First, I'm not sure how exactly the terms "administrator," "professional," and "classified staff" are being defined in his "Skigram". I'm pretty sure there is a difference in how we are defining at least one of those terms. Also, it is misleading to throw in "overloads" with the percentage of part-time faculty. Those are taught by full-time faculty; it's the term for classes taught beyond the five classes per semester load we are contracted to teach. That does not change the fact that 75.6% of faculty are part-time. But to save confusion on those terms, and so that I don't seem to be equivocating on those terms, as I believe he is, I'm going to include classified and professional staff with administrators in one group here because the difference between those groups is not really that important to my arguments, as you will see in a bit. Human Resources seems to lump them all into a "staff" category on its Job Opportunities page.
Second, why are full-time faculty positions so commonly the favorite sacrifices to save money in times of budgetary crises? And why do those numbers of part-time faculty continue to rise? I find the percentage of part-time faculty appalling. According to the figures the president gave in his "Skigram," 75.6% of faculty are part-time. That is the majority of faculty. If staff members think that faculty - the ones directly delivering the education for which the students are paying so much money - can do the most important job of the college part-time, then there is no reason why staff can't do theirs part-time. For example, the vice-president of the Lancaster campus is also the vice-president of the Lebanon campus. So assuming each campus is just as important as the other, his time and energy is divided in half between us. It would be just as effective to divide that job into two part-time positions in which one person devotes that same amount of time - and half the salary and cost of benefits - to each campus, separately. Of course, the usual arguments against such a move are questions like: how would we be able to attract good candidates for the position and keep good candidates? Well, the same argument applies to faculty. We have lost many good teachers because they could not continue to work part-time and either found a full-time teaching job elsewhere or one in a different profession.
Third, if our budget is so bad that employees have to be furloughed (a solution which should be considered as a last resort, after things like a hiring freeze for staff who aren't critical to what actually happens in the classroom - and full-time faculty are critical to the success of any college), then it is time to start making many more staff positions part-time, as well. The president's defense of hiring so many people while furloughing employees is not reasonable and merely adds to my (and others') frustration and anger over the whole budget situation, as well as over the appalling part-time/full-time faculty ratio. No one likes a hiring freeze, either. However, the president and Board of Trustees have an obligation to meet their contractual agreements with their current employees. We all have our own budgets and bills to pay, and few of us below any kind of management level make so much money that we can suffer losses in our paychecks. I wonder how the new hires will feel when they start working and discover that the salary they negotiated and signed on for is not really what they are going to get this year. That's not a good sign for any new employee, and we could end up losing them and having to do those searches over again in the near future. Furloughing employees as a budgetary strategy is a good way to lose even long term employees. The administration should be working on retaining the employees we have. The open staff positions currently on the Human Resources page are not critical to the function of this college, nor are some of the new hires. While a Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer is probably a wonderful addition to the staff and represents admirable goals in ordinary circumstances, how does that rate as critical? We've gone this long without one; we could certainly go another couple of years without one. Do we really need an administrator to tell us we should be inclusive and diverse in our staff, faculty and students? And does such a position really need to be full-time? Do we really have such critical problems in those areas that hiring such a director full-time takes precedence over meeting payroll obligations? There is a big difference between want and need. We want such a position; I'm sure that "Officer" will be good for the college. However, we need to pay our bills. Then there is the latest fiasco with the leap year pay - or lack of it - which will cause the faculty to lose a week's worth of pay and how that was sprung on us at the last minute in weird timing. The message all this sends to faculty is that we are not valued or respected. This is ironic since we are the only set of employees without which the college cannot function: no teachers=no classes=no students=no college.
Fourth, the president also seemed to not understand what was meant by the term 'top heavy,' and why so many faculty are disturbed by the increasing number of staff as the numbers of full-time faculty decrease. (I received many private emails sent directly to me instead of through the listserv agreeing with me, and in some cases even thanking me for saying what they were afraid to say publically.) The administrative, classified, and professional staff together equal 31.2% of employees. That does not, I'm assuming, include the current search committees going on at the moment, at least one of which is for a dean., and the nine "staff" positions openly recruiting right now on the Human Resources page, one of which is for a director, and two for coordinators, which, I assume, fall under the administrator category. There is only one open position for a full-time faculty member. Only 16.7% of employees are full-time faculty. The part-time faculty compose the majority of all employee groups. That means the largest group of all employees is the one with very little pay, no benefits, and hardly any real voice in the 'shared governance' process though they are theoretically invited to participate in certain parts of it. Not many of them have the time or inclination to do so, however, given what they are paid and that most have to work at other kinds of employment outside of their work for us, whether it's as a stay-at-home spouse or teaching at another institution. There should be more full-time faculty than any other group at any educational institution. There should be at least three times as many full-time faculty as there currently are. Faculty (and I'm putting librarians and counselors in with that definition, though I do not know if that is the category in which the president put them) are the ones actually delivering and/or directly supporting the education - the learning process- for which the students are paying. The staff members are supposed to support the faculty with the logistical and financial aspects of educating students. The more faculty there are, the more classes can be offered and the more students can be attracted to register for those classes. The more full-time faculty there are, the more students are being served with advising, and the more faculty there are to serve on committees and make curricular decisions, among many other advantages. Unfortunately, it feels like that aspect of our mission has been lost. We have less full-time faculty to teach classes and to serve in the 'shared governance' and other committee and curriculum work. Consequently, we have less voice in those, and the 'shared governance' process, as well as students' education, are seriously diluted.
