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by Eldon Baldwin, President, and Angela Anderson, Vice President, Faculty Senate

This column is intended to provide both an overview and a status report regarding our faculty family. During the Board of Trustees meeting in January, I broadly described four subgroups that generally comprise our family: adjunct faculty, newer faculty, senior faculty, and retired faculty. We encourage you to read this column as if you were reading a family reunion newsletter. While you are naturally interested in reading about yourself and your immediate family, we hope that you are also interested in reading about that broad array of people (think nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles, and aunts) who comprise the rest of your extended family.

All areas of the college continue to feel increasing pressure to do more with less. Over the past decade, our faculty family has shared this pressure in many different ways, including reduced pay for summer teaching, slower salary growth, reduced availability of release time, and increased expectations. To top things off, we returned from winter break to learn of still more shortages and sacrifices to come.

Since January, the officers of your Faculty Organization have focused their effort primarily on the tasks of crafting, discussing, refining, and advocating for a growing package of programs that are intended to benefit our faculty family. Of necessity, each individual program tends to focus attention on the needs of a specific faculty subgroup. When considered collectively, however, the entire package of programs is intended to benefit our entire family. Your interest in and support for each of these programs is crucial, for a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Adjunct Faculty
Our catalog identifies approximately 300 adjunct faculty who have taught at least 24 credits at PGCC. On the average, teaching 24 credits as an adjunct represents two years of part-time employment. When we count less experienced adjunct faculty and faculty who teach in Workforce Development and Continuing Education programs, this number swells to over 800 part-time faculty. They are responsible for teaching the majority of our continuing education courses, the majority of our evening credit courses, the majority of our Saturday and Sunday courses, excluding "weekenders," and a significant portion of our daytime credit courses. However, despite our heavy dependence upon adjunct faculty, we pay them at rates below those of virtually every other institution of higher learning in the area.

As frequently happens when the economy sags, community college enrollment grows. Dr. Vera Zdravkovich is well aware that department chairs are experiencing great difficulty hiring sufficient faculty to staff high demand courses. To address this need, she is placing a high priority on a systematic program to improve adjunct faculty pay. It is important that the full-time faculty support our adjuncts in this effort, as we are direct beneficiaries of this long legacy of low adjunct pay. Our newest full-time faculty members are paid at least twice as much to teach a single three-credit course as are our most senior adjunct faculty; our senior full-time faculty are paid five times as much. This spring, the Faculty Senate and Faculty Organization are discussing significant modifications to our bylaws. A major focus of these modifications is to include all adjunct faculty as voting members of the Faculty Organization, to elect adjunct delegates to the Senate, and to include adjuncts in our various governance committees.

Newer Faculty
By newer faculty, we refer to our 130 plus faculty members with ten or less years of full-time experience at PGCC. All of these faculty have been hired since 1990, when the college stopped paying 4 percent step increases. Salary growth is meager for this half of our faculty, and as more and more senior faculty retire, institutional dependence on this growing category of faculty continues to increase.

An existing ad hoc committee is now working on a proposal to increase the size and number of salary increments that faculty can earn through promotion, tenure, and enhancement of their professional credentials (e.g., graduate credits and advanced degrees). We recognize that these increments will provide the greatest benefits for our newest faculty, and lesser benefits for those with more seniority. Faculty with three-to-five years seniority are already concerned that their current salaries are being surpassed by those of new faculty hires, and there is a natural concern that salary levels for faculty with five-to-ten years seniority will fall even further behind as newer faculty receive higher salary increments than they did.

Obviously there is a lot of work to do in the area of newer faculty salaries. We are actively working on a project to create and maintain a comprehensive faculty database that will enable us to analyze specific salary problems, and study the impact and costs of alternative solutions to these problems. We cannot afford to wait for a total solution, however, before we begin fixing individual problems. Our situation is somewhat analogous to driving an old car. Although you are trying to save money for a new car, you must continue to maintain that old clunker in the meantime. The tailpipe may be smoking, but you cannot afford to stop fixing flat tires and replacing worn brake pads.

At a recent cabinet meeting, President Ronald Williams acknowledged that tactical budget-balancing decisions of a decade ago have slowly evolved into a strategic institutional problem. There is no debate over whether or not we need to address the problem of slow salary growth for newer faculty. If we do nothing, more and more of our newer faculty will either leave our institution entirely, or else curtail their involvement in non-mandatory professional activities, and use that time instead to augment their incomes off campus. In order to advance institutional excellence, it is essential that we retain quality faculty who are professionally committed to the growth and development of our college.

Senior Faculty
According to our catalog, we had a faculty of over 250 full-time members in 2002. Approximately one-half joined the faculty within the past ten years, and one-third have been faculty members for at least twenty years. By senior faculty, we mean the eighty-five to ninety faculty members who have served the college for twenty years or more. Approximately fifty of these senior faculty members have worked at the college for thirty or more years.

Most of our senior 10-month teaching faculty earn between $60,000 and $70,000 per year. A few of our senior faculty, those who work on 12-month contracts, earn in excess of $70,000. Senior faculty represent approximately 2500 years of professional experience at Prince George’s Community College, and earn over 5 million dollars every year.

Some senior faculty will soon be ready to retire, and others are ready to start "slowing down." Last fall, the administration was preparing to offer buy-out bonuses in order to encourage more senior faculty (and staff) to retire. This proposal was dropped in January, however, due to deeper cuts in state funding. The problem with retirement bonuses is that they cost the college extra money during the year following retirement, since both the bonuses and the replacement faculty salaries must be paid.

The administration is now actively evaluating an alternative proposal to offer optional reduced-load contracts to senior faculty who have taught at this college for at least twenty years. Reduced-load contracts represent a win-win approach to addressing both faculty and institutional needs. The current proposal does not require that senior faculty retire in order to receive reduced-load contracts, but it does require that these workload reductions be permanent. If two senior faculty accept half-time contracts, they will immediately free up approximately $70,000 in budgeted salary funds. The college can then reinvest $35,000-$45,000 of the salary savings to hire one new replacement faculty member, and invest the remaining $25,000-$35,000 in pay and benefit enhancements for newer and adjunct faculty.

Retired Faculty
As more senior faculty retire each year, it becomes increasingly important that the institution view these experienced professionals as a resource. Retirees are not, for the most part, what the popular blue grass gospel tune describes as Worn Out! It would be very short sighted of us as an institution to think of retired faculty only in terms of the funds they free up when they retire. Collectively, retirees possess a wide variety of talents, skills, and institutional memories that can still be of great benefit to this college.

We believe that reduced-load contracts represent an important first step toward retaining this important institutional expertise. Although specific details are yet to be finalized, reduced-load contracts have the potential of providing a smooth transition from full-time employment to retirement. During this transition, most reduced-load faculty will continue in part-time teaching roles at their normal rates of pay. The potential length of this transition period has not yet been determined, but the longer a faculty member teaches on a reduced-load contract, the more the college benefits from an expanded pool of experienced teaching faculty. Faculty and administrators need to continue working together to create additional roles and incentives that will encourage our growing ranks of retired faculty to include college activities in their portfolios of post-retirement activities.

 

The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 18, No. 3

Spring 2003