Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Food for Thought

       To meet a pressing need, our FRCC AAUP chapter has begun weekly visits to area food banks along Colorado's front range. It's been remarkable to discover that staff at some food banks are already aware of the situation with Colorado's community college faculty majority. We placed the displays shown above in adjunct workrooms to inform adjunct faculty who may not yet know about our visits, but who need food. We are finding that going to food banks with peers forestalls some worry, removes the stigma from food bank use and contributes to solidarity among peers. The visits are especially welcome by adjunct faculty who have children at home. We are posting a photo of one of our displays here, as well as the copy for the sign below, for others to consider using if such a campaign might be helpful at your college or university campus. Boxes of crackers and jars of peanuts seemed appropriate props.

Feeding FRCC Adjunct Faculty

     Fall semester, 2013, the annual average wage for FRCC adjunct faculty remains thousands below the minimum living wage* for Colorado’s front-range communities. This low wage qualifies many FRCC adjunct teachers for food stamps, food-banks, indigent health-care cards and other resources. **

Join our food bank visits.
Get some groceries.
Meet with colleagues.

      Many adjuncts tell us they feel ashamed to be teaching, as if they have made a mistake in choosing to teach our students. They take as proof of their mistake their low wages, lack of health care, etc. Many are deeply in debt, using credit cards to purchase necessities. They feel they have failed.

     You have not failed; the system has failed you. Changes are underway. Meantime, you need to eat. You may need medical care. Contact us. We care. We can help.

Front Range Chapter, American Association of University Professors

 * Gastmeier, Amy. “Living Wage Calculation.” Poverty in America: Living Wage Calculator. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013. Web 8 Sept. 2013.

**Approximately 4,000 adjunct (part-time) faculty teach 70 -85% of all the courses offered within the Colorado Community College System. The majority faculty – adjuncts – represent 70% of the faculty within the system.

Note: We have collected the pertinent sources to serve poverty-level wage earners like FRCC adjunct faculty. For a list of contacts and Web sites to connect to food, health-care, transportation, housing and home repair resources, see our Web site.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No Poverty of Intellect: A Review of the Play, Junct

By Sandra  Keifer

Our previous blog post pulled back the curtain and revealed the terrible truth that universities and colleges are teaching their students how to live in poverty. Adjuncts and graduate assistants living below the poverty level teach their courses from positions of despair and helplessness, and in the process of trying to survive, they reveal the lack of respect that colleges and universities have for education. From their ivory towers, armies (often more than twice the number of instructors) of secure, well-paid administrators act as plutocratic directors overseeing the performance of poorly paid and desperately overworked instructors, making higher education a corporate plan to support growing numbers of administrators who have stolen the spotlight (and the money) from their students and instructors.

The play Junct, which held an open dress rehearsal April 25 on the CSU campus, brought this real-life drama to the stage.

Organized in short monologues, the play opened with a young graduate student telling the story of her parents’ divorce and her mother’s struggle to support her children. When the young woman entered college, her mother encouraged her to become self-sufficient: “College professors make good salaries and their jobs are secure.” This obvious mistake drew empathetic murmurs from the audience, a large group of faculty who are painfully aware of the dearth of full-time faculty jobs and the devastating plight of adjuncts. Nodding quietly, the young woman explained to the audience that she is a graduate assistant for CSU, working well over 40 hours per week for little more than tuition for her coursework, and no future in sight beyond adjunct work, a more permanent type of poverty.

Continuing with her story, the graduate assistant explained that recently, she brought her concerns to the faculty advisor, whose careless, antiquated response left her speechless. “Find a husband who can support you, and then, perhaps after your children are grown, you can come back and teach as an adjunct.” The young student reacted with dismay and anger: did the conversation occur in a time warp? Is it 1950 or 2013? After years of study and investment, must teaching be removed from her short list of career options because she needs to be able to—of all things—earn a living wage? Is higher education instruction becoming volunteer work for instructors who are fortunate enough to have a pension or spousal support? If so, why are the administrators secure and well paid?

