How many admins in Colorado’s Community College System advocate for adjunct faculty? ZERO!

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Mark DuCharme of the FRCC English Department poses with a pie chart showing how less than 12% of CCCS annual revenues go to the 4,600+ adjunct faculty who teach 75% of all the courses the CCCS offers. Half the CCCS workforce is this adjunct faculty, and they are paid poverty-level wages. Consequently, the community colleges are losing the great teachers that have long been the hallmark of the colleges.

BY CAPRICE LAWLESS

Few Colorado taxpayers, students and hard-working, devoted, adjunct faculty members are aware that there is not one person — among the hundreds of six-figure-earning administrators in the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) — charged with advocating for paying adjunct faculty a living wage. In fact, recent, historic events prove that part of the work of CCCS administrators is to argue against living wages for half the workforce in the CCCS; its army of 4,600+ adjunct faculty who teach the lion’s share of the 29,000+ courses this system offers. (The CCCS pays its adjunct faculty, on average, $18,340 per year. )

Let’s start at the top. Who advocates for higher wages for CCCS top executives? As of May, 2016, CCCS System President Nancy McCallin earns almost four times ($375K) the salary of Colorado  Gov. John Hickenlooper ($98K).  Each of the 13 CCCS presidents ($135K-$209K) earns far more than does the state’s governor. In addition, each CCCS president may receive a 15% annual salary bonus. The 48  CCCS vice presidents($72K-$181K+) earn, on average, far more than does the state’s governor. Each of the scores of CCCS Deans ($80-90K)  earn nearly the same salary as Gov. Hickenlooper. Advocating on their behalf is the state Department of Higher Education, headed by Colorado’s Lt. Governor. (The state’s Lt. Governor, with a salary of $68K, earns less than the average CCCS program director ($80K).

Furthermore, the state pays the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) annual membership dues of $60K per year. Part of the AACC mission is to coach college executives on how to negotiate higher salaries for themselves. The AACC is a national lobbying juggernaut. The CCCS is paying AACC dues partly to make sure Colorado taxpayers are paying higher wages for all CCCS executives.

Next in line, we have the full-time faculty minority of approximately 1,200 full-time faculty. They average fewer than 100 full-time faculty at work in each of the 13 CCCS colleges. They are paid, on average, two-thirds more per class than the adjunct faculty member who teaches the same class, with the same academic credentials and teaching experience. As of May, 2016, the average full-time faculty member in the CCCS, is paid $69K including benefits. Most of them are granted “release time” from teaching to serve as supervisors to the ocean of adjuncts who keep the lights on by teaching classes at all hours, even weekends, year-round. Advocating for higher wages and benefits for them are the scores of CCCS HR department personnel. Their go-to (and usually only) source of information is the other national, administration-focused organization, the gigantic and well-funded CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Association for Human Resources). CCCS HR also taps the CCCS budget, if needed, to hire consultants such as Sibson Consulting to conduct surveys to help them press for higher wages for full-time faculty, as they did a few years ago. The stats and surveys Sibson supplied the CCCS HR provided the numbers that justified the CCCS giving the full-time faculty a recent 20.3% pay raise. 

What about the CCCS HR? Don’t they advocate for adjunct faculty? Sadly, no. In fact, in the first hearing for the equal-pay-for-equal-work bill (HB 14-1154), the CCCS HR, represented by Aurora CC HR executive Cynthia Hesse, advocated fiercely against equal-pay-for-equal-work for adjunct faculty. She argued that to do so would require hiring more HR staff to keep track of all the paperwork. The CCCS HR administrators are the first ones to argue for the status quo, because they act as the right hand of CCCS administration. It’s a sad comment that, were the CCCS to have fewer adjunct faculty, each earning a higher wage and teaching more classes, the ostensibly sophisticated and software-savvy CCCS HR department would consider keeping track of them daunting. Sadder still is that the CCCS pays an HR professional to argue to that effect before legislative bodies. Since that time, the CCCS has hired approximately 1,000 more adjuncts, each of whom earns peanuts for their work, and no one hears any complaints from CCCS HR.

What about the classified staff at work in the CCCS? Who advocates for their wages and benefits? That would be Colorado WINS, a special SEIU-related union blessed by the Colorado governor. Through WINS, the state gives raises to the workers keeping the lawns mowed, the copiers running, and the trash emptied. They also get those workers drastically reduced health-care benefits, such as a recent reduction of 66%. Colorado WINS is barred from advocating for adjunct faculty in the CCCS, by legislative design.

What about the role of the Vice President for Executive Leadership Training and Development, Linda Bowman, someone among top CCCS leadership for the entire state? Wouldn’t part of that job description include advocating that the CCCS needs a stable faculty who is earning at least a living wage? Again, no. CCCS VP Linda Bowman testified against equal-pay-for-equal work for adjunct faculty in the Senate hearing for SB 15-094 last year. She repeated the tired meme of how the CCCS needs flexibility, and how seniority must not play a role in faculty decisions. Seniority plays a powerful role, however, in administration salary decisions and full-time faculty decisions, as evidenced by the numerous CCCS surveys and salary comparisons listed above. For adjuncts across the state who have been putting their hearts and souls into teaching community college students for years, whenever they hear six-figure-earning administrators whose own careers have profited mightily by seniority invoke the need for “flexibility,” it is widely recognized as code for protected practices of wage theft and age discrimination visited upon adjunct faculty.

What about the CCCS governing board, the State Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education? We strike out with this group, as well. The SBCCOE has determined that the faculty majority is so inconsequential that its members are considered part of the “public” and thus are allowed only five minutes per month to say anything at all during the SBCCOE monthly meetings. The SBCCOE only meets ten months out of the year, leaving half the CCCS workforce less than one hour total, annually, to be heard. Knowing that is the case, even so, during the first hearing for HB 14-1154, SBCCOE Chair Russ Meyer told lawmakers that any issues involving adjunct faculty could be handled by the system through its shared governance procedures. Most CCCS adjuncts have never even heard of shared governance, and those that do report that it seems to be something for full-time faculty only. The SBCCOE itself models for Colorado its definition of shared governance: very little sharing and an abundance of governance.

What about CCCS lobbyists at work in the state Capitol? Don’t they routinely argue for higher wages for CCCS adjunct faculty? Again, sadly, they do not. In fact, in the past two years, the CCCS has paid its lobbyists, the Capstone Group and JLH Public Affairs $132K to make sure both of equal-pay-for-equal-work bills (HB 14-1154 and SB 15-094) were defeated.

There is NOT ONE person in the CCCS or in the Colorado state government whose job it is to advocate for a living wage and better working conditions for adjunct faculty. In fact, as the details above describe, there are literally hundreds of people in the CCCS and under contract to CCCS administration who are paid to argue against paying any CCCS adjuncts a living wage. This design needs to change. Student success depends on a stable faculty able to focus on how best to teach and inspire learners.

It is the prestigious American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that has taken up the charge of advocating for CCCS adjunct faculty. With the help of the AAUP, we have also formed relationships with numerous members of the Colorado House and Senate who are willing to champion paying Colorado’s community college teachers a living wage. The alarming situation in Colorado has the attention of the executives within this august body and among far more in the Colorado legislature than ever before. The AAUP has led the charge for more than a century for faculty rights, academic freedom and shared governance, and thus AAUP membership within CCCS is growing.

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