By Duane Dewitt
RUMBLINGS from the "academic underclass" at Santa Rosa Junior College have brought state legislators to the local campus to hear complaints from part-time instructors seeking equal pay for equal work. Two weeks ago, close to 60 adjunct instructors, as part-timers are called, met with state Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins; Jim Leddy, legislative aide for state Sen. Wes Chesbro; and Lorena Anderson, legislative aide for Virginia Strom-Martin. They told the legislators they are treated like an academic underclass by the college administration.
According to Michael Ludder, adjunct instructor of political science, "Here we get 63 cents on the dollar for teaching the same load as full-timers."
During a two-hour session the instructors poured out their concerns about being paid less for working just as hard, causing many to feel as if they're being treated as second-class citizens on campus. They want the state legislators to take action. Adjunct instructor Katie McDonald emphasized, "We are like the working poor. It is unbelievable. We have the same credentials. We'd like health benefits, equal pay, but most of all we want respect."
Wiggins told the instructors she would be working to address their concerns on the state level, where the budget surpluses are bringing more requests for educational spending. However, she added, the future will hold more vocational programs because "we need an array of options for the kids who don't go on to the university."
Emphasizing that "somebody has to advocate for the other kids not going on to the universities," she went on to say, "The money for salaries needs to be there."
Anne Samson, of the college classified staff, told the legislators, "Our college has a sad tradition of relying on short-term nonpermanent staff. But this is not the case, because the positions are kept on a long time." Many of the instructors have been part-timers for 15 years or longer at SRJC. Now that money may be available from the state surplus, they want parity with the full-time instructors, who are the minority on campus.
THE CALIFORNIA Postsecondary Education Committee released a report last year saying there will be nearly half a million more students coming into the California community colleges in the future. Over a decade ago, in 1988, the state Assembly passed AB 1725, mandating that 75 percent of instruction at community colleges be by full-time instructors. This number has not been reached yet, and many instructors doubt that it ever will be.
The adjunct activists took their case to the school board of trustees at the monthly meeting on April 11 and demanded there be changes in the way the college pays and treats them. Alex Alixopulos, an adjunct history instructor, recounted his story of being a "freeway flyer," teaching nine courses at three colleges in the area. During 16 years at SRJC, he has been putting 200 miles a day on his car, commuting among schools to feed his family. He told the trustees, "Our responsibilities are the same as the full-timers. We want pay equity. It is basic fairness: equal pay for equal work."
Allan Azhderian, who holds two academic degrees, including a master's in fine arts, and has taught in the SRJC arts department as an adjunct for more than a decade, summed it all up for the frustrated part-time faculty, saying, "The system cheats, denigrates, and demoralizes the adjunct faculty."
Now the faculty is hoping the trustees and school administration will work with the legislators to help raise their pay.
Trustee Mike Smith said, "I am interested in exploring how we can help our part-timers." While trustee Carole Ellis also expressed interest in the plight of the part-timers. She supports having a committee look into the proposals presented by the part-time faculty.
In the past, the school administration has actively lobbied legislators in Sacramento to defeat pay raises for adjuncts.
That doesn't sit well with part-time faculty. "We are determined to get our issues out there," says adjunct instructor Michael Ballou, who is settling in for the long haul. "The deck is stacked against us at every level of campus government."
From the April 20-26, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.