Economic & Spiritual Deprivation of Teachers in Public Colleges

Raymond Alvarez, Michael Churchill, Dr. Walter Lear, Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Economic & Spiritual Deprivation of Teachers in Public Colleges

Dear Friends,

Last fall, the Philadelphia branch of Jobs with Justice invited me and several other people to join a "Workers Rights Board" to hold hearings on problems facing faculty members (especially part-timers) of the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). We did, and then issued a statement which I am including below.

Please notice the inclusion not only of specific problems faced by the CCP faculty but also of broader problems imposed on American society by the present treatment of part-time faculty at CCP and other state-funded colleges.

Indeed, please especially note the inclusion of what might be called "the right to rest" as a social issue, which I am happy to say I urged the Workers Rights Board to consider, out of The Shalom Center's multi-religious efforts on this issue.

This is not just a local issue, but one facing many college teachers across the US today, part of the over-all bleeding of public needs like education in favor of enormous tax reductions for the rich, huge loopholes in corporate taxes, and large increases in the military budget.

It seems to me that these concerns are deeply connected with any spiritually rooted view of the world. I especially hope that we will increasingly see overwork as a problem of social, economic, and spiritual oppression, not only of individual "workaholism."

Not only public-college faculty but all of us suffer from the present treatment of these teachers. I hope we will all support them as they try to create unions and win both economic and spiritual dignity.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

Report on Philadelphia Area Workers' Rights Board Hearing

Friday, November 2, 2001

AFT Local 2026 and Community College of Philadelphia
Hearing Panel Report and Recommendation


In August 2001, the Philadelphia Area Workers' Rights Board (WRB) received a request from the Faculty Federation of Community College of Philadelphia (AFT Local 2026), asking that the WRB investigate the working conditions for part-time faculty at the College. The Faculty Federation was in contract negotiations with the College for the three bargaining units represented by the union, which include approximately 700 part-time faculty, 300 full-time faculty, and 200 classified employees. Two of the major issues of concern for the union were the tremendous pay disparity between part-time and full-time faculty, and the fact that part-time faculty were having to hold positions at multiple colleges to make ends meet.

In response to this request, the WRB convened a hearing to look into the working conditions of the part-time faculty, which was held on Friday, November 2 in the Board Room of the College. A panel consisting of Raymond Alvarez, of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights; Michael Churchill, from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Dr. Walter Lear of the Institute for Social Medicine and Community Health; and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, conducted the hearing. Workers' Rights Board Coordinator Kati Sipp was also present.

Both the Faculty Federation and the College had been notified of the hearing and invited to participate. The Faculty Federation accepted the invitation; College President Steve Curtis was unable to attend, but sent a representative to observe the hearing.

Testimony was provided by eight members of the Faculty Federation, seven of whom were part-time faculty or Visiting Lecturers; one was a full-time faculty member who had worked as a part-timer for many years. Those faculty were: Patrick Ruffin, part-time, English as a Second Language; Kathleen Asbury, part-time, Social Science; Sue Ellen Liebman, part-time/Visiting Lecturer, History; Mildred Savard, part-time/Visiting Lecturer, History; Ola Bailey, Visiting Lecturer, Biology; Bill Broderick, part-time, English; Ty Collins, part-time, GED; and Fay Beauchamp, full-time, English. Additional testimony was provided by Charis Bowling and John Braxton, co-chair of the part-time bargaining unit.

