November 2019 Advocate: Equal pay for labs


Equal pay for labs: SMT faculty members share their thoughts

by Katharine Harer, AFT 1493 Vice President

During this current round of bargaining, a group of Art & Music faculty at Skyline wrote up a proposal for our Executive Committee and our AFT bargaining team to consider: to assign the same load credit for labs across disciplines. As the contract reads currently, science is assigned a larger load credit for teaching labs than art and music, or PE for that matter. In this short article, we’ll focus on the principle of “parity” rather than parsing the numbers. Note: AFT’s negotiations with the district on lab rates are still unresolved as of this writing. (See the latest Negotiations Updates at the AFT 1493 Negotiations Updates page.)

Nick Kapp has taught in the SMT division at Skyline for 23 years. He teaches biology and biotechnology, both of which have labs. Nick teaches the BTEC Series: 170/171, 150, 210,220 as well as biology courses 215, 230 and 240. Nick told us: “I find that I like the lab classes because they involve a lot more student interaction.” He added, “We need to value the work that people do. Most people have the idea that lab instructors are sitting at a desk just ensuring safety of the lab class. It is thought that the classes run themselves as students do “cookbook” instructions for their activity, but this is no longer the case.” When asked specifically about the principle of parity for lab load credit, Nick stated:

“The idea that doing science is harder or of more value than art is a fallacy. Labs take a fair amount of planning to ensure that things will work, as well as to prepare the student for the background of what they’ll be doing. After the lab, there’s reflection and analysis about what was done and what it means for the class. Many people think that the active learning that goes on in a lab is important.

Labs already have a factor in them. Typically, labs require 3 hours of face time with students for every 1 unit. On top of that, these units have a factor of 0.8 or lower depending on the discipline. I think it is time we take this original 3 to 1 ratio and make the units equal.”

Another issue that Nick addressed is the impact of an increased load credit on part-time faculty: “The last problem that we have is the load for part-timers. It is possible that part timers will hit their max and not be able to teach as many classes. We will need to look into this.”

Emilie Hein has taught Physics in the SMT Division at Skyline for five years, and she just transitioned to a full-time position. She’s taught almost all of the Physics courses offered at Skyline. Emilie told us: “My load is currently evenly split between lectures and labs, but it was more lab-heavy in the past. Courses I teach or have taught include: PHYS 105 (Conceptual Physics lecture), PHYS 106 (Conceptual Physics lab), PHYS 210/210 (two semesters of General Physics, which include lecture and lab), PHYS 250/260/270 (three semesters of calculus-based Physics, which include lecture and lab), PHYS 211/221 (calculus supplements 1 and 2, lecture only).”

When asked about the principle of parity, Emilie stated, “I highly value the work of my art and music faculty colleagues and support their effort to achieve parity for the lab load credit they deserve. My concern with this process is in how it may affect adjunct lab instructors of all disciplines. A load credit increase may result in a reduction of the number of courses they would be able to teach, which would translate into a loss of income.”

Clearly the two science faculty members we interviewed are supportive of the principle of parity for labs across disciplines; at the same time, both are concerned about the impact on our part-time faculty members. AFT 1493 supports the principle of parity and we’re opposed to dividing faculty by discipline. AFT 1493 negotiators are also aware of how lab load credits affect adjunct lab instructors and are definitely taking these factors into consideration as they bargain on pay for labs.

We are interested in other faculty members’ opinions on the question of lab load credits. Please send your thoughts to Advocate Editor Eric Brenner at