BY CAPRICE LAWLESS
Alarmed by heartbreaking requests from their teaching colleagues for food, health-care, beds, housing, help with shut-off notices from Xcel Energy, etc., the faculty majority in the state’s most financially secure system of colleges asked Colorado’s State Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE) today to rethink its priorities.
Risking the retaliation that is commonplace from their college administrators and department chairs for speaking out, about a half dozen faculty members valiantly presented their 12-page, carefully researched report to the SBCCOE. Several community members in attendance wore signs identifying themselves as proxies standing in for thousands of adjuncts too afraid to appear before their own governing board.
The report outlines the shortcomings of a Colorado Community College System (CCCS) Adjunct Task Force created in 2014 by CCCS Pres. Nancy McCallin to address longstanding pay and workplace issues in the colleges. The CCCS spent $132K during the past two years on lobbyists to defeat equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation (HB 14-1154 and SB 15-094) that the same faculty group, members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), had put forth to address the workplace issues. The AAUP group had launched the legislative effort because, when adjunct faculty asked the administration for help in 2012, the administration told them to work with the state legislature instead.
The faculty addressing the SBCCOE board explained that most adjuncts regard as an insult that the CCCS recently gave its 4,600+ adjunct faculty a $4.80/week average pay raise while cutting their course loads, in most cases, by an entire course that pays, on average, $1,834, thus significantly reducing their already meager compensation. At the same time the CCCS gave its 1,250 full-time faculty a 20.3% pay raise that averages $188/week. The staggering wage discrepancy is emblematic, the adjunct faculty said in the presentation, of the disdain they feel from the administration, given adjunct and full-time faculty have the same credentials, teach the same courses, and are similarly experienced as teachers.
Meanwhile, the CCCS continues to raise tuition, has more than $251 million in reserves, spends millions on building projects across the state, and insists there simply isn’t enough money in the budget to pay its faculty majority a living wage or even to pay them the 28% pay increase its own Adjunct Task Force recommended in 2014.
The CCCS has, instead, hired nearly a thousand more adjuncts in the past year and spread course loads even thinner across what is now an ocean of part-time teachers. It has done so to avoid compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. Student learning suffers because of the increasingly high churn rate among faculty, 75% of whom are forced to teach part-time as the system continues to eliminate full-time teaching positions. Administrators in the CCCS now outnumber full-time faculty two to one. Part-time (adjunct) faculty outnumber full-time faculty three to one.
The stated mission of the CCCS emphasizes student learning, yet less than 42% of the CCCS budget goes to those providing the instruction. Of that, only 12% goes to the impoverished adjunct faculty, who teach the vast majority of the courses, and who must now beg for food, heat and the essentials of life. Unless the CCCS rethinks its priorities, these faculty members told the SBCCOE when they presented their report, the CCCS will continue to fail its central mission.