The Issues

During the course of the hearing, the members of the panel found that there were three strikingly important areas of concern:

1) A lack of parity between part-time and full-time faculty in issues of pay, health care, class scheduling, pension benefits, and overall respect at the College.

a) Inadequate pay. The testimony of the workers established that part-time faculty are paid, on average, 40% of what a full-time tenured professor teaching the exact same course would earn. Workers described having jobs at two, and sometimes three colleges or other learning institutions, so that they would be able to scrape by.

b) Inadequate health care. One woman testified that, despite the fact that she had taught at the College since 1980, she still could not afford to pay for the dental or prescription coverage for herself and her dependent daughter, only for the medical coverage.

c) Problems with class scheduling. Many faculty reported that on more than one occasion, they had not found out their teaching schedule until the day before the semester started. Since part-timers are not guaranteed a return to work in any given semester, and since many of them teach at multiple institutions in the area, this leaves many of them scrambling to find employment at the last minute. One woman described being called to teach a class with 30 minutes notice.

d) Inadequate pension benefits. As one faculty member put it, "the low income associated with part-time status haunts us into retirement." Part-time faculty and Visiting Lecturers are only eligible for a 5% pension match from the College, while full-time faculty are eligible for 10%. Since pension contributions are based on a percentage of salary, part-time pensions are less than 20% of a full-time pension per course.

e) Lack of overall respect at the College. The lack of equity in the pay and health and welfare benefits for part-time faculty and Visiting Lecturers contributes to an atmosphere where these workers feel less respected than other workers. But other, non-economic issues also contribute o the lack of respect. Some faculty testified that they don't have offices in which to meet students, and are not compensated for participating in non-teaching College business (department meetings, curriculum development, etc.). In addition, because many of the part-time faculty teach at multiple institutions, they are often unable to participate in non-class events at the College. This leads to an inaccurate perception that part-time faculty are less committed to the College than their full-time colleagues.

2) The great difficulty in securing full-time, permanent employment with the College by part-time faculty, even those who had been there for many years.

a) A long part-time seniority at the College does not indicate a lack of desire for full-time employment. The seven part-time faculty and Visiting Lecturers that testified before the panel had a combined 105 years of experience with the College. While at least one of those workers made a point to tell us that he did not want a full-time position, it was clear that a majority of the workers did desire full-time employment. In addition, we heard testimony from Charis Bowling (part-time instructor) that a survey conducted by the Faculty Federation revealed that 55% of those responding were interested in full-time employment.

b) The system set up by the College to prevent abuse of Visiting Lecturers is itself being abused. Currently, the Faculty Federation contract with the College ensures that Visiting Lecturers who are on staff with the College for 14 semesters are "grandparented" into consideration for full-time status. While these semesters do not have to be continuous, they must occur in a relatively narrow time frame. Several of the people testifying described a process where, as soon as they had gained 12 units of Visiting Lecturer (VL) seniority, they lost their Visiting Lectureship. Some of them may regain it, but they live under the fear that they may lose VL credits, preventing them from attaining full-time status that year, or perhaps forever.

c) The employment difficulties of part-time faculty are directly affecting the quality of education at Community College of Philadelphia.

a) Due to the pay inequity between part-time and full-time faculty, most part-time faculty are forced to make a living by working at more than one educational institution. One worker described his typical day, rising at 5:00 a.m. to travel between two Community Colleges, the University of Pennsylvania, and a private tour company for whom he performs historical tours. He informed the panel that he had to use public transit on his commutes between schools, so that he would have time to grade the approximately 125 essays that his students handed in each week. Several faculty testified that, due to constantly rushing to other teaching assignments, they did not have sufficient time to meet with students, or participate in department meetings.

b) The College is passing their costs on to individual part-time faculty members, which causes some of those workers to labor in poverty, ill-health, and stress. Another worker, who also teaches at three institutions, explained that she taught seven courses in each semester, for which she was paid $12,000, as opposed to the $30,000 that she would make as a full-time faculty member at CCP teaching the same course load. Several of those who testified concluded that, "the worst problem is stress,"-the stress of not knowing one's teaching load (or even if you will have a job) from semester to semester, the stress of always rushing between teaching assignments at different schools, the stress of struggling to pay the escalating cost of healthcare.

