March 2021 Advocate: Faculty write to Board to support part-time parity

Campaign for Part-Time Parity

SMCCD faculty express discontent over inequities faced by part-time faculty in spirited letter-writing campaign 

180 speak out to support Part-Time Parity! 

by Katharine Harer, AFT 1493 Co-Vice President and Jessica Silver-Sharp, AFT 1493 Secretary

In just four days, between February 26th and March 1st, SMCCD faculty members flooded the SMCCD Board and Chancellor’s inboxes with 180 letters focused on the need to establish Part Time Parity NOW — in THIS contract. In this spirited letter writing campaign, organized by AFT1493’s Contract Action Team (CAT), part time and full time faculty members from all three campuses and a broad range of disciplines were moved to share their thoughts and experiences with District decision-makers.

The goal? To influence our elected board members to “walk the talk” and stand up for our District’s 477 part-time faculty by directing the District’s negotiators to establish a “mirror schedule,” equal in steps and columns to the full-time schedule, and commit to a four-year path to achieving 85% parity.

In this article, we’ll share a sampling of forceful and moving quotes we selected from the 180 letters. Each quote is followed by a link to the writer’s full letter included in a selection of the letters on the AFT1493 website, where you’ll also find more examples of powerful letters written by faculty during this campaign.


Where’s the equity?

Many faculty members called out the inequitable treatment of part-time faculty as shameful given the district’s boasts about promoting equity and social justice.

“How can we look our students in the eye with a straight face and tell them we represent the future where people are valued for their contributions in a just environment, when most of us are relegated to the lower caste of a class-based system. Until we have parity, all the Equity conferences and platitudes are just empty posturing.” (Gregg Grist, Skyline PT, Physics) Full letter

“The San Mateo Community College District is committed to equity and social justice. This mission statement should apply not only to students, but to all employees of the San Mateo District Community, including adjunct faculty. I propose that a fair and just model be followed, rather than an efficiency model in compensation for adjunct faculty.” (Anonymous, PT) Full letter

“The love and passion that my part-time colleagues and I showcase in our work with our students have been taken for granted by the district. And this is an antithesis to “Equity & Social Justice” that the district claims to stand for.” (Suji Venkataraman, Skyline, PT, ECE) Full letter


Full-time faculty support their adjunct colleagues

Faculty expressed unflagging support for one another. It’s especially heartening to read so many letters by full-time faculty members who advocated for their part-time colleagues and described the essential contributions that adjunct faculty make to their departments and our students.

“I am the only full-timer in my program with four adjuncts on board. These adjuncts help me write curriculum, attend flex activities and maintain our studios and equipment. More importantly, they are all excellent instructors who we are lucky to have. We would not have a successful program without them.” (Rebecca Alex, CSM, FT, Art) Full letter

“My full-time colleagues have always treated me as a peer and as equally important to the History department as themselves. There is a camaraderie and mutual respect here that I think is important.” (Michael Phipps, Skyline, PT, History) Full letter


Full-timers remember their own experience as adjuncts

Many full-time faculty reflected on their personal hardships as former adjuncts, years as freeway fliers juggling the insecurity of job assignments and the constant financial strain of economic survival in the Bay Area.

“I was an adjunct for over 10 years. I want to share my part-time teaching experience as a single mother living in the Bay Area. I remember living in the fear of not knowing whether I will make enough money to pay for my living expenses six months from now. I remember getting my class cancelled last minute and I had to deal with my ex’s anger for not getting a “real job” to support the children.” (Christina Shih, Skyline FT, Psychology) Full letter

“I was a part time faculty member for 5 years, and I have been full time since 2014. While I was a part timer, I taught at three colleges concurrently (6 sections) to pay for my Bay Area rent. Every day I drove to at least two campuses, and occasionally I drove to three. It was unsustainable for anyone who had any family commitments and I was fortunate to get a full time job when I did. I also had to make many difficult personal decisions during my years as a part timer that will impact my whole life. I wasn’t able to buy a house or start a family because it just wasn’t possible under those conditions. I think that there is a misconception that adjuncts aren’t the breadwinners, but I was (and I still am.)”  (Doniella Maher, Cañada, FT, English) Full letter

“I have been a counselor at Skyline College for 2 years as a full time faculty. I experienced a few years as a part-timer at multiple colleges and found it often difficult to make ends meet on a part-time salary. Furthermore, I felt an overwhelming detriment to my overall mental health having to worry about whether I would have an assignment each semester or whether I’d have enough hours to pay my rent.”  (Mandy Lucas, Skyline, FT, Counseling) Full letter