In the next monologue, we hear confessions about depression, burnout, and ketchup sandwiches—these teachers have no money to buy food.

Most of the speakers are young and utterly oppressed by the university’s system; they are regularly taking the bitter pill of poverty. The sad atmosphere lightens with occasional music from a three-person band and fast-paced, humorous skits involving several actors. One adjunct explains to a student that he doesn’t have an office, but he can meet her in the parking lot. A group of graduate students who teach composition—a course that requires instructors to spend many hours grading essays—wonders why they are not paid hourly instead of per course. The current compensation system may make work simpler for administrators, but it perpetuates serious workload inequities between instructors in different departments.

One student wonders, after all of this pain, if she is still a writer and a human being, as if teaching were a disease that may require surgery.

Yes, these young people who live on condiments, endure numerous roommates, and work well over 40 hours per week have learned about poverty from the higher education system. (When we think of “the working poor,” how often do we think of people with advanced degrees?) Instead of leaving, however, these instructors have chosen to honor their academic investments and speak out in creative ways.

College administrators—particularly those who receive state tax dollars—listen up. You have created a culture of poverty and are perpetuating it across your campuses. Listen and learn about the poverty that you are offering and teaching to our nation’s young people. They deserve better.

Junct will be performed on college and university campuses in Colorado during Campus Equity Week, Oct. 20-26, 2013.

Our FRCC AAUP chapter website will provide more details as the Fall semester approaches.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Teaching poverty at the community college

By Caprice Lawless

            We watch in great sadness as, one by one, gifted teachers leave our college without so much as a farewell from administration or from the departments in which they served. A few leave for what they know may be temporary, albeit better-paying jobs in other colleges and universities. Most leave education altogether, vowing never to return to the particular types of humiliation and contempt faced by those who dare teach in this state’s community colleges.

            Those of us who remain wonder what are we teaching and modeling by our teaching. Increasingly, students are becoming aware that many of them earn more in their espresso-pouring and other retail jobs than we do teaching them college courses. Some of our students, not surprisingly, have begun to connect the dots and question the purpose of their academic pursuits if their teachers live in poverty.

            Yet don’t we model poverty for our students? Wordlessly, we teach them how to expect not a bright future, but, in fact, a decidedly dim one. Each time we enter a classroom, we show them how to make do with used clothing, sack lunches and reconditioned electronics. When we go to work sick (and we all do, as we have no health insurance or sick leave), we show them how to get through a work day by keeping the decongestant and a box tissues handy. Of course they realize we are spreading illnesses to them. They see that this is what is in store for them, as well, once they get their college degrees. They are watching professionals who are deeply in debt for their own degrees work even while ill, and for peanuts.

            We unintentionally teach them to become wise to the ruse; that the sprinkling of words like “future,” “planning” and “integrity” in class schedules and college programs are there to serve only the careers of the invisible administrators, the ones never seen in hallways or cafeterias. They are learning that, similarly, they will never see their administrators either, and, should one appear, it is likely time to worry. We model for them not to expect too much, once you graduate, from anyone in leadership, for leadership is in a class of its own making and is self-serving.

 When they watch us load our files into our aging cars, they can see that college teachers have so little status they don’t even have a place to store their things in the schools their labor has helped build. When we run into our students in food banks, at subsidized clinics, and in used clothing stores, we are teaching them that even “making ends meet” is a quaint and meaningless phrase.

            A colleague of mine taught her classes for a week on a broken leg. Her students saw her in the hallway, crying in pain. Another adjunct taught for two weeks after he had been diagnosed with shingles. He was so weak he could not even carry his books. His students carried them for him. He could walk only part way down the long corridor before he had to stop and sit a while. What did his students learn during that episode about the value of three college degrees?

