December 2019 Advocate: Over 90 supporters pack Board meeting to hear faculty tell Trustees how contract issues affect teaching and learning


We are waiting: Over 90 supporters pack Board meeting to hear nine faculty tell Trustees how contract issues affect teaching and learning

by Evan Kaiser, CSM ESL

On Wednesday, November 20, SMCCD faculty members met at the AFT union office at CSM to advocate for better faculty working conditions which lead to better and more equitable student outcomes. These priorities include a reasonable workload for teaching faculty and counselors, parity for part-time employees, a transparent progressive discipline policy, laboratory load credit equity, and fair compensation that would allow faculty to survive in one of the most expensive areas in the nation.

Workload & compensation issues undermine faculty work life and student success

Marching to the District Office dressed in “Red for Ed” T-shirts, we were met in solidarity by Foothill/DeAnza and Cabrillo College faculty. In sum, over 90 faculty members from SMCCD crowded the District Board Room to hear nine faculty speak passionately to the Board of Trustees about how these unaddressed concerns have impaired their abilities to serve students and achieve a fulfilling work life.

Michael Cross, Skyline College English Professor, declared: “I have never seen so many talented humans hammered to the ground by work, desiccated by compassion fatigue… I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and frankly, I’m afraid it’s killing me… I can’t sustain this workload for another twenty years…” He asked the Board members: “What if we approached our faculty with the care and concern we afford our students, creating the conditions of possibility to foster an attitude of self-care and wellness?”

Little progress has been made despite months of bargaining and, in the case of workload, over a year of committee research that led to concrete recommendations. (See page 8 for the most recent bargaining update.) The fact that SMCCD administrator salaries are ranked #1 in the state and the number of administrator positions has increased 55% from 2012 to 2018, while the number of faculty has increased just 14% shows that it is not only urgent but quite feasible that the district utilize these contract negotiations to invest in full-time and part-time faculty.

Timothy Rottenberg, adjunct Government and Economics instructor at Skyline Middle College, pointed out that adjunct faculty in our District make about 35% less than full-time faculty, while part-timers in the Foothill/DeAnza district earn only 16% less than their full-time peers and adjuncts at CCSF earn just 12% less than full-timers.


I joined my colleagues at the meeting because I wonder if I will be able to sustain this endlessly fascinating career. In many ways, I am lucky. I come from a middle-class background and I receive unearned social benefits from being White, cisgender, and male. Having worked various jobs since my early teens, including teaching and tutoring positions in college and graduate school, I had lower than average student debt when I graduated with my M.A.

Rosemary Nurre, CSM Accounting Professor, described how
“faculty across the district work tirelessly,”
but she questioned “whether our excessive workload is sustainable.”
She asked the Board to imagine faculty who feel trusted and respected.


Commuting two hours, working 8-4 & 6-10

With a lot of hard work and some good fortune, I landed a full-time, tenure-track position teaching ESOL after working part-time for only two years. Shortly thereafter, I was able to finance my first car, and so began my life as a commuter. The one-way drive from my room in San Francisco to San Mateo is 45 minutes at peak hours. Since I carpool with my partner, who works in Foster City, and occasionally other colleagues along my route, my commute often takes an hour in each direction. The money my riders give me helps offset the costs of gas and car maintenance.

Joaquin Rivera, Skyline College Chemistry Professor and AFT 1493 President and Chief Negotiator, explained that the compensation formula proposed by the District does not address the fact that faculty salaries and benefits compare poorly to other Bay 10 college districts and the cost of living in San Mateo County is the highest in the state. He also pointed out that the District has plenty of money to pay for faculty’s proposals if they make it a priority.

Nearly every day I work from 8-4 then from 6-10. I teach courses, hold office hours, answer emails, build relationships with students, serve on two committees, spearhead initiatives, engage in professional development, revise course outlines, assist with program review, help navigate AB705, develop curriculum, and respond to volumes of student writing. I do not do much laundry, my beard is out of control, and I haven’t been to the gym in a month. This Fall semester, not counting professional development activities, I have had three weekend days fully off – three. I am 29 years old. I want to work smarter, not harder, but I am too tired to be smart. In his presentation to the Board at the November 20 meeting, Skyline College English Professor Michael Cross correctly observed that such a workload is the rule, not the exception.

