On November 30, 2017, PFF emailed a Faculty Survey to the 1,181 colleagues in its bargaining unit. Of the 24 questions, five were open-response. All answers were anonymous, unless one voluntarily left contact information in the final question so PFF could follow up.
The survey took an average of five minutes to complete. Following the initial launch, several reminders were sent to those who had not yet taken the survey. The survey closed at noon on Friday, December 15, 2017.
238 of the 1,181 invited faculty took the survey. Those 238 are:
- 112 part-time faculty, PFF members
- 26 part-time faculty, PFF non-members
- 91 full-time faculty, PFF members
- 9 full-time faculty, PFF non-members
As you might imagine, we read numerous opposing statements in the open-response questions. What one faculty member thought was a travesty, another celebrated, and what someone liked about us made someone else dislike us. Overall, the response to PFF’s work over the past semester was praised and the comments were encouraging to read. We have also taken into serious consideration your concerns and constructive points, and we remain respectful of those who vehemently disagree with the very idea of a union.
In this email, we’ve summarized the themes that emerged and share some responses. We cannot publish all individual statements, as some expose enough to violate the anonymity we promised at the survey’s onset.
In alphabetical order, here are the main themes from PFF’s Fall, 2017, Faculty Survey.
Thank you for noticing how PFF has endeavored to make itself more available this semester! In the fall, we began daily office hours in MD 330, and this semester we extend those even more. Per the input at October’s focus groups, PFF’s second meeting of the month is now on campus. The Minutes have always been posted on our web site, but now we’re letting you know as soon as they are posted. We’re sending more regular and detailed negotiations updates.
There seems to be some confusion about whom to contact and about under what circumstances. One person suggested we “Provide a quick guide re: services offered and who to contact re: issues, problems, benefits, resources. Often one knows that help is there but it takes too long to find out what the answer is.” That’s really good to know – thank you. An improved web page is here: https://www.palomarfacfed.org/about-us/. Hopefully it outlines the information you need. Let us know!
A PFF representative will be in MD 330 each day during the spring semester, 2018. You can drop in with questions or concerns, or just to grab a coffee and cookie.
PFF Office Hours
Mondays 9:30a – 12p
Tuesdays 9:30a-2:30p, 4-5p
Thursdays 9:30a-12p, 12:30-2:30p
PFF’s regular meeting times, which are from 4:00-6:00pm the 2nd (370 Mulberry Dr., #E, San Marcos 92069) & 4th (AA-140) Thursdays of the month when the regular semesters are in session, have been held at these times for years. Of course, this doesn’t accommodate every faculty member’s schedule – that’s impossible. And just like you can’t move a class time to accommodate one or two students, we can’t move the meeting time to accommodate a few faculty. We acknowledge that this is particularly difficult for part-time faculty, and hope that those who are interested in the meetings continue to join when they can.
A few faculty mentioned that visits from the union would be nice. Getting to know everyone better would be great. Please let us know if we can meet you for coffee, give you a call, visit your department, or join you in meetings where you need representation! There are 13 serving on the Executive Board and over 1,000 faculty members to get to know. You can see why it’s tricky to meet everybody. Visit https://www.palomarfacfed.org/about-us/ to see who you might want to connect with, and if you’re still unclear, ask our Organizer, Debbie Forward.
There was great appreciation for the benefits we’ve gained over the years, and a call that PFF continue to protect those. One commenter asked for “a complete document of benefits for part-time faculty.” Human Resources maintains a comprehensive list on their web site for both full-time and part-time faculty here: https://www2.palomar.edu/pages/hr/employees/benefits-2/
In brief, benefits for part-time faculty include the following:
- All faculty are entitled to use the Wellness Center at the rate established in January of 2001.
- Part-time faculty who complete a 50% load for 3 of 4 consecutive regular semesters or an average of 50% for 4 consecutive regular semesters can apply (through HR) for the District's HMO plan. The District will pay for 75% of the plan and charge the employee, through payroll deduction, 25% during each coverage period. Each coverage period is 6 months, commencing October 1 and April 1 each year. Applications must be submitted no later than ten calendar days prior to the beginning of each coverage period.
- Part-time faculty accrue sick leave at the rate of .056 hours for each hour paid. The sick leave balance is printed on employee pay warrants each month.
The number of students in a class is of prime importance to the PFF. We know that fewer students in a course means that there will be better retention and learning. As teachers, our students’ success is our top priority. Unfortunately, the District has different priorities. They are pushing an efficiency model that would require an average of 35 students per three-unit course. This is all about money and how the District is funded for the students we teach. We are striving to keep class caps as low as possible. We are presently negotiating the course maximums and will have more information available to you as we move forward.
While there is never a guarantee of job security when there are low enrollments, budget constraints, and class cuts, we are currently negotiating re-employment preference for part-time faculty based on date of hire.
More Full-Time Positions
We noted several calls for more full-time positions. The union does not have any direct influence over the number of full-time faculty hired by the District. This is one of the management rights. There is a minimum number, the Full Time Faculty Obligation Number (FON), of full-time faculty that must be hired below which the District is fined by the state. Although this is the barest minimum, the District has used this FON as a standard. The District has not hired more than a few faculty above the FON in many years. This causes many concerns in departments as fewer faculty are stretched further to do more evaluations, curriculum, and PRPs. We continue to advocate to the Governing Board that we need more full-time faculty. This is why it is crucial to get people on the Governing board who understand the issues of a Community College and particularly faculty concerns.
Part-time Faculty Office Hours
Many part-time faculty were very happy with PFF’s efforts to get paid office hours, and PFF continues to work for more. We are fighting for instructors of non-credit classes to get paid for some office hours, too.
