December 2020 Advocate: Survey finds Covid MOU had limited effects on working conditions


AFT faculty survey finds the MOU had limited effects on working conditions under Covid

By Marianne Kaletzky, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary

This summer, AFT 1493 negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding setting forth changes to working conditions for SMCCD faculty during the pandemic. The current MOU applies only to Summer and Fall 2020; after hearing from District negotiators that they were unable to meet during November, AFT will begin negotiating a new MOU for Spring 2021 this December.

In preparation for the negotiations, we surveyed SMCCD faculty about their experiences with the current MOU, with the aim of seeing which provisions are working well and which could be improved. 134 SMCCD faculty members completed the survey, of whom 94 were full-time and 40 were part-time; respondents included counselors, librarians, and instructional faculty. Here’s what we found:

Few faculty got their class sizes reduced

The Summer/Fall MOU stipulated that faculty and administrators would adhere to the District Academic Senate’s guidance for adjusting enrollment caps, which requires that faculty—either individually or as a department or division—make a request to their deans to reduce the size of particular classes. 86% of survey respondents said that small class sizes would improve student learning and success rates—an answer that makes sense given the extraordinary stresses of the pandemic and distance learning on SMCCD students. Yet only 25.4% of respondents attempted to work out lower class caps with their deans, with 74.6% saying they did not try to reduce their class caps. Of those who did attempt to work out lower class caps, only 38.5% actually had their class caps reduced. Part-time and non-tenured faculty may face particular obstacles in approaching their deans—and few faculty are likely to engage in the process at all if they think their requests will not be given fair consideration. 76.5% of instructors who taught classes of 45 students or more (counted on Census Day) did receive the additional compensation the MOU provides for. But 73.7% of those who did receive additional compensation said it was not adequate to the extra work required to teach such a large class online.

Few faculty applied for leaves in Summer/Fall 2020

Only 6.9% of faculty applied for any kind of paid leave in Summer or Fall of 2020, including leaves covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). That means many faculty would likely benefit from leaves in Spring 2021—especially with the pandemic in full force and many K-12 schools still conducting distance learning. With the current Families First leave expiring on December 31, and the federal government having given no clear indication of whether it will renew the law, AFT is committed to fighting for the district to give SMCCD faculty the leaves they need.

Counselors valued additional “prof time”

The Summer/Fall MOU shifted the balance of counseling time and “prof time”—unscheduled time for maintaining records and following up with students—given the extraordinary needs of students during the pandemic, especially the need for more follow-up from counselors. Where full-time counselors previously had 25 hours of counseling time and 5 hours of “prof time” per week, the MOU gave counselors 21 hours of counseling time and 9 hours of “prof time.” 58.8% of counselors said the 4 hours of extra prof time were adequate for following up with students in the current circumstances, while 41.2% said they were not.

Librarians did not find the special provisions of the MOU adequate

71.4% of librarians said they did not find the special provisions of the Summer/Fall MOU adequate, with only 28.6% saying that they did. Many librarians have raised concerns around the process for evaluating librarians in a distance education context.

Most full-time faculty had their service work limited by the MOU

The Summer/Fall MOU specifies that full-time faculty shall not be required to engage in more than two “high-volume/high-demand” professional duties, including committee work, program review, and SLO’s. 71.8% of full-time respondents said their service work was, in fact, limited—a provision AFT hopes has allowed respondents to spend more time supporting students through the difficulties of distance learning.

While faculty felt they received adequate technical support and, where applicable, health and safety provisions, they did not think the support provided to SMCCD students was adequate

78% of respondents said they received adequate technical support to teach in a distance education context. And of the 19 respondents who taught face-to-face classes in Summer or Fall 2020, 12 said that they were given adequate protection and support in terms of health and safety protocols.

However, faculty thought the district fell short when it came to supporting SMCCD students, with 56.25% of respondents saying the technical support their students received was not adequate.