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Peralta Community College District Finally Ratifies Part-Time Faculty Contract

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The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to ratify a tentative contract agreement between the district and the Peralta Federation of Teachers, upping pay for part-time faculty.

The district represents Berkeley City College, Laney and Merritt colleges in Oakland and College of Alameda.

The move brought to a close over a year of protracted contract negotiations, which nearly devolved into a strike. PFT head Jennifer Shanoski characterized the move as a step in the right direction, but said there is still work to be done in achieving salary parity for part-time and tenured professors. The union’s members approved the contract by a vote of 155-2 back in January.

Shanoski stressed that the pay increase of 3.26 percent, while a step in the right direction, is only about “halfway” to the union’s goal of equal pay for equal work irrespective of faculty members’ part-time or tenured classification.

Historically, part-timers have struggled to focus on students at any given campus. Many are forced to cobble together a living by taking jobs at multiple colleges, teaching one or two classes at each. The resulting strain between teaching and travel time means that professors had difficulty giving their full attention to students at any one campus.

Merritt College Student Center in Oakland, Calif. Photo courtesy of mk30/Flickr.

Shanoski also said she is hopeful the new agreement will alleviate some of that tension.

Colleges and universities have relied on part-timers to shoulder much of the instructional load at the post-secondary level. Part of the reason may be an increased administrative complex.

According to a recent analysis by Cal Poly Pomona, colleges and universities have increased the number of administrators they employ by well over 200 percent nationally between 1980 and 2008. The number of part-time professors has nearly doubled over that same span, totalling close to 50 percent of all faculty.

Peralta as a district relies even more heavily on part-time faculty than other collegiate systems in the state. Currently, the district employs 759 part-time instructors accounting for over 67 percent of all faculty.

Shanoski said:

“The college runs on part-time faculty.”

That number could change should the district follow through on plans to cut over 600 class sections in the upcoming academic year. All four colleges in the Peralta district were recently put on a nine-month probation by state accreditors due to financial mismanagement at the district level.

Berkeley City College. Photo by Noah Salzman/Wikimedia Commons

Still, the mood in the boardroom on Tuesday was celebratory.

Shanoski told the board:

“It wasn’t always easy, but we made it work.”

For his part, Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen was heartened by the step the district had taken toward equity.

He said:

“We have made a significant down payment on part-time parity.”

 

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Nevin Long

Nevin Long

Nevin Long is a writer-reporter, film critic, and East Bay resident since 2009. When he's not slogging it in the rain after a mass demonstration he's writing about, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son, reading contemporary fiction, or kicking back and watching a movie so obscure not even the director's mother has heard of it.

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