Bill adds to part-time teacher workloads

Shweta Saraswat

A bill that would allow part-time professors to teach one more unit within California community college districts has been passed in the California state Assembly and is presently being discussed in the state Senate Committee on Education.Assembly Bill 591 was authored and introduced by Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, who was unable to be reached for comment. It proposes to alter the present 60 percent law in California, which states that all part-time community college professors can only teach up to 60 percent of the hours per week that a full-time professor teaches.”I’m limited to three classes in the whole L.A. district,” said Kathy Holland, adjunct, or part-time, professor of political science. “I have to find another district to work in to make a living.”Should the bill become law, part-time professors will be able to teach 67 percent of the hours of full-time professors, which translates into roughly one more unit.”The department chairs will benefit from the passage of the bill as well,” said Holland, who is also an adjunct faculty representative on the Pierce College Academic Senate. “Chairs could give their good part timers extra work to help fill all the sections and resolve staffing problems.”Pierce President Robert Garber agrees, acknowledging the advantages of the bill.”It would be a benefit,” Garber said. “A little more flexibility for the college and a little more opportunity for part-timers to teach.”However, Thomas O Dea, adjunct instructor of modern languages, points out that a part-time professor “can only teach as many classes as the department chair wants them to teach. They are only entitled to one class.”Presently, many adjunct professors have to teach in several districts because of the 60 percent limitation; this practice has earned them the nickname “freeway flyers.””Oh, I’m definitely a freeway flyer,” said Adrian Youhanna, adjunct instructor of geographical sciences. “I teach in three districts: Ventura County, Santa Clarita and Los Angeles. It would be great if I could pick up another class within the LACCD.”The original bill, which was introduced to the Assembly on Feb. 21, 2007, actually proposed that part-time professors be allowed to teach up to 100 percent of the hours of full-time employees. Opponents rose in protest.”The unions fought hard against the 100 percent,” said Holland, “because it would allow the administration to hire only part-timers, thus eliminating the tenure and benefit system. It’s also easier to fire a temporary employee than a full-timer.”Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of the 42nd district, in which Pierce resides, voted for this bill. Brownley, who has consistently been trying to balance the budget so that part-time and full-time teachers were treated more equally, opposed the original version of the bill because it “took out all the collective bargaining and made a new class of teachers; part-time became the new full-time,” according to statement issued by the Assemblywoman’s office.Brownley also feels that bill in its amended form “offers student and faculty more face-to-face time on the campus.””This is an ongoing battle,” she said. “The bill is one step closer to parity, though it is not the answer at all.”Among the other amendments to the bill was the elimination of the same health care benefits for tenured or tenure-track professors and part-timers teaching at least 40 percent of the full-time load.”I now pay for my health benefits out of my own pocket,” Youhanna said, “and it takes quite a chunk out of my pay.”The amended bill makes no mention of benefits for part-time employees.Holland is optimistic for the future of this bill.”It’s a good start, and I think we’ll see more action and discussion in the future,” Holland said. “We may even move up to 70 percent in the next few years. This is a step in the right direction.”The bill needs to be passed by the state Senate and approved by the governor before becoming law.