Part-time faculty braces for fall layoffs

With an estimated 800 course sections to be cut next school year, part-time instructors are facing a reduction in their workload, and the college is considering layoffs.

Lane Vice President of College Services Brian Kelly said the college is planning to cancel approximately 10 percent of course sections in Fall 2014, to coincide with a projected 10 percent decease in enrollment.At this point, Lane is facing an estimated $8.5 million shortfall in 2015. However, this number could reach up to $11 million if enrollment keeps dropping next year.

“There is no definite number yet on how many people lost their jobs this year,” Lane Chief Human Resources Officer and administrative negotiator Dennis Carr said. “Some people here, some people there — not to mention some voluntary leave because they do not have enough classes.”

“It is hard to have an exact number on the layoffs because maybe some instructors can teach three sections, but they only got one section cut,” added Kelly. “Their workload is definitely reduced, but they are still teaching at Lane.”

Lane Community College Education Association, the faculty union, believes that Lane still has money left from the last year’s budget, LCCEA Vice President Polina Kroik said.

“Don’t believe in the numbers,” LCCEA President Jim Salt said. “I do have questions about some of them.”

Instructors are awaiting more news.

“We have been notified that some classes and programs may be cut next term,” temporary full-time Medical Terminology instructor Kelly Collins said, “but we do not know which ones will be.”

At the March 4 financial and budget committee meeting, Lane and LCCEA were unable to agree on what course sections would be cut, Salt said, but they are making progress.

According to Lane faculty contracts, the college must notify instructors of their job status for Fall 2014 by May 1.

Reductions in classes will leave students with fewer choices, Kroik said.

“It will be hard for students,” Kroik said. “For example, (students) who work in the morning and go to school at night — they may be not able to take the classes they need.”

Cuts could prolong some students’ time at Lane.

“This change may take (students) three years instead of two years to go to University of Oregon,” Lane part-time history instructor said Paul Wanke said. With 13 years at Lane, Wanke has seniority. He also teaches at Oregon State University.

Kelly said at Lane, serving the community is its top priority, but now the college has to modify its size to fit the budget capability.

Wanke said layoffs are a classic strategy for colleges to cut costs and lower tuition.

“But it is an interesting relationship where they fire part-time faculty (and staff), but at the same time, they raise tuition,” Wanke said. “American education is acting more like a business where they treat a diploma as a product. As a business, the college will want to balance the budget while (maximizing) their profit.”

Kroik said instructors with seniority will get to choose classes first. Eventually, instructors with the fewest course sections will get laid off. Since part-time instructors and temporary full-time instructors do not have a committing contract like full-time instructors, they do not have any assurance they will be employed next term.

Wanke said such uncertainty can adversely affect the courses they teach.

“In the sense that teachers might feel hostile,” Wanke said, “or even fear that they will be laid off anytime. That will affect class quality.”

Because he has seniority, Wanke received notice by the seventh week this term that he will teach in spring.

Carr said the college has to notify part-time instructors by the 10th week what they will teach next term.

“If I found out on week six this term that I will not have my job next term, I would be pissed,” Wanke said, “and (students) will suffer that for the rest of the term.”

Of Lane’s instructors, 60 percent are part-time. Part-time faculty and staff get lower rates and fewer benefits than full-time instructors, causing many of them to juggle two or three jobs and become less accessible to students, as well as other instructors, Salt said.

“Many researchers have shown that overall student performance declines in part-time faculty class,” Salt said, “It’s not (the part-time instructor’s) fault, just because the way that work is organized leaves them no chance to interact with students.”

Without job stability and commitment, many part-time instructors can not engage fully in the working environment or have a voice in making decisions in their division, he said.

Some part-time Lane instructors disagree with those conclusions.

“I do not have obligations like full-time faculty, so I actually have more time to communicate with students,” Wanke said. “However, it would be very tough if I had a family and kids.”