February 2015 Advocate – Should adjuncts get priority in full-time hiring?


Should District adjuncts get priority in full-time hiring?

In the previous issue of the Advocate (December 2014), an article reported on a proposal made to the November AFT 1493 Executive Committee meeting that adjunct faculty should receive priority status for full-time job interviews. The proposal began as follows: “All Adjunct Faculty who have been teaching within the district for a minimum of 5 years and meet all evaluation expectations be given a ‘Priority Interview Status.’” The article, which was titled: “Should District adjunct faculty have an advantage in hiring for full-time positions? Let us know what you think”, also stated that there were varying opinions on this issue among the Executive Committee members and asked Advocate readers to submit their viewpoints on the question. We received about 25 responses from faculty members, mostly from within our district, but also a few from other districts around the state who read the article online.

Majority support priority interview status

About 15 faculty members each sent in an identical brief statement that they “would like to see contract wordage regarding preferred interview status for part timers similar to what is in the [December] issue of the Advocate negotiated with the district in hopes it will be permanent in our contract.” Thus, the majority of respondents gave a clear endorsement for giving in-district adjuncts some kind of preference in being selected for interviews for full-time positions.

We received a smaller number of more extensive responses that presented a range of perspectives on the issue. Below are selections from these longer responses; the first two support the proposal, while the second two oppose the idea.

A CSM full-timer hired from outside district believes priority status is only fair

As a former adjunct at other community colleges, I definitely agree that the current system needs to be changed. It has always seemed odd to me that other members of our college community are granted in-house hiring status before the position is opened to the public. I see no reason why it should not be the same for part-time faculty when full-time teaching positions arrive. If part-timers are good enough to work part-time (and get paid half as much for equal work and without job security or benefits), why aren’t they good enough to be given the first chance at interviewing for full-time positions.

It simply isn’t fair that adjuncts already teach 40-60% of our classes yet are not given some sort of priority during the hiring process. They do the same work and are evaluated with the same rigorous standards. The only difference is that they are not technically required to do committee and other non-teaching work. However, as a part-timer, it is a requirement because you need those things on your resume to get hired for a full-time job, so we do them and it’s one more thing we don’t get paid for.

As an outsider coming to CSM, I was thrilled at my good fortune, but I felt so bad for the part-timers whom I had taken a full-time job from. Working part-time pays so little, in fact, and my debt from college so large, that I almost couldn’t afford to take this job because it costs so much to live here. I had to borrow money to rent an apartment and lived on Dollar Store food until my first paycheck. I wondered how adjuncts who live here managed to live at all.

I know it is a complex issue with no simple solutions, but I certainly hope that my union will give it the attention and priority it deserves.

In appreciation and unity,

Autumn Newman,
Assistant Professor of English, College of San Mateo

What if full-timers had to reapply for their positions every 5 years?

There is nothing temporary (Ed. Code not withstanding) in the employment status of someone who has been on the job for 5 or more years. Pitting such long standing adjuncts against new applicants in an interview process potentially becomes less about interviewing for a new job and more about interviewing so as not to lose your current job.

How would full-time faculty feel if, say, every 5 years they had to put their hat into a hiring process to see if any new potential hires are a better choice for their position and, of course, if a new candidate is deemed a better fit, the applicant is hired to replace the current full-timer. Treat full-timers this way and the AFT would go to war. But members of your Exec Committee argue that this same treatment is OK when applied to Adjuncts – shame on them!

Making sure that long standing Adjuncts have interview preference is a small step in the right direction but it is far short of what should be the standard: PROMOTE FROM WITHIN current adjuncts into full time positions! Do not interview new candidates when you already have too many employees.

Scott Douglas, Adjunct Faculty,
Palomar College, San Diego Community College District

Location is not a qualification

I have been hired as an “outsider” in that not only have my adjunct days been outside the district, they have been outside the state. I have not just accumulated experience through teaching as an adjunct in my field, but also because I went out of my way to further my qualifications through actively pursuing professional development during those years.

The recent debate whether qualified part-timers within the district should have special treatment by granting them automatic interview for full time positions is puzzling at best and detrimental at worst, not just for the students, but the very part-time faculty themselves.

Part-timers within the district are already granted additional face time in the district through 1) they have already interviewed as adjuncts, 2) they have been observed through review committees, 3) they have had all opportunities to interact with all students and staff on campus to make their qualifications known. If anything, it is outsiders who have grounds to complain about disproportionate time.

How do our hiring practices best serve the students?

As a public institution we are under scrutiny of accrediting institutions and the state. We must answer the question “How do our hiring practices best serve the students?” Citing “the applicant was already in our district” is hardly a satisfactory answer.

In the debate it has been revealed that up to 70% of full-time hiring is within the district. If anything, that is an alarming statistic that already opens the district to criticism along the question: “with over 100 applicants for each full-time position, is it plausible that 70% of the time the best qualified person was already working in the district?”

Awarding qualification based on location is, if anything, detrimental to our own part-time faculty. It gives them the false impression that they could be “promoted” based solely on just being qualified based on part-timer job requirements and staying around for a number of years. It reduces the incentive for part-timers to better their teaching practices through professional development, and to explore their employment options in surrounding districts.

Take my example: after I was hired from the outside I had to spend many awkward moments trying to repair the relationship (that I didn’t break) with the local adjuncts for “taking their job”. These adjuncts were granted an interview, so they certainly had more than fair treatment by the district. Still, they were upset at the district because they didn’t get selected. So my example demonstrates that propagating the misunderstanding to the next level does not result in less complaints. It also poisons departments, pitting part-timers against outsiders, making cooperation more difficult.

Ultimately, the question must be answered is: “Is this the best for the students?” When a hiring committee must face that question, they should not be constrained by the irrelevant question “is this person local?”

Rewarding location as a qualification solves the wrong problem. It puts faculty career aspirations ahead of what is best for students. It assumes that applicants outside the district are less qualified solely based on their geographical location. These applicants have been adjuncts as well, they too have had years of teaching experience, and they too have gone through professional development. If you are a part-timer who applied in an outside district, wouldn’t you deduce it as unfair if that district put its own employees ahead of you in line solely based on their location?

An “outsider” full-timer in SMCCCD

Part-time faculty hiring & evaluation is not rigorous or consistent so they shouldn’t get priority status

I wanted to give you my two cents. I don’t feel that district part-time faculty should have an advantage in the hiring process. Many part-time faculty are called in the last minute by the division dean, and don’t necessarily participate in other collegial activities that full-time faculty are required to do. I understand that part-time faculty are supposed to be evaluated but I don’t have faith that this is actually taking place. When I was a part-time faculty, I never once went through an evaluation of any kind. If part-time faculty do participate in other collegial activities or take on other roles on campus, this will show up in the ratings that are already done with all applicants. I feel interviews for full-time faculty should remain focused on finding the best applicants for the job, as opposed to giving an advantage to individuals who have had the good fortune of being given a job by the division dean. District part-time faculty who are going to be top applicants in an applicant pool will likely have begun to stand out on their campuses already which will come out in the interview process as it stands now. I don’t see any benefit of giving part-time faculty an added advantage in the hiring process.

Full-time faculty member, College of San Mateo