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Chaparral 2014-2015: 23.3 Adjunct Junction

Adjunct Junction (December 2014)

Adjunct Junction: 21st Century Management - Why Community College Districts and Teachers' Unions Should Care About Parity.

by Julie Gamberg

Guild Second Vice President-Adjunct Faculty Representative


Julie Gamberg

Henry Ford knew it nearly 100 years ago when he experimented with a five-day workweek in his plant. Netflix, Groupon, and the Virgin Group knew it when they recently offered their employees unlimited vacation time. And eminent organizational psychology scholars and practitioners know it too. 

Workers who are treated fairly produce higher quality work in less time.

There is abundant evidence (see sources below) that an employee’s sense of being treated unfairly strongly contributes to a lack of motivation, drive, efficiency, and focus whereas an employee’s sense of feeling trusted; of feeling appreciated and cared about; of feeling secure to give and receive valuable input and take risks; and, of feeling like an integral part of a larger mission, all contributes to better work, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

This common-sense theory of management was more commonplace 100 years ago, when Henry Ford found that his workers produced as much in five days as they previously had in six. For getting a day off! And yet it has been a long road to the revival of these management theories, which have recently become, again, a substantive part of 21st century management practice. These days, business leaders such as Carlos Slim and Richard Branson are able to advocate for the three-day-work week and not be laughed out of the conversation. They are also able to offer unlimited vacation time, realizing that most of their workers will work even harder.

Educational institutions, especially at the community college level, never fully moved away from these practices, especially as faculty are concerned. And unions have mostly done a good job of preserving many essential faculty benefits. These benefits tend to engender the type of loyalty in faculty members that we would expect to see at one of Henry Ford’s plants, or at Google. And this loyalty, in turn, results in a stable institution, and a better experience and outcome for students.

Although there are many more ways that tenured faculty could be better supported, institutional norms such as sabbaticals every seven years; paid conference travel and attendance; the opportunity to teach abroad; released time for additional positions; significant grant money to fund research and work in best pedagogical practices; and, a felt sense of autonomy, trust, security, as well as being an integral part of the larger mission, all contribute to better, more efficient, higher quality work.

Unfortunately, however, this same support is generally not extended to adjunct faculty (although GCC does a better job than many in areas such as our adjunct ancillary fund which – although more in the $250 to $1,500 range than, say, the $2,500 to $15,000 range grant – is still a supportive and meaningful offering). Because adjunct faculty are generally underpaid in proportion to the services they peform, as well as undersupported in key areas (health, resources, growth opportunities), a sense of unfairness permeates many adjuncts’ experience of their workplace environment. This leaves adjunct faculty workers at risk of working arduously, yet less efficiently, and even possibly producing less than the best work they are capable of. And yet three-quarters of faculty are now off the tenure track, with the contingent faculty percentage continuing to rise steadily. Many districts, including our own, are becoming ever more dependent on adjunct faculty members. Therefore, in order to ensure the best conditions for all our faculty members to thrive in terms of productivity and excellence, which, in turn, impact student-learning outcomes, we must care about the parity gap and do our part to see it begin to narrow.

When unions do our job right, we benefit everyone: Management, workers, the larger economy, families, public health. When unions helped to achieve the five-day workweek, health and safety standards, and due process in the workplace, we all benefited. Likewise, when management employs best practices and fully supports workers, everyone benefits: Workers, the customer, the product, and the organization. This can be seen at institutions of higher learning directly in terms of student success.

While no individual district created the parity gap between adjunct faculty and full-time faculty, and no individual union is responsible for allowing the gap to increase over the past several decades, each district, and each union must begin to push back against this gap for the good of the entire institution. And we must bear in mind that no single district, and no single local, can singlehandedly solve the parity issue. Yet the data is clear: The more we all care about parity, and the more we endeavor to support our entire faculty, the stronger we will be as an institution in both our quality, and in our excellent outcomes.

Some Sources on the Parity Gap:

Bar chart showing trends in instructional  staff employment status

Some Sources on Organizational Behavior and Organizational Justice:


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