Fifth, I'm sure the president is quite right that the numbers are consistent with other community colleges. If anyone has been reading articles in any of the periodicals geared to both an academic audience and even general audiences, he or she would know that this has been a controversial issue for a number of years now; community colleges seem to be the worst offenders in the ratios between full-time and part-time faculty, as well as the increase in numbers of staff. However, this is not something to be proud of. It is something to be ashamed of. It is also an example of the bandwagon fallacy. Just because everyone else is doing something wrong does not mean we should be. It is part of what a number of articles in the professional media have called "administrative bloat" and the attempt to run colleges as if they are a business. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a report "released by the Delta Cost Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social-science organization whose researchers analyze college finances" stated "that new administrative positions—particularly in student services—drove a 28-percent expansion of the higher-ed [sic]work force from 2000 to 2012." A Forbes article last year discussed how the University of Texas system is now looking at its own administrative bloat. The author, Tom Lindsay, writes, "Given the research demonstrating the decades-long explosion in administrative personnel and expenses nationwide, McRaven’s hard look promises to expose some even-harder truths about the phenomenon commonly referred to as university “administrative bloat.” Perhaps our president should include in his list of reading Benjamin Ginsberg’s book on the subject, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. A 2014 article in Inside Higher Ed discusses a report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement that proves not only that community colleges are guiltier of higher ratios of part-time to full-time faculty, but also the bad effects such high ratios have on students' success. According to that report, in the average community college, 58% of classes are taught by adjuncts. So actually, according to those figures, our college is apparently higher than the average, though it's hard to tell since all we were given is the number of part-time faculty - 75.6% are part-time - not the ratio of how many courses are actually taught by part-time vs. full-time faculty; with such a high percentage of the number of part-time faculty, however, it seems probable that the number of courses taught by part-time faculty is higher than 58%. As I said earlier, when the numbers of full-time faculty dwindle and numbers of staff rise, the voice of faculty in 'shared governance' - including curriculum issues - also dwindles. We have seen that in the past couple of years and that has been reflected in discussions within our so-called 'shared governance' process. Since faculty are the ones who deal most directly with students and deliver (let's use that business parlance administrators seem to like so much) the 'product,' and who are the experts in the areas in which they teach, and should be the experts in actually teaching since that's what we do, diluting our voices dilutes the whole educational 'product.' And then, there is also the additional cost of so many staff members.
Sixth, I wonder what students think of all this? Since the president chose to present this discussion in a widely public forum, then it's just as fair for my response to be distributed widely. I'm sure the student editors of the student media at HACC, as well as many members of the professional, local media, have seen the "Skigram" since it's a public newsletter. It's only fair that they see my response to it, as well, including one from the author of the second email, if she chooses to give one. Perhaps the students don't care about the furloughs, but I bet they care that their tuition has been increased even while more administrators and staff are being hired, as well as that 75.6% of their teachers are part-time faculty, and how that might affect their education, or at least how that reflects the priorities of the people who are running the college. [See the official summary of the budget here.] Surely they must wonder why they are paying so much for an education when the very institution they are paying it to belittles and devalues the education levels and work of their faculty by treating them the way some temp agencies treat uneducated, part-time employees. It sends a very bad message about the priorities of the college, overall. Why should students value education if the college they are paying to educate them doesn't value education in its educators? It might well make an interesting article even for the local professional media. I wonder if the president considered that when he decided to make this conversation so public, and frankly, added an element of incivility to it in what I consider to be a defensive tone throughout his answers, particularly to the other author's comments.
Seventh, in his response within the "Skigram," the president accused the other author's comments of not contributing "to civil, meaningful conversation within the College." I disagree. Heated discourse is not uncivil unless people start using nasty language, deliberate fallacies or other unethical practices, like accusing her of "unsubstantiated claims" then implying her claims were all wrong, but then leaving his own answers to them "unaddressed, except to say that these types of unsubstantiated statements do not contribute to civil, meaningful conversation within the College." However, civility is one of those abstract terms for which we all have varying definitions. As Hermann Hesse said, "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part yourself. What isn't part ourselves doesn't disturb us." If the president is so disturbed by something we said as to consider it uncivil and in need of being answered publically without our permission or even consulting us, perhaps he should search within himself to find what is so uncivil about his own behavior that he doesn't like and so projects onto others.
Finally, despite all the marketing and business strategies, and all the other changes the people running this college have implemented since our current president was hired, we have seen enrollments and revenue continue to drop. It's time for a change. It's time the Board of Trustees and the administrators who make all the financial decisions change their priorities. We can't afford for them to keep making these same policies and budgetary decisions over and over again. And we can't afford a president who deliberately creates an atmosphere of fear among the employees so people won't speak out against him or his policies. I'm sure he'll deny that he does that, but most of us know differently. This latest Q and A in his "Skigram" is an example of that. When I began teaching here, I was glad that there was no union. I had had bad experiences with the New Jersey chapter of the NEA. However, I now realize that working without a union is far worse. It's time for the faculty to unionize so we speak with more voice and the full weight of the PA NEA behind us.
Note: these opinions are my own and in no way reflect the opinions of the college. Obviously.