The Takeaways from PFF's Fall '17 Faculty Survey

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.

 

Accessibility

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

Wednesdays   9:30a-3p

Thursdays       9:30a-12p, 12:30-2:30p

Fridays            11a-1p

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. 

 

Benefits

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.

 

Class Size

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.

 

Job Security

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/ 

 

Pay Raises

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.

 

Personality

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.

 

Union Involvement

“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/.

 

Thank you!

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  tlainelaughlin@gmail.com

Colleen Bixler, PFF Co-President, Part-Time  pffgrievance@gmail.com

Debbie Forward, PFF Organizer  debbieforward1@gmail.com

Tuesday Tax Plan Event at Issa's Vista Office

The California Federation of Labor is organizing statewide protests to push back on the GOP tax bill, and we just heard about a North County event tomorrow.

What: Vote NO - Congressman Darrell Issa Action
Date:  Tuesday, December 12

Time:  10:00am
Where: Congressman Darrell Issa’s Office, 1800 Thibodo Rd., Vista, CA  92081
Parking: Park in the Hope Church parking lot. Pastor Matthew Palm of Hope Church at 1755 Thibodo Rd offers the parking lot to promote public safety (he recognizes the danger of people parking illegally on Thibodo Rd), and emphasizes that the church does not take sides in politics.

If passed under current budget rules the GOP tax bill would result in immediate cuts of over $100 billion in health and human services, including $25 billion per year to Medicare. This quarter-trillion dollar cut would impact the care of seniors and people with disabilities as well as their families that all depend on this crucial program.

There are several emergency events planned around California next week to fight back against this cruel, despicable bill.  More information is at http://calaborfed.org/take-action-no-on-gop-tax-scam-on-working-people/

The Takeaways from PFF's Focus Groups

Earlier this semester, PFF invited all faculty to participate in a series of focus groups.  This email contains the takeaways that came from those meetings.
 
36 faculty members had signed up for the focus groups, which were held the week of October 2, 2017.  After some cancellations, we held 7 focus groups with 14 part-time faculty and 7 focus groups with 14 full-time faculty.  We truly appreciate the time and thought these colleagues took in this process.
 
Below is a summary of the major takeaways as well as how PFF will address them.  Later this semester, we will send a Survey Monkey for more detailed input.  We hope all faculty will participate in that online survey, and we will share the compiled results from that, as well.

In solidarity,
The Palomar Faculty Federation

 

Takeaways from PFF’s Focus Groups

 

THE ISSUE: How colleagues view PFF

Participants expressed admiration and respect for individual executive board members, and appreciate the work and commitment of the board members.

Some colleagues expressed an alternate view about the executive board as a group. Some thought the e-board was exclusive and not open to differing opinions.

PFF’S RESPONSE

We’re so glad you like us as people, and want to improve any negative impression we give as a group!  We can see how we might have earned the reputation, though – for example, we aren’t as accessible as we could be and executive board members tend to be drawn from “the same old” departments. 

Effective immediately, we are moving one of the two monthly meetings back on campus (see “Meetings and Mulberry”).  Office hours in MD-330 began this semester, and as faculty have been dropping in, we will continue those.  We encourage departments to send a representative to attend PFF meetings (it doesn’t have to be the same department member at every meeting – you can rotate!).  There is an open At-Large seat on the board that can be filled by a part-time or full-time professor, and we have been asking not from “the same old” departments to join.

We appreciate the constructive criticism, and will continue our efforts to be more inclusive.

 

THE ISSUE: Meetings and Mulberry

PFF and CCE share an off-site office on Mulberry Drive (it’s often just called “Mulberry”).  There is concern about the money spent on rent and utilities, and it has given the impression that the desire was to remove the union from the people.  There were a number of requests to have meetings on campus.

PFF’S RESPONSE

We hear you.

At the time, PFF and CCE were leading the way for greater union solidarity across North County, and voted to acquire a large, off-site office.  The locals also felt that with a more traditional “union hall,” there would be room to host even larger meeting audiences and have a place for socials.

The few parties we’ve had have been a blast, but not worth the expense of looking like the board is distancing itself from those it serves. While PFF takes a hard look at its future office needs, we will move one of the two monthly meetings to AA-140.  The meetings on the second Thursday of the month will be held at Mulberry, and the meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month – the next being October 26, 2017 – will be held at AA-140 on the main campus.

