Why Full-time Faculty Matter

Michelle Pilati, Chair

As education continues its trend towards mimicking the world of big business, the reliance on part-time employees as a means of cost-cutting increases. This calls for organizations that are concerned with academic and professional matters, such as the ASCCC, to take a position on such trends and to consider the value of full-time faculty members in a truly academic way. At a time when more and more faculty are part-time and when there is a movement occurring in the state of california to abolish the current limit placed on how much an individual part-timer can teach in a district, a thoughtful consideration of this issue is needed. the general discussion is preceded by an excerpt from a document written by the office of the chancellor for the california community colleges that references a classic text on the subject of community colleges.

The numbers of full-time and part-time faculty in community colleges has been a matter of national concern since the inception of twoyear institutions of higher education. Junior and community colleges developed and grew in size during the previous century, with the most rapid expansion occurring in the post-World War II years. Although colleges hired cadres of full-time faculty members, part-time faculty members proliferated in greater numbers due to three basic causes: 1) the employment costs were lower; 2) they often offered unique expertise and specialties in occupational fields; and 3) they offered flexible staffing options for institutions experiencing sudden growth or decline.

Although part-time faculty offer the same quality in teaching, the benefits of a sufficient complement of full-time faculty members are numerous, from providing essential stability for planning and curriculum functions to providing the levels of availability that students need outside of the classroom. [emphasis added] In their book The American Community College, authors Arthur Cohen and Florence Brawer identified a number of functions which are normally performed either entirely or in greater measure by full-time faculty than by part-time faculty:

Instructional Activities
Curriculum Management Activities
Periodic Syllabus Revision
Joint teaching with Colleagues
Interdisciplinary Participation
Involvement in Honors Courses
General Education Involvement
Organization of Extracurricular Activities for Students
Professional Activities
Participation in Educational Associations
Disciplinary Associations
Community College Associations
Service as Department Chair
Institutional committee service 1
The above is from a document that reviews the history of one component of california's assembly bill 1725 that sought to reform the state's community college system and to more effectively align it with the state's other institutions of higher education. In looking to reform the community colleges, it was recognized that full-time faculty were essential in achieving this mission, as is apparent in this line from the legislation that was passed "because the quality, quantity and composition of fulltime faculty have the most immediate and direct impact on the quality of instruction, overall reform cannot succeed without sufficient members of full-time faculty." despite the legislature's recognition of the need for fulltime faculty, faculty groups are often asked to justify why they are needed.

In the California community colleges, protections have been put in place to ensure that the majority of courses are taught by full-time faculty and that part-time faculty do not become, in effect, under-compensated fulltime faculty. While these "protections" may not always achieve their intended goals, they are designed to prompt movement in the right direction. This is achieved by requiring that the majority of course sections be taught by full-time faculty and by limiting the amount that adjuncts can teach. Despite the so-called 75:25 ratio requiring that full-time faculty teach 75% of a college's offerings and the 60% limit on how much an individual part-time faculty member can teach in a given district, local colleges seldom have all the full-time faculty that they truly need. While this is unfortunate and is a problem that needs to be addressed, these measures are designed to prevent an existing problem from getting worse. While the existence of these restrictions implies that full-time faculty do matter, there seems to be a question about this assumption in many of the discussions now occurring throughout the state. In addition, groups that do not understand how colleges function are calling for such changes without consideration of the consequences. It is simple to delineate what full-time faculty do to improve the experiences of students and the overall climate on their local campuses.

Full-time faculty:

1. serve on committees, ensuring that the faculty voice is heard in local decision-making. While administrators have concerns about the "bottom line", it is the faculty who seek to protect the quality of the teaching and learning environment.

2. have offices, hold regular office hours, and are generally available to students. Full-time faculty know their discipline and the college, aiding students in navigating through the local college-from helping students to find classes to guiding them to the appropriate person on campus to help them with a problem. Full-time faculty are the backbone of the campus, creating the climate necessary to attract and retain students. Part-time faculty that come and go are not able to fully participate in campus activities.

3. develop courses and programs. It is the full-time faculty that ensure that curriculum is current and that are charged with the development of courses and programs to meet the needs of their communities and local businesses. While vocational programs are readily able to make the argument that they can benefit from having part-time faculty who are working in the field and teaching, it is vocational programs that need full-time faculty the most-in order to respond to emerging needs, provide continuity to the ever-changing student population, and to respond to external accountability requirements.

4. have tenure or are on the tenure-track in the California community college system. With tenure comes both freedom and responsibility-the freedom to act on one's conscience without concern for losing one's job and the responsibility of using this freedom to ensure the quality of the college at which one is employed. As the part-time ranks grow, there are fewer individuals in secure positions who can speak out when a wrong is perceived.

The importance of having full-time faculty, as opposed to adjuncts, has been deemed so important by some colleges that they have implemented a non-tenure track fulltime faculty system where these instructors are dedicated to teaching and evaluated primarily on their teaching (Fogg, 2004). Such individuals earn salaries comparable to their tenure-track counterparts, so this movement is not a means of cost-cutting, but rather a way to provide students with the benefits of full-time instructors as opposed to an array of adjuncts. The potential negative impact of such a system (i.e., hiring full-time faculty that are not on a tenure-track) is not at issue here; what can be concluded from the existence of such a system is that it is perceived that there is some value added when a faculty member is full-time, as opposed to part-time.

The move towards the increased use of part-time faculty members is one that is caused by an interest in doing more with less.

Increasing the exploitation of this element of the academic workforce may make fiscal sense, but it is not consistent with maintaining and improving academic quality. In addition, a system that needs to be responsive to the needs of the communities it serves must have the needed full-time employees in order to respond. Any movement that would further facilitate using part-time faculty over hiring additional full-time faculty is a movement in the wrong direction.

References and additional readings

AAUP-various articles can be obtained at http://www.aaup.org/Issues/part-time/ Chancellor's Office for California Community Colleges:

Part-time faculty: literature Review and bibliography,

2001 http://www.cccco.edu/divisions/tris/rp/rp_doc/planning/part_time_lit2.doc

Workgroup on 75/25 Issues, 2005 http://www.cccco.edu/reports/75_25/workgroup_75_25_proposal.pdf

Fogg, P. (2004). For these professors, `practice' is perfect. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 50, Issue 32, A12.

1 From Cohen & Brawer, the American Community College. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco. 2003. p. 88, as presented at:http://www.cccco.edu/reports/75_25/workgroup_75_25_ proposal.pdf

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