Michelle Hawkins (left), Skyline College Music Professor, & Bridget Fischer, Skyline College Art Professor, told the Trustees that they have the opportunity to affirm their “principles of equal treatment and fairness by removing the current tiered system of lab FLC allocation.”


The payoff of this labor is evident in the district’s many accolades, yet faculty compensation is not commensurate with our workload. For example, in her speech to the Board, CSM Accounting professor Rosemary Nurre pointed out that “CSM was recently recognized as one of the top 150 community colleges in the country” which is “in large part… due to the efforts and accomplishments of our overworked faculty.” Nurre wondered, “Will faculty have the time to do the right thing for students and the college without additional compensation?” In response, I can only think of the students who left my class or who didn’t pass because they needed more guidance. I know academic success has many determinants, but I do take responsibility for my students’ success. Sometimes I feel that I have failed them despite my best efforts. With more time, could I have helped them succeed? Would they have used their skills and knowledge to empower their communities? Would their success have reverberated and inspired their community members to succeed in college as well?


Jesse Raskin, Skyline College Paralegal Professor, expressed how
“economic justice for faculty members is justice for students
because when you invest in us, we invest even more in our students.”


How can our younger faculty ever imagine buying a home and raising a family?

Concerned about the long-term sustainability of district institutions, Nurre also asked, “How can our younger faculty ever imagine buying a home in San Mateo county without having a second job? How can they imagine raising a family if their commute is more than an hour in each direction?” This one’s easy: I can’t. Once upon a time, considering an investment in real estate, I crunched the numbers with a financial advisor. It was a very short meeting. But I don’t say this to elicit sympathy; I am simply being realistic. Many folks of my generation, saddled with unmanageable student debt and rising costs of living in large urban areas, have realized that the traditional markers of adulthood are out of reach and have shifted their expectations accordingly. While the economic impacts of this shift remain to be seen, the personal impacts are clear; immediate financial worries prevent people from visualizing new possibilities, from innovating, from hoping and from dreaming. Perhaps I am not so lucky after all.

Patty Dilko Hall, Cañada College Early Childhood Education Professor,
shared the extreme and long-lasting effects she experienced
due to the lack of investigations, due process and progressive discipline language in the contract.


Money is time

Compensation and workload are inextricably linked – money is time, if I may invert the truism. With adequate pay and a better work-life balance, we can buy more time and invest it in our students. With more time, my colleague Jesse Raskin, professor of Paralegal Studies at Skyline College, described to the Board how he would turn his conversation with Stanford professors about how to help students expunge their criminal records into a structured working group and perhaps a formalized program. With more time, I would create more appointments with struggling students. I would take a deeper dive into our department data in order to pinpoint and eliminate equity gaps. I would develop culturally sustaining, high-interest curricula to share with my department. There’s no limit to what I could do.

Arielle Smith, CSM Counselor and Academic Senate President,
asked for recognition and support for the extensive range of counselors’ work
that is so much more than what is written in the contract.
She asked the Board to work with counselors “to make our job feel more humane but also meet our students’ needs.”

I’m grateful for the work I get to do as a teacher, but I’ve stopped thinking about luck and have turned my attention to concrete solutions. During my cabinet interview with the college President, when I was asked what role I see myself taking at CSM in 30 years, I felt a sense of gravity and purpose flood through me. The institution was bestowing upon me a monumental amount of trust. But now I wonder whether I will be able to meet those lofty expectations of the teacher-citizen as equity champion and fixture of the local community. I fear I won’t be able to sustain this workload for another ten, let alone twenty, years. For me, workload is the problem. The solution is, as my students sometimes tell me, to seize this crucial moment in order to make change. I urge the district and the Board to listen to faculty, build trust between parties, agree to a fair contract, and help me and others fulfill our missions as champions of high-quality, relevant public education.


Watch each of the faculty speakers’ full presentations