 

THE ISSUE: Transparency

Faculty want to know more about what, specifically, PFF is working on.  For example, colleagues want to know how to get meeting Minutes, hear how many grievances are in play at a time, and learn what/when the negotiations team is presenting.  Right now, it feels a bit secretive.

PFF’S RESPONSE

We’re so glad people want to know what we’re doing, and we are not doing anything in secret!

The Minutes, which include all these details, are posted within a few days of their approval at https://www.palomarfacfed.org/agendas-minutes/.  Minutes from one meeting are approved at the next meeting, then sent to our web master typically within a day, who then posts within a day of receipt.  For example, the Minutes from the 9/28/17 meeting were read and approved at the 10/12/17 meeting.  They were sent for posting on Monday, 10/16/17, and the web master posted them by that afternoon.

From now on, we will email when Minutes have been posted, and the email will include a very brief summary of the Minutes (as everyone can see the details on PFF’s site).  We will also send more negotiations updates as we make progress.

 

THE ISSUE: Both FT & PT have concerns about the amount of overload some FT faculty teach

We heard frustrations from part-time faculty that there weren’t enough classes for them to teach, in part, because full-time faculty took so much overload (particularly in the summer).

Full-time faculty are also concerned about part-time faculty having enough classes to teach for this reason.  They are also concerned about professor “burnout,” without summer breaks, and with the fact that some full-time faculty take overloads but don’t serve their required number of committee hours or attend commencement.

PFF’S RESPONSE

Per 4.1.12 and 4.1.15.1, full-time faculty may teach 140% of their load  in a regular semester and up to 28 instructional hours during intercession and summer session.  Up to these limits, full-time have the right to the classes first.

But like full-time faculty, part-time faculty members also count on a certain number of classes to cover their living expenses too, while earning about 1/3 of what a full-time faculty member is paid.  While department cultures vary, there is no room for differing interpretations of the contract: there is a limit to the amount of overload a full-time faculty member can teach.

 

THE ISSUE: Premature class cancellations

We heard numerous frustrations and examples about classes getting cancelled long before faculty felt the classes even had a chance to fill. 

PFF’S RESPONSE

      This makes us crazy, too, and we understand how this especially hurts part-time faculty and our students.  We continue to advocate for classes to be allowed to meet the first week of school. We filed a grievance over this, and it went to mediation, but the District insists it is their right as described in 8.2 of the contract.  We are working to change the contract language.

 

THE ISSUE: Areas not necessarily under the purview of the union

Faculty shared their concerns that aren’t under the union’s control.  For examples:

  • Several PT faculty respondents noted that “it’s not like this at other campuses;” Palomar is the worst in terms of PT morale and building unity between PT & FT faculty.  Here, PT feel “less than,” while at other campuses they feel they have a valued voice.
  • Varying department cultures – some treat all faculty with great respect and professionalism, and some need improvement.
  • Advertising – it’s inconsistent and ineffective, and faculty would like PFF to influence the amount and type of advertising the school does.

PFF’S RESPONSE

Although these issues are beyond our purview, PFF representatives are in all of the governance councils and will continue to speak up for all faculty in these meetings. We value the feedback we get and it informs the work we do.

ACCJC Loses in Court - Again

It was good news last week for the nearly 80,000 students who attend City College of San Francisco (CCSF). On Friday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow rejected the request of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to narrow the scope of the judge’s current injunction, the result of a trial that ended with the judge ruling that the ACCJC had broken four laws in its decision to terminate CCSF’s accreditation.
 
The injunction spells out a 10-point plan to ensure the ACCJC clearly and completely details each deficiency the agency has identified in the CCSF system.  One of the problems in the accreditation turmoil surrounding CCSF has been that the ACCJC, according to the judge’s ruling, failed to clearly communicate with the college about its supposed deficiencies, and failed to provide an opportunity for the college to respond to them.
 
“The ACCJC keeps trying to minimize its misdeeds,” said CFT President Josh Pechthalt, in response to Judge Karnow’s latest ruling. “The Judge correctly rejected their latest attempt to avoid responsibility."
 
City College of San Francisco faculty union AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly added, "We are gratified that Judge Karnow rejected the ACCJC's latest attempt to escape accountability for its illegal actions."

The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC.  More info: www.cft.org