EDITORIAL: RCC misplaces learning priorities

The life of an adjunct professor is not an easy one, especially when our college is misplacing its priorities.

Our district’s administration needs to prioritize the annual budget and set aside enough funds to hire more full-time faculty.

You can usually tell who these adjunct professors are. They tend to tell their classes how difficult their job is; how they can’t help them after class because their next class is an hour drive away at a different campus.

They have trouble meeting with students because they can’t have office hours, and they don’t have offices to meet in.

They are the part-time professors that work on a short-term contract; lower pay, no guarantee of continued employment, no benefits, no paid holidays or time-off including for emergencies.

The recession we faced as a nation from 2007 to 2009 led to a lacking budget that prevented the administration from offering more permanent positions, but what is our excuse now?

Our budget continues to grow according to Tom Allen, a part-time English professor expressing his concern in a faculty forum. Likewise, so do demands from students, and the number of full-time faculty has not kept up.

At Riverside City College full-time faculty have retired and continue to retire leaving a void where those faculty members were. In certain disciplines only a few full-time faculty remain. If those remaining full-time faculty continue to retire, what are students left with? What kind of education would that department be giving its students?

“How can you have a discipline with no full-time faculty … can you imagine a discipline with no office hours because it is run by all part-time faculty?” Dariush Haghighat, the president of the Riverside City College District Faculty Association said. He went on to explain various examples where full-time faculty is decreasing due to retirement.

The Faculty Association is in constant communication with RCC’s Administration.

“So far I have heard all the good words and the right words from the chancellor, so far we don’t have disagreement. He says, ‘oh I’m committed to hiring more full-time faculty’ but I will not believe it until he does it, ” Haghighat said.

While talks continue between the Faculty Association and Chancellor Michael Burke, adjuncts can only try their best to make up for the deficit that has been created.

In the March 12 issue of Viewpoints, a staff writer mentioned that adjunct professors are being paid $20,000-$25,000. This is right around the federal poverty level for a family of four according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average income of a full-time professor is three times that of an adjunct professor.

In order to become a full-time faculty member, there must be a full-time position available in the first place; many needed positions are not. Positions are then posted online and open for anyone to apply. A panel of full-time faculty then must gather the applications and screen the applicants. This process encourages more people to apply and promotes hiring higher quality full-time faculty, it is a long and complex process that discourages the college from opening positions in the first place.

If administration wants to meet the mission of the college to offer “a high-quality affordable education,” then they must hire full-time faculty and stop misplacing priorities.

While hiring more full-time faculty is expensive, it should be given a higher priority in the college budget. It would have an immediate and profound effect on the quality of education, even greater than that of raising shiny new buildings.

“Institutions that have large numbers of adjuncts or students that take lots of classes with adjuncts have lower graduation rates,” according to Adrianna Kezar, head of the University of Southern California’s Delphi Project.

This will be the reality at our college if current trends don’t change.

Students who want to change how the college and District hire full-time faculty should write a letter to the chancellor, the college president, student government or Viewpoints as a letter to the editor. Contacting members of the state Legislature will also help ensure this issue addressed not only locally, but also statewide.