Adjuncts share some of the inequities they face

Current part-timers related the many sacrifices they must make to teach in SMCCD

“I live in Contra Costa County and I am also an adjunct at Contra Costa Community College.  It saddens me to see how our faculty members in the SMCCD district, which has more financial stability than our neighboring districts, are not paid fairly. When we work in person, I commute 1.5 hours to work to serve our students (EOPS and Promise). I cannot afford to live in San Mateo County, but it is my home and where I grew up.” (Jessica Boyle, Adjunct EOPS Counselor, Cañada) Full letter

“In my ten years as an adjunct faculty member at SMCCD (I have two MAs and a PhD), I have been stuck at the end of the salary scale and I struggle financially.” (Anonymous) Full letter


Adjunct faculty leave our colleges for better pay in nearby districts

Many letters focused on the fact that when part-time faculty leave our district for better paying Bay Area districts, we lose dedicated, experienced instructors, impacting our students and the health of our departments

“When I was teaching part-time at Cañada, getting classes at SMCCD was my least priority. Whenever possible, I prioritized teaching at De Anza and West Valley because SMCCD paid at around 60% of what the other two Districts paid me. Why would I teach in a District that pays at a sub-par rate?” (Rika Fabian, Skyline, FT, Sociology) Full letter

“Without part-time pay parity we risk losing skilled and dedicated educators who can’t afford to live in the Bay Area. Even with income from the necessary additional jobs adjuncts must take on, it is difficult to make a living, pay rent, afford health care, raise a family, etc. Supporting part-time pay parity tells faculty that you value their work, and tells our students that you value their education.” (Elizabeth Ingber, Skyline, PT, Music) Full letter


High district revenues, high administrator salaries, high cost of living… but low adjunct pay

Voices ranged from disappointed to angry to incredulous about the District’s low salaries in comparison to other Bay Area Districts, especially in the face of increasing property revenues in San Mateo county, not to mention some of the highest administrator salaries in the state.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen our revenues rise significantly. We have seen year over year surpluses rise significantly. At the same time, the district has allocated $0 towards addressing part time parity.”
(Steve Lehigh, CSM, FT, Economics) Full letter

“There is no excuse for the low pay of our adjunct faculty given the solid financial position of the district. I was angry to learn that the three fastest growing categories of SMCCD employees are administrators, managers, and supervisors, while still underpaying our part-time faculty.” (Masao Suzuki, Skyline, FT, Economics) Full letter

“Two of the wealthiest cities in the country reside in our District (Atherton and Hillsborough.) With property values higher than many other Bay Area counties, I am unable to comprehend why financial issues are part of a two-year delay in securing a contract.”  (Michael Vargas, CSM, FT, Counseling) Full letter

District doesn’t show that they really value faculty

Some expressed anger and frustration with the length of contract bargaining and the District’s perceived lack of interest in treating all hardworking faculty fairly

“ALL faculty, whether they are full-time or part-time, deserve respect and fair compensation. We have been working without a fair contract for almost two years. Last March, March 11th to be exact, the Bay Area went into shelter-in-place. It was a Wednesday, and we were told by administration that we had Thursday, Friday, and Monday to convert our F2F classes to online. Three days!” (Rosemary Bell, Skyline, FT, History) Full letter

“Faculty perceive the delays, flaccid excuses and often mocking counter-proposals as an insult. For example, the district proposal that we achieve adjunct parity, by taking the necessary funds from faculty compensation? And that it takes close to 10 years? Please. Pitting us against each other? Rubbing salt in the wound? I can’t believe our district would take such a position.” (David Laderman, CSM, FT, Film) Full letter


Negotiations take a leap forward for long overdue part-time faculty rights

Your letters catapulted the issue of parity over the District’s line in the sand, their decades-long refusal to make the changes required for true part-time parity. Just days after the last of the 180 letters were received by the Board and the Chancellor, the District agreed to “mirroring” the full-time schedule: the part-time instructional faculty salary schedule will now have the same number of steps as the full- time schedule — 25 instead of the previous 11. The District also agreed to add four columns so that instructional adjunct salaries will reflect members’ educational levels.

These are tremendous wins! As we go to press, AFT’s negotiators are sitting in a Zoom room, meeting with the District’s team and hammering out the final piece of our long-awaited contract:  compensation for full- and part-time faculty, including a commitment to implementing part-time parity. Until the district agrees to allocate sufficient funding to achieve real parity, we must continue our vigilance — full- and part-time faculty, all of us working together!