Part-timer lecturers endure adversity

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Across the nation, the growing trend across institutions both public and private is to hire part-time lecturers to teach courses. At Cal State Fullerton, the number of part-time faculty is 11 percent higher than the national average, making them the majority of educators on campus.

Since there are too many lecturers for all of them to have a full-time schedule, approximately 40 percent of lecturers at CSUF teach less than 6 units, meaning they can teach no more than one 3-unit course.

This trend continues in public institutions across the state, often forcing part-time lecturers to teach classes on a myriad campuses around Orange County in order to accrue a living wage.

“We don’t feel like a part of the university. We come in, do our job and go home,” said Kay Devine, a lecturer in the art department at CSUF. “We don’t participate and we don’t get involved.”

Former part-time lecturer Jay Seidel is sympathetic to what he calls “freeway flyers,” or faculty who work at multiple schools, driving from campus to campus in the same day in order to make a living.

“I call it triple time,” said Leleua Loupe, the lecturer representative for the California Faculty Association (CFA) at CSUF. “If you figure full-time professors teach three to six classes per year, eight on the high range—lecturers work a minimum of five classes and up to 12 classes per semester at multiple locations in order to make enough to survive.”

Due to the amount of time needed to attend these classes, a number of lecturers have delayed starting families, Loupe said. For those who do have families, like Loupe, finding spare time can be difficult.

“It’s really about quality time, not quantity,” Loupe said.

“A lot of (lecturers) believe or start to think, ‘Wow, what am I doing wrong?’”

Leleua Loupe

Lecturer Representative, California Faculty Association

The blame falls largely on the state of California, which has scaled back appropriations for higher education by 30.4 percent since 2008. The CSUs, in turn, tighten up their finances, and the lecturers are the ones who bear the brunt of the hit.

According to the 2011 American Association of University Professors’ annual economic status report, the average salary for all lecturers in public universities nationwide (including full-time and part-time) was $51,348. The average salary for all CSU lecturers in 2011 stood at $49,843.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently created a living wage calculator to help individuals identify the living wage of various states and regions. The average living wage for a single adult in Orange County stands at $13.12, but if this single adult has a child, the living wage jumps to $24.81.

Average lecturer salary would be equivalent to $24.97 an hour. If this lecturer has one child, their hourly wage equates to a scant 16 cents above the living wage.

During the 2011 academic school year, the average salary for a full-time lecturer in the CSU was $58,052. However, full-time lecturers are only 16 percent of the total lecturer population. The remaining part-time lecturers made $10,000 less on average.

“A lot of (lecturers) believe or start to think, ‘Wow, what am I doing wrong?’” Loupe said. “Maybe I’m not smart enough, maybe I need another degree, maybe I’m not skilled enough to demand a decent living.”

This financial instability can cause difficulties for many lecturers. The vast majority of lecturers, both part-time and full-time, are hired under “contingent employment” plans. Under these contingent plans lecturers can be released at will, and they are subject to the availability of courses held by the respective departments.

Contingent employees are often subject to “just-in-time” assignments, meaning in best-case scenarios they receive three weeks’ advance notice of the class they are going to teach.

According to a 2012 Policy Report by Center for the Future of Higher Education (CeFHE), worst-case scenarios found 38 percent of faculty surveyed to have less than two weeks to prepare for class.

In these cases, lecturers can suffer a “double contingency.” Should they attempt to plan ahead by creating lesson plans on their own free time or simply wait until they hear back from administration?

With such little preparation time, this can lead to incomplete syllabi or delays when ordering textbooks, stalling the beginning of the course by a factor of weeks in some cases.

If there are not enough students in the class, or a tenured educator needs another class to fill in his class schedule, the lecturers can be dropped.

If a lecturer is reappointed to a new class, they may only get a few days notice of the new class. If they are not reappointed, it is highly unlikely the lecturer will be able to find an open class at another school to replace the income lost by the cancellation of their class.

Part-time lecturers are not given paid time for research, and with the workload many of them experience, they have few ways to expand and improve the courses they provide.

“There are a lot of ways I would like to redo my classes, there are a lot of skills I would like to hone myself, so that I can do a better job, especially reaching the larger proportion of students we have each semester,” Loupe said. “I want to pick up 100 pounds, I just simply can’t.”

Even though many lecturers are forced to take on a staggering workload to make a living, survive under constant threat of “non-reappointment,” and remain largely out of the loop when it comes to university happenings, lecturers like Loupe strive to provide the best education they are capable of with limited resources and little spare time.

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