May 2021 Advocate: Summer-Fall 2021 MOU Survey

AFT 1493 Faculty Survey: Summer-Fall 2021 MOU

Class size reductions, tech support and work-from-home stipends are priorities as mostly remote instruction continues

by Marianne Kaletzky, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary

Now that AFT and SMCCD have reached a Tentative Agreement for a multiyear contract, our Local is preparing to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing work under Covid conditions in Summer and Fall 2021. During these terms, instruction will mostly remain remote; however, more courses will be held in person, by agreement of individual faculty members, than during Fall 2020 or Spring 2021.

AFT surveyed SMCCD faculty with a focus on two questions:

1) how could the existing MOU be improved and,

2) for faculty who will teach in-person during Summer and/or Fall 2021, what do they need to teach safely and effectively?

We launched the survey Tuesday, April 20th, with a deadline of Friday, April 30th. 137 faculty members responded to the survey, of whom about 63% were full-timers and about 47% were adjuncts. For the first question, asking how the current MOU could be improved, a number of respondents asked for class size reductions so that they could more effectively support students. Many faculty also discussed their desire for more comprehensive technical support and the need for an increased work-from-home stipend to cover additional expenses incurred by teaching remotely.

Class size reductions a top priority

“I really want to see a class size reduction across the board–even for English composition,” wrote one faculty member who focused on class size. “This past year has been an absolute slog, for faculty and for students. It’s demoralizing to not have the time to devote to my students to help them succeed.”

Others echoed this theme, with one saying the current MOU could be improved with “a lower cap on class size”; a second writing, “Reduce class size when faculty request it”; and a third saying, “We need smaller class size in order to adequately teach our students. For synchronous instruction via Zoom: it takes longer and it is more cumbersome to do activities during which students interact among them (compared to in-person). For all classes: individually following-up with and supporting students take longer than when we were on campus.”

The current MOU sets forth a process for individual faculty to request class size reductions from their deans; however, there is no guarantee the dean will approve the request, and faculty must initiate the process. AFT and District Academic Senate are currently conducting a separate survey to gauge faculty interest in developing a process to give faculty a role in setting class caps, which would remain in effect beyond the Covid MOUs.

More IT support

Other faculty mentioned the need for additional tech support for both instructors and students. “We need IT help via phone/chatline/video-sharing for my students and for instructors who are NOT using a school computer; not just specific Zoom or Canvas problems, but help for students for instance, trying to figure out how to make a pdf or how to ‘draw’ using an MS Word program. They have computer trouble submitting assignments and I do not always know how to help,” wrote one faculty member.

Increase the stipend

Finally, a number of faculty said that the current work-from-home stipend, though helpful, was inadequate to the actual expenses they incurred working remotely. The work-from-home stipend is currently $100 per month for full-timers, with a pro-rated percentage for part-timers. “I really appreciated the $100 stipend, since I’ve had to buy a LOT of furniture and electronic equipment to adapt to teaching from home,” one respondent said. “However, since there was nothing like this in the fall — when I had to make most of my purchases, it didn’t cover much.” Another wrote, “First, $100 is not enough. 2nd, Part-timers should be getting the same amount as full-timers.” A third echoed the need for a better stipend for part-timers, writing, “$100 monthly stipend for adjuncts too. Wifi is expensive.”

A number of faculty members also said that the current provisions were serving their needs well, with responses like, “Can’t think of any! These look great!”; “Keep the same provisions please!”; and “These are good. I especially appreciate the extra $100 for expenses, since I am purchasing materials and resources for my work at home.”

Needs for those returning to in-person teaching

The second survey question asked faculty who will return to in-person teaching this Summer and Fall what provisions they need to teach safely and effectively. Here, a number of faculty expressed their concern that buildings might not have adequate air circulation, with one writing, “Air circulation/filtering in classrooms. I have taught in bldg. 14 for years. No cooling, no air circulation, very stuffy, perfect breeding ground for virus.”

Faculty also mentioned the need for clear masking rules, physical distance between students, free masks and hand sanitizer, a system for making sure classrooms are cleaned and disinfected, a plan of action and communication if an individual tests positive for Covid, and personnel tasked specifically with ensuring compliance with Covid-related guidelines. On the last subject, multiple respondents said faculty should not be the primary people responsible for enforcing restrictions, with one writing, “I don’t want the responsibility to police students. Admin/staff handle PPE of classrooms and labs, mask protocol, temp check and/or other issues.”

Vaccination concerns

Finally, a number of faculty also discussed vaccinations. Some expressed their support for vaccination requirements. “If vaccines receive full approval (not just emergency use), a requirement for EVERYONE (students and employees) who must be on campus to be vaccinated,” wrote one respondent. “Students need to be vaccinated,” wrote another. “Requiring proof of vaccination to attend in person,” said a third. Other faculty voiced concerns about the possibility of vaccination requirements, with one writing, “I’m concerned that I will be forced to get a vaccine in order to be able to come back on campus to teach,” and another saying “UC and CSU have mandated vaccinations for all, however they are allowing religious and personal exemptions. Does our agreement do the same or are we working on an MOU about this? If we are going to start making immunization requirements for faculty or students then please ensure that not only medical exemptions are permitted but that personal and religious exemptions are permitted.”

Our AFT negotiating team—comprised of Chief Negotiator Joaquín Rivera, Negotiator Monica Malamud, and Executive Secretary Marianne Kaletzky—will let members know when we have scheduled dates for negotiating the Summer/Fall 2021 MOU with the District. We will keep members updated throughout the negotiations with details of our and the District’s proposals