We're Constantly in Fear: The life of a part-time professor

It is important to understand that for the community college model to work, the college must maintain staffing flexibility to respond to enrollment surges and declines, as well as erratic state funding. Remember that community colleges are to serve anyone who has the 'ability to benefit'. It is a complicated matter. Each California community college has a 'cap' or enrollment maximum (called FTES) which is not unlike the ADA compensation for K-12. The FTES dictates how many students each college may serve, based on a full-time equivalency formula. There is also a minimum 'cap' below which the college is penalized financially if not enough FTES is 'earned'. Full-time tenured faculty are employed as the 'core' teaching academy. Part-time faculty balance the ebb and flow and help the college serve students who show up at the beginning of each semester. (Remember that four-year colleges largely know how many students they will be serving each year far ahead of time and do not have to face the unknown of how many 'butts in seats' there will be on opening day.) The picture is further complicated for community colleges because full-time faculty often have contracts that provide them with first dibs on any extra teaching opportunities to bolster their bottom lines...this is called 'overload' and many community college faculty unions have been quite adept at making it possible for their full timers to earn well in excess of $100,000, and even more than what some top administrators make in a given year. Some even receive 'release time' for service on the Academic Senate or union leadership but choose to take that bonus on top of still teaching a full load. Every class so taught by full-time faculty deprives part-timer of the opportunity. The State of California has not provided the funding for colleges to maintain the 75% to 25% ratio of full to part-time staffing that was legislated some years ago.
— March 10, 2016 12:35 p.m.

Sense of mistrust at Southwestern Community College

Visduh - It is not an unusual practice for community college boards to extend the contracts of the sitting CEOs as far into the future as the 4-year limit will allow. The practice is usually at the behest of the CEO because it gives the CEO an acknowledgment of board confidence and provides the greatest economic advantage for a pay out should the board decide to buy out the remainder of a contract should the relationship sour (new board members not in the CEO's camp are elected, for example). Meanwhile, the CEO is free to seek another position should one open up that would provide a career advancement opportunity (such as the chancellor's job at North Orange County District). In such a case, the CEO would resign to take the new position without penalty but would not receive a severance pay out. In California community college land, the CEO jobs have a pecking order of prestige: lowest on the totem pole is CEO at a college in a multi-college district; next highest is a CEO (superintendent and president) at a single college district such as Southwestern College; and the highest is a chancellorship (CEO) at a multi-college district such as San Diego CC District, North Orange County CC District, etc. Chancellors are also usually paid the highest salaries. The American Association of Community Colleges has predicted that there is to be a wave of retirements among CEOs (it may already be in progress) as the sitting CEOs age, so it will not be unusual to see musical chairs among the CEOs and high-ranking community college administrators in the near future.
— February 19, 2016 10:43 a.m.

Sense of mistrust at Southwestern Community College

While there may have been procedural irregularities during AACJC's review of San Francisco CC, I believe that the results were essentially fair. We should expect that all colleges are reviewed by and held to the same standards. In this case, SFCC balked at the expectations that they toe the lines established by ACCJC. Accreditation is largely about accountability, which is required by the US Dept of Ed in return for providing federal money and federal financial aid for the students. The accreditation process has become much more stringent in recent years because, in my opinion, California fell way behind the rest of the nation in establishing measures of institutional effectiveness (commonly known as Student Learning Outcomes) required by the USDOE and implemented during Dr. Beno's leadership of the ACCJC. Statewide faculty leadership balked at the notion of being held accountable for student learning and that battle is not yet over, although the ACCJC accreditors have the big stick. Or HAD the big stick until the California Community Colleges Board of Governors caved to political and faculty pressure and recently voted to seek another accrediting agency and pretty much give SFCC a pass, largely agreeing that it was 'too big and/or too important to fail' and blaming the commission for a too heavy hand. The SFCC matter is still pending and for the time being, ACCJC is still in charge of the matter. However, in my opinion, the expectations of the accrediting process are stringent but fair; I believe that faculty have some level of responsibility for their students' learning and that the taxpaying community deserves a rigorous application of education and management expectations in the periodic evaluations. As an aside, I do not think that the Southwestern faculty were among the strident groups that lobbied against the learning outcomes measures. The current SWC issues are not about teaching and learning as much as they are about the institution's failure to meet operational and systemic management requirements.
— February 13, 2016 12:57 p.m.

Sense of mistrust at Southwestern Community College

I certainly agree with Eastlaker! It is disappointing to learn of the ‘warning’ status by the Accrediting Commission. The following may be helpful: 1. “Warning” is the least severe sanction, not nearly the severity of “Probation” after the corruption scandal. It is still troubling. I think it reflects administrative systemic shortcomings rather than governance and leadership corruption that plagued the college in the past. 2. After the new board was elected, there was house cleaning and new administrators appointed. Interim president Denise Whittaker led the college team to restore full accreditation. 3. When president Nish came aboard, she had never been a college president, let alone a superintendent of a single college district. I doubt that she had (or has now) the administrative/management experience necessary to bring SWC into compliance with new and ever-evolving operational and technical expectations. 4. Reading the ‘recommendations’ of the Accrediting Commission, it seems the shortcomings are in fiscal planning, overall college planning, and other management practices. I don’t believe any of the recent presidents have been especially strong in any of these areas which require day-to-day organizational commitment and attention. 5. While I think the college has come a long way from the corrupt administration of Chopra, Alioto, Wilson, and the board that permitted and participated in it, it looks like there is quite a way to go to achieve ‘best practice’ management status. There is new fiscal leadership aboard in the last month and I trust Tim Flood will be a breath of fresh air and competence in that arena. He has a great and well-deserved reputation. 6. I think Nish is not necessarily a strong contender for the North Orange County Chancellor position and I would be surprised if she is selected. 7. The challenges the Commission’s evaluation put before SWC will mean yet another culture shift. It will be a stiff learning curve but one that is more technical in nature, instead of one that is personality-governance driven. 8. Finally, be reminded that NONE of the recommendations have anything to do with teaching and learning, which remarkably manage to continue on a high level through thick and thin. I believe that the SWC faculty are as committed to their students as any teacher could be. I also believe that the support staff are likewise committed although they may be understaffed and in need of some customer service training and encouragement. (For years, the college has relied on student workers and/or lowest-paid clerks to staff the front line counters and interact with students.) Let’s wish Southwestern College the best as everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel to meet the expectations and challenges now before the college community. Let’s also show our appreciation for this valued community resource that continues to serve the higher education needs of our region.
— February 10, 2016 3:54 p.m.

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