by Lauren Handley.
I know that the news today was the all-users email. Before addressing that, I’d like to let you know that MPCTA will be hosting Jennifer Baker, the statewide CTA legislative advocate, who will be offering a presentation on retirement for part-time faculty members. She will address the STRS system, as well as some pitfalls that part-time faculty face in securing optimal benefits. This presentation will be in the Sam Karas room from 4-6pm on November 7. There will be food! Some of our part-time members were able to see this presentation at the most recent CCA conference and say it is packed with information all part time faculty should have.
Our division reps met with Memo Durgin, the CTA regional organizer and Christal Watts, our local staff person to sketch out a series of events for the rest of the semester. Stay tuned for more actions like this one. The impasse paperwork has been submitted, by Christal Watts, to the Public Employee Relations Board and we anticipate hearing from them sometime in November. This process is slow. First, the state must certify that we are at impasse. Only after that, will we have substantial information about when mediation can begin.
Today an all users email was sent out on behalf of Dr. Loren Steck. It is important to note that MPCTA remains committed to securing a contract that benefits students and faculty by protecting workloads, which are growing, and ensuring that MPCTA can recruit and retain the best possible faculty. Increasingly, each of us is experiencing the unfortunate realities of failed searches, loss of wonderful colleagues, and increasing difficulty recruiting the part-time faculty that are essential to our programs. All of this harms students and we are committed to ensuring that this trend does not continue. For those of you who are interested in a more complete rebuttal, the following are counter-arguments:
- Although Dr. Steck claims that fully paid health benefits are provided to all faculty. MPCTA is keenly aware that most faculty on our campus receive NO health benefits at all. MPC, like most schools, is increasing dependent on part-time faculty and they do not receive the good benefits that full-time faculty, staff, and administrators enjoy. Aggravating the lack of health benefits, is the fact that their salaries are far lower than comparable community colleges across the state. MPCTA is seeking to turn this tide and ensure that our part-time faculty can afford to live near and teach at MPC.
- Dr. Steck distinguishes between “desire to pay” and “ability to pay.” It is important to note that faculty specifically asked District negotiators: are you asserting an inability to pay what we are asking? The District did not claim inability to pay. This is because the District has sufficient funds to pay but has other priorities. Budgeting is about priorities: do you want to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers and contractors? Do you want to double the number of administrative deans? Or, do you want to pay frontline staff and faculty who directly work with students? For the past ten years the district has had other priorities and this has led to MPC not being competitive in recruiting and retaining staff and faculty, which hurts students. It hurts students when programs and instruction lack continuity from year to year. It hurts students when we are constantly training new faculty or when we can’t adequately staff enough courses because we are not competitive.
- Dr. Steck rightly observes that in the absence of a current contract most provisions of the expired contract regulate working conditions. But this ignores the basic fact that a contract from 2010 is not current with the present educational environment and needs. In 2010 online instruction was a much smaller component than it is in 2017, so not having an article that outline online instructional responsibilities is a real deficit. In 2010, student learning outcome assessment was understood very differently than it is today so not having any provision in our contract about student learning outcomes is a real deficit. And not having a current contract means the District can choose to ignore contract language when it wishes, which it did when it chose not to respect a salary formula in the old contract, forcing faculty to seek state mediation, and ultimately being forced to accept less was owed. Not having a current contract that is enforceable by law hurts students because it means administration can impose demands on working conditions that may hurt students and faculty have limited ability to resist.
- Dr. Steck uses an average number, really the mean, to misrepresent the reality of faculty salaries. This is part of a long standing pattern where District claims to want to compensate better but then contradicts itself by pretending that salaries are not near the bottom. First, his data does not include part-time instructors who make up half of our instructors and who are paid barely enough to survive. Second, no one makes an average salary. It is more meaningful to compare apples to apples—how much does someone with a PhD and 20 years experience make here and elsewhere? A Master’s degree and 15 years? An average number can grossly distort reality by not accounting for the details in real salary that varies by education and years of service. This is why the chart provided via email last week which compares colleges by step is a preferable method for comparing salaries (See attached presentation to the Board).
- Regarding raises, Dr. Steck pretends that an experience step is the same as a raise. Currently, it takes 27 years of experience for a full-time faculty member to earn the top range in our salary schedule. Jobs often have a salary range to recognize that people with extensive experience can command greater salary on the open market. To act as if an experience step is the same as a raise is misleading. It also is false to say that every faculty gets this experience step every year. MPC has an unusual salary schedule that includes ten years where no experience adjustment is included. Furthermore, it would be far preferable to have fewer such experience steps and get to the top salary quicker, as administrators do. Administrators earn the top salary in only five years whereas it takes faculty 27 years to get to the top earnable salary. Dr. Steck appears to be distorting the purpose of experience steps to make it seem like MPC is regularly giving salary increases. Other colleges get these experience steps and in addition, regular cost of living increases to the salary schedule. Faculty at most colleges advance quicker and do not have frozen experience steps. MPC’s salary schedule is actually out of date and non-competitive, probably because it reflects the economic reality of 2010 when the state budget was in crisis and not the reality of 2017 when the state budget is the best it has been in many years.
The bottom line is that despite claims to the contrary, the facts show that MPC does not offer a competitive salary. We are losing full-time faculty to peer institutions that pay 10% or more better. This hurts students. We are not able to retain our best part-time instructors, who make up 50% of our faculty and who are paid a range of $2,200 to maximum of $3,800 for a three credit course. They are limited to teaching only 3 courses a semester and so they make a range of 20 thousand annually to 34 thousand (if they teach 3 courses Fall, Spring, Summer). Half of our faculty who have Master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s and work the maximum allowable are living on these wages, with no health benefits.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions- you can contact me by replying to this email or at firstname.lastname@example.org.