            Alas, when we teach them to recognize cries for justice in essays they study, do those cries fall on deaf ears? Are we are teaching them to be numb to human suffering? Posters in our hallways promise hope and opportunity, but we wonder whether the work life of their highly educated teachers offers a convincing counter argument.


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gettin’ FLAC’d*

By Guest Blogger: Reva Lution

          So how many times have you been Flac’d by the newly installed FLAC payroll system? If you haven’t been Flac’d yet, consider yourself lucky. I have yet to meet a PT instructor who has escaped this humiliating and dehumanizing experience.  If you are one of the lucky ones who has yet to be subjected to it, “getting Flac’d” refers to the mysterious process whereby your contract with the Community College system goes in, but the payout from this work never seems to enter your bank account. Somewhere along the way, it gets “Flac’d” (lost) and you get Flac’d when you try to pay for something.  Woes betide the poor saps who were counting on actual money to pay their bills! 

          I am personally experiencing my 4th Flac’ing and I’m pretty fed up it with it. This last one in particular has been excessively egregious.  I was promised two payouts in December (supplemental to my regular instructional pay) for work I completed over the course of the semester. The first payout finally reached my account in mid-February. I am still waiting on the second. Yes, you read that right. I entered into a contract with the institution and I did my part – so where’s my money?

          The worst thing is no one seems to be able to figure it out. Inquiries usually result in indecipherable mumbling about “FLAC, new, glitches”. You would think I would have heard an apology or two considering the number of times I have been subjected to this process.  And you would be wrong. I have never heard one word from finance or HR about why these “glitches” keep happening or what anyone is doing to prevent me from gettin’ Flac’d the next time a new contract is generated. 

          If you have your own FLAC story to tell, please send it to us! It is important that we compile and document exploitative practices by our institutions. We do great work and create incredible value for our campuses. We deserve so much more yet we create this value for so little compensation. And now we’re being told to do this work for some possible compensation at some point in the far distant future (By the way you’re going to have to beg them multiple times before they respond to you.) 

          Let’s stop the Flac’ing! 

*Faculty Load and Compensation (FLAC)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Senator John Kefalas meets with the Campus Instructor Coalition on the Larimer Campus

By Joe Schicke, Co-chair of FRCC Larimer’s Campus Instructor Coalition

           As co-chairs of the Campus Instructor Coalition (CIC), the adjunct organization of Front Range Community College’s Larimer Campus, Hollie Kopp and I make regular efforts to reach out to adjunct allies in the community. Recently, we were able to sit down with Colorado State Senator John Kefalas. Senator Kefalas listened intently as we described the life of an adjunct and some of our specific concerns we have. We expressed our apprehension about the Affordable Care Act and how it may affect adjuncts’ class loads. We want to make sure that our institution does not our cut hours in order to avoid having to pay for health care.

           Kefalas had already started to investigate this issue before our meeting, and one of his colleagues at the Colorado Health Institute unearthed the CCCS Benefits manual which states that any “regular employee” who teaches the equivalent of a “part time load” is eligible for benefits. Kefalas suggested we learn from our administrators how this language applied to adjunct before he pursued the matter further. Hollie and I will be working on that in the coming weeks and will report back to Kefalas so that he may take further measures.
Senator Kefalas also urged us to strengthen our “power wheel” as he called it. He applauded our efforts at developing a relationship with Colorado Adjuncts and our plans to form a Front Range chapter of the AAUP, but urged that we also make contact with the Colorado AFT, Ray Hogler at CSU, Steve Mumme from the AAUP, Chair of the House Education committee Millie Hamner, and Colorado Commission on Higher Education board member Evie Hudak. Lastly, Senator Kefalas reminded us of an upcoming meeting that he scheduled with Larimer Campus VP Bruce Walthers, and asked us to consider what Hollie and I would like him to discuss with VP Walthers at that meeting. All in all, it was a great meeting, and it is encouraging to know that we have Colorado Adjunct allies in the Senate working for the citizens of this state.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Highlights from the 
Colorado Community College System
2012 Basic Financial Statements and Compliance Audit
Note: One of our community supporters, a finance officer at one of Colorado's largest corporations, has been studying our governing board's financial reports, at our request. The data below, distilled from the recently published 2012 audit, reveals that our college system has been hiring nearly three new employees per day for the past several years, and that several thousand of these new employees are administrators. This, while college leadership has repeatedly told adjunct faculty during this same time period there has never been money in the budget to pay them a living wage.

