Members of the Monterey Peninsula College Teachers Association have been working without a contract for more than two years, and now the jobs of roughly 35 part-time instructors are in jeopardy. While the two issues are unrelated, they come to a head at the same time, creating tension between the faculty union and the administration.
“We’re the lowest-paid faculty in the area,” says Lauren Handley, chair of the political science department and president of the MPCTA union.
The union is looking for a contract that includes the first significant raise since the financial crisis in 2008. Adjunct, or part-time, professors, some of whom are MPCTA members, are in the crosshairs because of renewed questions over what they’re qualified to teach.
“Single-course equivalency” allows instructors who lack advanced degrees to teach classes for which they have significant professional and experiential expertise. Handley gives the hypothetical example of a Peace Corps volunteer who goes on to work for an international NGO. That person might not be qualified to teach a microeconomics course, but could teach an economic development class.
There has been much debate if instructors teaching under single-course equivalency are actually qualified to lead classes, says MPC President Walter Tribley. He cites a 2003 opinion from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office arguing against the practice and as well as a critical report released this year by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.
“The Academic Senate at MPC has purview on whether faculty members are qualified to teach,” Tribley says. “The administration only plays a support role.”
While the fate of the adjunct faculty lies with a ruling of MPC’s Academic Senate in the coming months, the administration and the faculty union plan to start negotiating in October.
The faculty has worked without a contract since the 2013-14 school year and have received a 1.03-percent pay increase in the past nine years.
“We’ve fallen behind – 17 percent when you adjust for inflation,” says MPCTA Vice President Alan Haffa (also a Monterey city councilmember). “It hurts students because we’re having trouble recruiting and retaining faculty.”
Tribley doesn’t dispute a pay increase might be in order, but is acting slowly.
“Moving the compensation needle forward is an interest of mine,” he says. “But we must find a financially responsible way to do that.”