May 2023 Advocate: Workload points system update

Workload Equity

Where are things at with the points system?

By Marianne Kaletzky, AFT 1493 Executive Director

For years, full-time faculty have watched their workload increase to the point of becoming unsustainable. Teaching and other primary duties, like counseling, may well be taking more time given the high-touch, equity-driven practices faculty today are committed to implementing. Beyond primary duties, however, many faculty have noted that committee work and other forms of institutional service have taken more and more of their time each year. According to the 2019 survey linked above, faculty have also felt that service work was not distributed equitably among full-timers.

AFT has campaigned for decades to develop a District system to quantify service work so that it can be distributed equitably and faculty can be compensated fairly. FLCs give instructional faculty a way to make sure their teaching load isn’t excessive and to compensate those who work above the expectation: without them, a dean could replace a regular course with an intensive one that met more often and required more feedback, and an instructor would have neither recourse nor access to extra compensation. A system to quantify non-primary workload should function similarly to FLCs: it should give faculty a way to measure the amount of work they’re doing so that they (and their deans) know when faculty have done their fair share—and so that those who do more than their fair share can receive appropriate compensation.

After years of refusing AFT’s proposals for a system to quantify service work, the District finally agreed to a two-year Workload Pilot Program in 2021. The pilot program uses a table to assign points to common non-primary duties and requires various groups of faculty to agree to complete a certain number of points based on their role: 4 points for librarians, 5 points for counselors, and 6-7 points for instructors. The pilot is exactly that: a chance to try out the numerical expectations, try out the point table, try out the whole system, and then take stock.

Improved process for submitting plans

One of the first areas we knew we had to adjust was the mechanism for submitting plans. Last year, the District created an online Formstack that deans could send to faculty if they chose. Faculty who filled out the Formstack quickly realized that they did not receive a copy of their responses, which meant  they were unsure what was included in their plans and had no easy way to modify the plans if, for instance, they were asked to serve on a hiring committee after they submitted plans in May. In addition, there was no clear way for deans to respond to plans within the Formstack system. Many faculty reported that their deans never responded to their plans—meaning that faculty with plans that met or were under the points expectation were unsure if plans had in fact been approved, and faculty with plans over the expectation did not know if they would be compensated.

AFT reps first opened the issue of submission logistics at a union membership meeting in January of this year. Some faculty raised the possibility of submitting the forms in Canvas for deans to comment on through that platform, while others noted that their divisions used a division-wide Google spreadsheet that allowed faculty to easily modify their plans, gave deans a space to comment, and allowed greater transparency about workload throughout the division. (You can see an example of the Google spreadsheet here, but don’t fill out this form: deans will send the appropriate spreadsheet for your division.)  AFT reps presented the Google spreadsheet template to members for comment at the March and April membership meetings, where it was received positively, and ultimately brought it to the District, who agreed to use this format for submissions of point plans for AY 2023-24.

AFT reps also brought two other issues to the District this spring:

  1. The need for a time frame within which faculty can expect a comment from their deans indicating the plan is approved or requires changes; and
  2. Guidelines for how deans should respond to point plans submitted with more than the expected number of points.

For question 1, AFT reps and the District agreed that faculty can expect to hear back from their deans by October 1, 2023, whether their plan is approved or requires modification.

For question 2, AFT reps and the District agreed that deans should engage in conversation with faculty who list points over the expectation. The dean might ask the faculty member to delete some activities so as to be at the minimum—in which case it’s the dean’s responsibility to find other faculty to complete those activities. Or the dean could ask faculty not to delete any activities, meaning that the Division would pay faculty for every hour spent on points over the expectation. This is a change from how some deans operated this past year when they said that faculty who listed points over the expectation were understood to be volunteering to do those points and thus ruling themselves out of being compensated.

Sometimes, faculty want to include in their plan an activity that is not listed in the contract.  Faculty and their supervisor can agree on the points to allocate, but if they are unable to reach agreement, they can submit an inquiry to a District-wide committee that consists of the District Senate President, an AFT rep, the Director of HR, and the Vice Chancellor of Educational Services. This committee provides guidance and settles any disputes that may arise during the pilot period.

Finally, AFT reps and the District agreed to a simple table faculty can use to report the status of their points-earning activities in AY 2022-23, as required by the contract. (Example table here from Cañada Humanities and Social Sciences.) The table should take less than 15 minutes to complete and is due to your dean June 15th.

We were able to make the adjustments described above midway through the pilot program because what we changed were procedural aspects of the pilot not explicitly included in the contract. We know that many faculty want changes to parts of the pilot that are explicitly discussed in the contract, like how many total points each category of faculty is expected to do. For the duration of the pilot, we cannot make changes to contractual language, but we will be collecting formal faculty feedback and data on the pilot during this coming year to inform how we renegotiate the pilot program as it concludes in Spring 2024.

Looking forward: please share your perspectives

In addition to sharing their experiences of submitting point plans, faculty have also brought valuable feedback regarding the principles of the points system to AFT membership meetings and elected union leaders. This coming winter and spring, we will offer various opportunities for faculty to continue giving feedback, including open forums and an all-faculty survey to gather responses not only on the logistics of the program but on the workload point system itself. We will want to know to what extent you think the point system has offered you a fair way to quantify your service work; whether it has allowed you to say no to excessive activities or get compensated for them; and how it could operate more equitably. AFT leaders and our negotiating team will carefully consider that feedback as we look at negotiating a permanent workload equity system with the District in the Spring of 2024.

Workload points system calendar 

  • May 31, 2023: Professional Responsibilities Plans for AY 2023-24 due through Division-wide Google spreadsheet sent out by deans (example spreadsheet here)
  • June 15, 2023: Report on points-earning activities for AY 2022-23 due using table sent out by deans (example from Cañada Humanities and Social Sciences here)
  • October 1, 2023: Deadline for deans to let faculty members know whether their AY 2023-2024 plans are approved as submitted or require modification. Deans should respond to all faculty and should engage in conversation with faculty who submit plans with points over or under the expectation (4 for librarians, 5 for counselors, 6-7 for instructors)
  • Early Spring 2024: Various opportunities for faculty to give formal feedback on the pilot program, including through online surveys as well as AFT and faculty discussion about what modifications to request to the point system
  • Spring 2024: Negotiation with District negotiating team over future workload equity system