the disturbing trend in California and in all of higher education in the country of relying more and more on part-time or contingent faculty. Enclosed are several articles about the need for and benefit of full-time faculty. As you will see in these resources, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and others have long recognized the long-term institutional benefits of full-time and tenured faculty.

The Academic Senate has long been committed to the goal established over 20 years ago in AB1725 to the crucial role of full-time faculty to California community colleges. We maintain this commitment not out of narrow self-interest, but because we believe this commitment is crucial to the well-being of our students. We are not alone in recognizing this crucial linkage. Many studies over the past decade have provided evidence of a strong correlation between institutional commitment to full-time faculty and student success. Simply put, colleges which fail to commit adequately to full-time faculty fail to commit to their students.

There is another reason not addressed in these articles that is crucial to the viability of California’s community colleges. As you are aware, California’s community colleges have been subject to an exceptional level of sanction by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (Commission). In regard to student learning outcomes (SLO), the Commission’s timetable requires all California community colleges to be “proficient” with regard to SLOs by 2012. Among the characteristics for “proficiency” are the following, from the Commission’s website.

  • Student learning outcomes and authentic assessment are in place for courses, programs and degrees.
  • There is widespread institutional dialogue about the results.
  • Decision-making includes dialogue on the results of assessment and is purposefully directed toward improving student learning.

These are all activities in which the role of full-time faculty is crucial. Our part-time faculty are often excellent instructors; however both student and institutional well-being are dependent on what faculty do outside of the classroom. It is informal faculty dialog with students that fuels their understanding of and passion for continuing education, and it is formal dialog among full-time faculty that leads to development, assessment, and dialog about student learning outcomes. The Commission recognizes the clear link between full-time faculty committed to both student success and institutional health and well-being. It is not clear that the leaders of many of our colleges are able to transcend the current economic crisis to recognize this obvious relationship.

It is virtually certain that the percentage of full-time faculty will increase in the very short run, because the cancelling of thousands of sections across the state has ended the contributions of many part-time faculty. It is also the case, however, that some districts, perhaps many, will use “golden handshakes” and other mechanisms to encourage the retirement of our most experienced faculty, and the Board of Governors needs to do all in its power to insist that full-time faculty are hired as resources begin to return to our colleges.

In addition to the reasoning in these articles, another concern that colleges face is the turnover in the administrative ranks and a need to “grow our own” administrators from faculty ranks, and it is possible there is a connection with the decreasing number of tenured faculty and insufficient faculty willing/able to move into administrative positions. Fewer full-time faculty means fewer opportunities to promote from within and an increased need to recruit administrators from outside California. The institutional commitment and experience gained through years of teaching within the system is a rich resource for developing the next generation of college leaders.

I hope you will find the following articles to be a resource for you now and in the future.

Jane Patton, President
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges

RESOURCES

American Association of University Professors (AAUP). AAUP Policy Statement: Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession. Retrieved from http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/conting-stmt.htm

Benjamin, E. (2002). How over-reliance on contingent appointments diminishes faculty involvement in student learning. Peer Review. American Association of University Professors. (pp. 4, 10).

Jacoby, D. (2006, February). Effects of part-time faculty employment on community college graduation rates”. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(6). (pp. 1081-1082 and 1100-1101).

Jaschik, S. (2006). Adjuncts and graduation rates. Inside Higher Education.

Walton, I. (2008, September). Academic excellence: Why California’s community colleges need the 75/25 full time faculty standard. Rostrum. Academic Senate for California Community Colleges: Author.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.