May 2014 Advocate – Letter to the Advocate

LETTER TO THE ADVOCATE

Full-time Position Open: In-house Adjuncts Need Not Apply

The author of the following letter wished to remain anonymous. -Ed.

I’d like to share with you the unfair hiring practices that we have witnessed over the past several years.  Within the last year alone, we have seen a number of longtime Skyline College part-time faculty apply for full-time positions and not even get an interview.  Examples are in the Science, Math & Technology division and the Language Arts division.  Time and time again we see faculty members who are well qualified by the most objective of standards get shunted aside for outsiders.  There are long-time faculty members who have good track records, abundant experience, positive peer evaluations, and have been involved in numerous campus activities and committees, yet they have gotten overlooked for the next full-time position that opens up.

This is not right.   From a social equity point of view, there is no defense for reaping the benefits from part-time employees who have contributed their time and efforts to Skyline College, and then not even giving them the consideration of an interview for a full-time position.  

It does not make sense to overlook long-time employees with years of experience and good track records in favor of people from the outside just based on a (possibly embellished) cover letter and resume, and a one hour interview.

Indeed, one would have a very difficult time finding support for this policy among the general public – that is, the people who vote to fund our college and who we claim to serve.  Nor is such a policy very popular with the majority of both full-time and part-time faculty.  I think it is appalling to use policies that are in contempt of common standards of fairness to run a publicly funded institution that is there to serve the public.  If Skyline College becomes known for being unfair to its faculty, it is not such a stretch to believe they could also be unfair to their students.

Good enough to work as adjunct, but not good enough to be interviewed for a full-time job?

There is no question that such policies have a disastrous effect on employee morale – both among full-timers and part-timers.  Think of how much more difficult faculty collaboration would now be with a bunch of unhappy faculty after the ties of professional trust have been broken.  In addition, what message does it convey to the adjunct faculty?  That they are good enough for Skyline on a part-time basis but not even close to being good enough for an interview for a full-time position?

This is not a full-timer versus part-timer issue.  Indeed, many full-timers, administrative staff, and even administrators, have expressed their support for our position and agree that it is unfair and inequitable not to seriously consider our own before hiring an unknown faculty member.  Few can deny the inequity of having adjuncts who have invested their time and efforts in providing a quality education at Skyline College with no recognition or return on their investment.  

This is not a problem for every department at Skyline College.  In fact, many departments do make a practice of interviewing their own and even growing their own.  

The policy of ignoring insiders in favor of outsiders does not even enjoy unanimous support in the departments who are guilty of such a policy.  I am aware of full-timers in the Math and English departments who do not support what is going on when their hiring committees decide to not offer an interview to their current part-timers.

Shouldn’t hiring committees get to choose?

One might argue that faculty hiring committees should be free to interview who they want to interview.  Well, such an argument can be used to justify discrimination or office politics – which is most likely what this is.  Do we really want to be an institution that puts a higher value on social conformity over fairness and common sense?  

Another argument could be that a college doesn’t have the time, money, or resources to interview their own.  Nonsense.  In fact, giving first consideration to our own would be cheaper and less disruptive than first going to unknown applicants from the outside based on just paperwork.  In addition, faculty who have already been working at Skyline College know their way around so there is less time and resources spent getting them up to speed.

So what can be done about this problem?

I suggest to our union to start working on getting something into the contract similar to what is in the contracts of CCSF, College of Marin, and Peralta, which is to guarantee interviews for all qualified adjunct faculty who have been working at SMCCD for a certain number of years and/or first consideration for any full-time openings.  A proposed item like this would cost the district nothing and could save the district time and money by shortening and streamlining the process.  Qualified, proven long-term part-timers deserve an interview in return for their investment.  It is the right thing to do.

Let’s put a limit on the number of desired qualities in a job listing.  For example, it is not unheard of for a department to expect an applicant to address fifteen or more desired qualities in a listing for a full-time position.  This is way out of line with other government organizations and the private sector.  Research has shown that most government organizations and private entities put a limit on around five or six.  Many of these fifteen or more desired qualities are not even measurable or verifiable, and thus provide opportunities for all sorts of subjective scoring and discrimination.  They can be used to exclude strong qualified applicants and do not encourage inclusiveness.  Does anyone really believe that a candidate with only fourteen of the desired qualities should be overlooked in favor of a candidate with all fifteen qualities?

The Skyline CTTL is now putting on workshops for adjunct faculty on the full-time application process and the interview process.  These are helpful, but they don’t address the heart of the problem which is unfair and inequitable hiring practices.  To properly address the unfair and inequitable hiring practices we have seen here, something needs to be put in the contract.

If you feel that you have been unfairly excluded from consideration for a full-time position, and/or concerned about this situation, contact the union and let your views be known.