In addition to these three major concerns, the panel was also struck by the fact that public funds are being used to finance such a negative work environment. We believe that the fact that that these workers are paid with public funds gives us as citizens and community leaders not only a right, but also an obligation, to monitor the situation.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The panel members are convinced by the testimony that the situation of part-time faculty and Visiting Lecturers at the Community College of Philadelphia threatens the quality of education available to students and jeopardizes the economic security of a vital part of the college community and therefore merits the following recommendations:

Immediate Recommendations for Community College

1. The Community College should immediately endeavor to reduce the pay inequity between part-time and full-time faculty without waiting for more funds to arrive from the government.

2. The College should work in coalition with the union and other community colleges at the state level to secure additional funding from Harrisburg to better the economic futures of part-time faculty and Visiting Lecturers and to create new full-time positions. Support for PA State Senate Resolution 41 is an important step in this process.

3. Until there is full wage parity, the College should ensure that the process for converting Visiting Lecturers to full-time faculty is not creating a situation where Visiting Lecturers can labor as "temporarily" full-time for more than six years without being converted to full-time faculty.

Broader Social Implications of the Treatment of Part-time Faculty

1. It is clear that the excuse given by Administrators of the CCP for some of the abuses described here is that the state legislature does not allocate enough funds to make possible decent treatment of all faculty --not even enough to achieve an adequate level of education at the State institutions. The part-time faculty, indeed, reported that similar conditions are present at most or all of the other state-funded institutions.

We therefore recommend that the AFT locals and the labor movement in general, together with community supporters and the administrations of the state-funded colleges, plan and carry out a major campaign for a major increase in the funding of community colleges and other state-funded colleges.

2. The evidence we heard shows that massive overworking is imposed on the part-time faculty by virtue of their being forced to hold several part-time jobs at the same time in order to achieve a decent income. This is bad for education at CCP. It is also bad for the society at large. It damages our society as a whole to impose on teachers or others such exhaustion by overwork that they cannot meet the loving needs of their families or neighbors; cannot act as effective citizens in grassroots democratic groups; and cannot take the time to pause for their own reflection and personal growth.

We therefore strongly recommend that not only the AFT but the labor movement as a whole and its community allies and supporters seek to limit both "underwork" and "overwork" in American society, and seek to encourage a decent rhythm of work and restfulness, time for work and time for community and reflection.

This report, our conclusions and recommendations will be shared with the parties and the general public by the Workers' Rights Board. The staff is instructed to send copies to the Faculty Federation (AFT Local 2026) and to the College, and to solicit responses. The report is to be released at a press conference at a suitable time. If the parties do not respond adequately, the Workers' Right Board staff is instructed to organize appropriate future actions to call attention to the situation, to publicize the facts as broadly as possible, and to apply appropriate means to help arrive at an equitable resolution as quickly as possible.

Respectfully submitted,

Raymond Alvarez, Michael Churchill, Dr. Walter Lear, Rabbi Arthur Waskow

These comments flow from the work of The Shalom Center (, a North American network committed to draw on Jewish wisdom, old and new, in order to pursue peace, justice, and the healing of the earth.

It is a division of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, but these thoughts do not necessarily reflect those of ALEPH as a whole.

The Shalom Center needs and welcomes your help. The Website indicates how to help. We also welcome you to receive a thought-letter from Rabbi Arthur Waskow about once a week, by subscribing here.

To contribute, click on this button:

Or if you prefer to send a check, please print out the coupon below and send it to the address below. With a donation of $72 or more, you will receive a year's subscription to New Menorah, a quarterly of creative Jewish renewal liturgy, art, fiction, midrash, poetry, davvenology, and practice. If your gift is $180 or more, you will also receive a uniquely inscribed copy of Arthur Waskow's book **Godwrestling — Round 2,** which received the Benjamin Franklin Award for a book on religion.


TO: Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19119

_____ Please enroll me as a Rodef/et Shalom, a Seeker of
Peace. I enclose (as my tax-deductible gift) --

___ $ 720*; __ $360*; __ $180;* __ $72; _____ Other

* Send me an inscribed copy of Godwrestling — Round 2*).
Please ask Arthur to inscribe it as follows:


Name ________________________________________________________

Address _____________________________________________________

Phone/s ____________________________ Email __________________