It is clear other employees in our college system have someone advocating for them, as described below.  Adjunct faculty at the college have not had anyone to advocate for them--until now. Join our FRCC AAUP chapter today or write to us for more information.

Administrators and full-time faculty in Colorado's Community College System (CCCS) have the Colo. Department of Personnel and Administration, Colo. WINS, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and the American Association of Community Colleges to formally tabulate wage statistics, advise on benefit packages and to promote their professional status. The facts below, distilled from the KMPG auditor’s report for the CCCS 2012 Basic Financial Statements and Compliance Audit, * describe the value of such advocacy, while revealing the situation for the faculty majority in black and white. The 4,012 adjunct faculty (71% of the total faculty) working in Colorado’s 13 community colleges have been working at below-poverty-level wages for more than a decade, in spite of the below-listed highlights from recently published 2012 CCCS audit:

1.      Colorado Community College System (CCCS) revenue has grown to $579.811 million.
2.      Total CCCS revenue, all sources [tuition and government], is up $36.417 million since 2009.
3.      CCCS employee count has grown to 8,600, up 2,966 from 2009; this means an average of 988 more per year; 82 per month or nearly three new employees per day.

4.      Currently, there are 8,600 employees; 4,012 adjunct faculty; 1,728 full-time faculty; 2,860 are non-faculty.

5.      Price tag for the one-stop student center completed in 2012 on the Westminster campus was $5.253 million; it was part of the $59 million spent on construction projects system-wide.

6.      Instruction brought $378.32 million into the CCCS.

7.      Of that $378.32 million in revenue from instruction, just 11% was returned to the adjunct faculty who teach 70% of all courses the system offers.

8.      The CCCS spent $220 million on instruction total; of that, $62 million went to the 4,012 adjunct faculty, while the remaining $158 million was spread among 1,728 full-time faculty and other elements of instruction unspecified in the auditor’s report.

9.      Less than 5% of CCCS revenue was from state appropriations.

10.  Although the CCCS Foundation support has quadrupled, according to recent FRCC Frontline reports, those funds are “discreet,” according to the auditor’s report, and do not need to be included in financial disclosures.

These notes, from the Colorado Community College System 2011 Salary Survey
1.      Adjunct professors comprise 71 percent of the CCCS faculty.
2.      Adjunct faculty, average, annual income was [and remains] $15,500. [Poverty level wage for Jefferson County, Colo. is $19,275.]
3.      The top two concerns of the CCCS HR Department in 2011 were salaries for full-time faculty and deans.
4.      The CCCS HR director recommended status quo [in regard to all other salary issues.]
5.      The average salary for CCCS deans at the time was $74,959 [plus benefits].
6.      The average, annual, salary for the remaining 1,728 full-time faculty at the time was $46,618 [plus benefits].
7.      The average salary for CCCS vice-presidents was $101,845.
8.      The average salary for CCCS directors was $86,703.
9.      The 2013 annual salary for Front Range Community College President Andy Dorsey is $161,000.*
10.  The 2013 annual salary CCCS President Nancy McCallin is $291,000* up $24,695 from her 2009 salary. **
* From CCCS Headquarters, courtesy of Rhonda Bentz, Media and Government Relations
** “CSU chancellor’s lower pay not uncommon,” The Pueblo Chieftain, July 25, 2009.

This note is from the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration 2013-14 Annual Compensation Survey: The average, annual, before-tax income for a Colorado State Employee Custodian III is $33,420 [plus benefits].