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.


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.


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.


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  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.


Per 4.1.12 and, 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. 


      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.


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.