The Gatepost Editorial: BHE’S approach to part-time faculty misguided

The Massachusetts State College Association, a union to which our faculty and librarians at FSU belong, is currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the Board of Higher Education. Changes to this CBA will affect Framingham State faculty, librarians and students.

This semester, The Gatepost has reported on the ongoing negotiations and the impact decisions made in bargaining could have on the FSU community. The CBA is an over-200-page document that dictates faculty and librarian pay, workload and benefits, in addition to a vast array of other details regarding the operation of our state colleges and universities.

We at The Gatepost understand the financial limitations that have driven some of the BHE’s proposed changes, but we insist the quality of students’ education should not be sacrificed.

One of the ways the BHE is looking to save money is by increasing the number of part-time professors teaching at the state colleges and universities.

According to a clause in the previous CBA, which remains in effect until a new one can be ratified, no more than 15 percent of instructors in an academic department at a state college or university can be part time. This cap does not apply to part-time faculty members substituting for full-time faculty members on sabbatical, to departments with six or fewer members or to laboratory courses.

The BHE has proposed eliminating this cap, meaning state colleges and universities could offer unlimited course sections taught by part-time faculty.

This is not in the best interest of students or academic departments.

Furthermore, part-time faculty are already not paid nearly as well as they should be, and the BHE is not proposing to change that.

Part-time faculty are excellent educators and, in the case of developing fields such as computer science, can be great resources for students because they teach while working in their given professions. However, part-time faculty have different responsibilities than full-time faculty and are, in many ways, less available to students.

While some part-time faculty are employed full time at other jobs, others must make a living by teaching multiple courses at multiple institutions. Neither of these situations results in an abundance of time for advising students, working with them on independent study projects or engaging with the community.

We at the Gatepost believe a department-based 15 percent cap on part-time faculty can be too restricting for some departments.

We support granting some flexibility to individual departments in hiring part-time faculty based on their specific needs, as long as the overall number of part-time faculty employed by the state colleges and universities continues to stay low. This would ensure that students have the necessary mixture of faculty with real-time experience in the field and faculty who are available to help and advise them.

Additionally, we at The Gatepost propose that providing better working conditions for part-time faculty would increase their availability to students and the University community. Both the MSCA and the BHE bargaining teams should look to specifically address the treatment of part-time faculty in the CBA, particularly their inadequate salaries and lack of benefits.

If the part-time faculty who are relying solely on their teaching salary were properly compensated and did not have to worry about visiting a doctor without insurance, they would have more peace of mind and more time to devote to their students.

We understand that quality working and learning conditions are expensive for the BHE to provide, but they are essential for the long-term stability of the state’s colleges and universities.

 

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