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Community College Adjunct Instructor Pay Issue Won’t Die

Earlier this year, I wrote about what could be a landmark lawsuit against Long Beach City College regarding adjunct instructor pay. LBCC pays its part-time instructors a flat rate per contact hour, which is a common approach to adjunct instructor pay. (A contact hour is one hour of classroom instruction.)

According to the lawsuit, teaching contracts require the instructors to work both inside and outside the classroom. That includes class preparation, grading, meeting with students, etc.) The adjuncts claim that the work they do outside the classroom is unpaid. When they add up the hours they spend on all activities required by their contracts, the contact hour pay model doesn’t meet California’s minimum wage standards.

That lawsuit is still pending, but part-time teachers at other California community colleges have upped the ante. Adjunct instructors at eight more community colleges have filed lawsuits against their institutions and the California Community College System. The claims are substantially similar to those made against LBCC.

This time, the plaintiffs are seeking class action status. By naming the California Community College System as a defendant, any resulting court decisions regarding adjunct instructor pay will extend to all 73 of California’s community college districts.

Adjunct instructor pay lawsuits will spread nationwide

It’s hard to see how the part-time instructors won’t prevail here. Tying adjunct instructor pay to contact hours is sketchy at best. Community college administrators know that the majority of the work of teaching happens outside the classroom. Schools acknowledge this in contracts with full-time faculty members. So, it stands to reason that if classroom instruction represents only a subset of what a full-time instructor does, it also represents a subset of what a part-time instructor does.

To be sure, part-time instructors don’t develop new classes or programs, but they perform most of the same functions a full-time instructor does. They still prepare for classes, meet with students, grade assignments, administer tests, engage with department personnel, etc, none of which fall under “classroom instruction.”

The lawsuit(s) won’t be settled anytime soon, but they will serve as a model for community college adjunct instructors in virtually all states. In other words, the cost of community college instruction is about to go up.

This plantation mentality, which seems particularly entrenched in higher education, needs to be retired. We cannot continue to nickel-and-dime instructors on one hand yet spare no expense on a seemingly infinite parade of middling executives.

We do not occupy a “rich community” that paradoxically can afford millions of dollars for executive salaries, benefits, bonuses and incentives and deferred compensation, yet can only operate the college on the uncompensated labor of a small army of unsalaried, benefitless, part-time instructors.

The writing for community college administrations and their Trustees is certainly on the wall: if you can afford to pay your executives six-figure salaries with benefits, bonuses, and incentives; a company car; deferred compensation; free catered meals; and a housing allowance, you can afford to pay your part-time instructors for their entire effort.

Photo Credit: Matt Harasymczuk , via Flickr