There was one request that the “admin provide paperwork to every adjunct at the beginning of the semester. My admin won’t help with this.” We are disappointed to hear this. We will make sure ADAs have the correct forms at the semester’s beginning, and we will start sending reminders about the paperwork – as well as the paperwork itself – directly to part-time faculty at the semester’s start.
Palomar Before Politics
One of the more passionate pleas that came out of the survey was that faculty feels PFF should focus solely on the work to be done for professors at our college. You know that wider social justice issues – e.g. income inequality, gender topics, anyone running for office outside of our own Governing Board and political candidates – are incredibly important outside of campus, but that it’s not your local’s work to do.
We hear you.
As we’ve been doing for the past semester, PFF is resetting its priorities so most of our attention is on our campus. PFF does need to get behind CFT on big issues that directly affect our jobs, such as the work PFF did to pass Proposition 30 which increased funding to public schools. In addition, PFF has been and will continue to be involved in electing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (there is a 2018 candidate pushing privatization) and our own Governing Board.
However, that work will stay within COPE’s realm (Committee on Public Education). COPE funds are separate from union; and PFF dues do not fund the political activities of COPE. Rather, individual faculty members voluntarily donate those monies above and beyond standard union dues. PFF members can contribute to COPE by signing up for automatic paycheck deductions of any amount. If you’re interested in that work, check out https://www.palomarfacfed.org/cope/ or contact the COPE President at https://www.palomarfacfed.org/about-us/
In order to close the gap between part-time and full-time pay, PFF is constantly negotiating for more paid office hours for part-time faculty, and we are in the process of negotiating, for part-time faculty only, an increase in the number of salary steps, pay for part-time participation on certain shared governance committees, and prep pay for those who teach classes that are canceled the week before classes begin.
At Palomar College, the practice has been that all bargaining unit members across campus receive the same pay raises (known as the "Me Too" clause). This restricts our ability to negotiate separate pay raises for full-time and part-time faculty.
We just finalized the 2017-18 contract, and a complete negotiations update will be coming soon.
As expected and hoped for – no matter how hard it could get to read – there was plenty of input regarding the personality and perceptions of PFF.
Firstly, it was heartwarming and encouraging to read the expressions of gratitude for how hard PFF works. Thank you. The executive board takes its job seriously, works hard for the gains it gets, and takes every defeat to heart.
Secondly, we read each of the criticisms. Some people just don’t like unions, and that’s okay – that’s politics. But specific criticisms included that PFF is aggressive, cliquey, and that it works to protect bad professors. Allow us to address each of these.
In response to the question “What has PFF done that you really don’t like,” some responded that PFF was too aggressive, particularly in reference to past actions that became acrimonious. We hear that. When problems rise to that level, people tend to get heated and take sides. Our intention moving forward is to try and resolve problems at a low level before there’s acrimony. This is why we need you to tell us early on what’s happening, so that we can advocate for all faculty.
There were other comments that PFF is too cliquey. It probably can appear that the PFF Executive Board is cliquey. One person gets involved, realizes the board needs more people, and naturally that person turns to the people he/she knows to serve alongside them. The cycle repeats.
We want to clarify that PFF is not trying to keep anyone out. On the contrary, our outreach should show that we are trying to bring more people in. With most executive board members serving voluntarily (only the leadership, who puts in countless hours, receive release time and/or a stipend), it’s a real challenge to recruit. The board needs more people!
One commenter said that he/she might be more compelled to be involved “If there was some diversity in their leadership.” We’re unclear if the diversity referenced is about gender, sexual orientation, division taught, or what, but if you don’t see yourself reflected in PFF, please become more involved in the union.
Ours is a 14-member board, and frequently (including at present) an at-large seat remains unfilled. For the last several years, almost every election has been uncontested. There is no monopoly on the union. Palomar Faculty Federation is your union, and requires your involvement for it to be what you want it to be.
Let’s look at a final comment about being a clique. A faculty member’s response to the question about what the union may have done that you don’t like reads: “At times, there is a kind of elitist attitude that is expressed – as if faculty are a special class above other college employees. I strongly feel everyone should be treated equally, as we are all part of the same village.”
PFF does not feel above anyone else on campus, and we’re sorry this attitude has been attributed to us. We are indeed on the same level as other college employees, and stand right next to classified staff and administration. In fact, we are well-known within CFT for working so closely with our classified union, and we will not risk that relationship.
Neither does PFF feel that any individual is above anyone else on campus, and are not interested in protecting “bad professors.” There are times when faculty are disciplined for actions. The union doesn’t necessarily condone anyone’s actions. However, we are dedicated to protecting due process and fairness. We are there to represent faculty in disciplinary meetings, to consult with our attorney to determine if the District’s case is valid, and to appeal if it is not.
“Other than acute insanity, I have no idea what would compel me to join any union…”
That made us laugh! Referring back to one of our first claims in this summary, we agree to disagree with those who vehemently oppose the very idea of a union.
For most of you, though, union involvement is a matter of time. None of us seem to have enough. There were requests for a “clearer communication of duties,” so we added that to the About Us page on the web site: https://www.palomarfacfed.org/about-us/.
Please do not wait for another survey for your input! Again, come to a meeting, drop by MD 330 during office hours, or contact a representative via the web site. We look forward to getting to know you better in the semesters ahead.
Teresa Laughlin, PFF Co-President, Full-Time firstname.lastname@example.org
Colleen Bixler, PFF Co-President, Part-Time email@example.com
Debbie Forward, PFF Organizer firstname.lastname@example.org