Pierce to hire full-timers in the middle of budget cuts

Despite the state budget crisis threatening California community colleges, Pierce College is looking to hire additional full-time faculty members for the coming fall semester.

The hiring is being done in order to meet the faculty obligation number: a state-issued legal requirement that dictates the amount of full-timers a district must have with relation to part-timers.

According to Kathy Holland, an adjunct faculty representative for the Pierce College academic senate, the state law requires at least 75 percent of all classes in the district to be taught by full-timers.

“Most campuses can use the budget dilemma as an excuse not to hire at all,” said Holland, an adjunct instructor of political science, economics and criminal justice. “In fact, the state education code allows districts to drop as low as 60 percent of their minimum obligation of full-timers.”

Pierce has a rough estimate of 200 full-timers and 450 part-timers, according to Holland.

The hires will replace an estimated 12 full-time employees that retired last year, according to Academic Senate President Tom Rosdahl. However, the college is only looking to fill four positions.

Rosdahl said that in the last three years, the state has continuously reduced the amount of students that they pay for. This results in the diminishing number of classes Pierce is able to offer.

This workload reduction, in turn, affects the total number of hires that the school is able to accommodate.

“Because we have fewer sections, there’s less demand for full-time faculty,” Rosdahl said. “We still lost a lot more people than we needed, so we have to gain the four positions.”

Anna Davies, interim vice president of academic affairs, admits that it would cost the college less to replace last year’s retirees with part-timers, but she also says that it would benefit students to hire full-timers.

“It would be better for students to have professors that are available to give them full-time assistance,” she said.

It costs somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 to service a group of classes by a full-time employee rather than the same amount of classes by part-timers, according to Rosdahl.

Another benefit of having adjunct faculty members has to do with their period of occupation.

Adjuncts are not tenured, nor are they on a tenure track that would lead to full-time status. That means that adjuncts can be easily unemployed at the whims of department chairs and administrators, according to Holland.

“Adjuncts are the first to be without a job, whereas tenured faculty are guaranteed a full load of classes, no matter how low the budget or enrollment are,” she said.

Adjunct faculty also benefit the district overall with regards to medical benefits.

“The district is not required to provide medical benefits to adjuncts,” said Holland. “In fact, if adjuncts want these benefits, we have to pay the premiums out of our own paychecks.”

The aforementioned benefits result in adjunct professors being “a very cheap way of providing educational services,” according to Holland.

“The campus budget is often balanced on the backs of adjuncts,” she said.

According to Rosdahl, regardless of whether the hires coming in are full-time or part-time, Pierce will be saving money from the move.

“When you’re on a reduction and you don’t replace retirees coming out, you in a sense save money,” Rosdahl said.

Rosdahl also adds that faculty members coming in will be lower on the salary schedule set by the union contract.

Pierce is currently in the beginning stages of hiring. In fact, Rosdahl says that the four positions have yet to be advertised. Still, the move to hire the four full-timers is still tentative.

“If the budget gets really crappy, it’s possible that come August, we end up hiring no one,” he said.