By David Milroy, Carol Whaley, and Alexis Moore
The California Part-Time Faculty Association (CPFA) sent out a survey to part-time faculty all over the state and the responses are even more alarming than one might have imagined. In order to get a good perspective on exactly who these part-time faculty are, we asked a variety of questions about their normal teaching loads and then went on to see how they and their colleagues had been affected by the pandemic.
Of the 292 respondents who completed the survey, all but 8 are currently teaching in the California Community College (CCC) system. 51% teach in only one community college, while 31% teach in two different colleges and 12% teach in either 3 or 4 colleges. 40% of the respondents have been working in higher education for 20 years or more, while the other 60% were divided evenly among the ranges of 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16-19 years. Curiously, 27% of the respondents had worked in the same college for 20 years or more, while those who were relatively new to the profession (1-5 years) made up 25%.
54% of respondents lost some or all of their classes in Summer and/or Fall 2020 due to low enrollment. For many of us who are lucky enough to be working in a district that offers them, health benefits are tied to our employment. Unlike 15 years ago when hardly any part-time faculty had benefits, 80% of the respondents teach in a district that currently offers health benefits although only 35% are eligible and using them. 13 respondents said that they had lost their benefits when they lost assignments in fall 2020, but the majority of those who previously had benefits have retained them so far.
So what is being done by districts and unions to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on CCC campuses for students, all college faculty, and staff? The top three solutions so far according to over 80% of respondents were cutting class sections, reducing part-time faculty positions, and cutting the hours of part-time counselors and librarians. Offering voluntary furlough or early retirement to tenured faculty came in at about 24%. Nearly all districts consider cuts to administrative positions and salaries as an absolute last resort, as demonstrated by the 50 survey respondents who described these cuts as “not being considered”, not to mention the 227 respondents who skipped this option completely! In any case, part-time faculty are getting the ax, tenured faculty are getting golden parachutes and administrators are, for the most part, totally unscathed by the financial impact of the pandemic.
Instruction has obviously been impacted the most. 43% of the respondents said that their colleges were only teaching fully online courses, while 56% said they were mostly online with limited in-person lab classes or services.