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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 12, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Part-time instructors

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Part-time professor Dana Rush lectures during Astronomy 101 class at Green River Community College.

Teachers in a state of siege

Editor, The Times:

Keith Hoeller’s guest commentary [“Adjunct faculty at state’s two-year schools deserve equal pay for equal work,” Opinion, May 8] correctly describes community-college funding run amok.

Only 25 percent of the instructors are making a professional wage with the job security necessary for the legal requirements of academic freedom and freedom of speech. As ruled by the Washington State Supreme Court in Mader v. Health Care Authority, instructors are mis-classified as part-time and work 12-week contracts, often for years.

The result is that students are denied 100 percent, full-time instructors. The teachers unions are often staffed with faculty who move back and forth into administration, and therefore our bosses are often also our union reps.

Hoeller has aptly described a state of siege, where 75 percent of the instructors are kept under the iron heel of fake unions and fascist administrators. Gov. Chris Gregoire has done nothing but go along with the present “the-sky-is-falling” scenario.

If she really wanted to fund all the colleges and universities, she could easily do it. Instead, Gregoire, the unions and the colleges are working in collusion and cutting the students, teachers and our communities out of a chance to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

— Teresa Knudsen, Spokane

Legislature should stop mulling, start acting

In a recession, the state Legislature cannot be expected to solve many problems. But irrespective of budgets, part-time instructors deserve equal opportunity, as Keith Hoeller argues in his commentary.

Hoeller mentions annual contracts, which, while far short of tenure, would be a terrific benefit for those part-time instructors “who have taught half-time for at least three years” and would not cost state taxpayers. Unfortunately, our Legislature has seemed more willing to “study the problem to death” than take corrective action.

It is a sad irony that we have a system that, in Hoeller’s terms, aims to provide “expanded job opportunities for every citizen except the professors” who deliver the instruction.

Most immediately, the state should stipulate that state funds for paying part-time faculty unemployment should be returned to the state’s general fund, as Hoeller proposes, not remain as an incentive for colleges to discourage part-time professors from applying for unemployment or challenge those claims when they do.

— Jack Longmate, Poulsbo

Need respect within unions

The suggestion of allowing community college part-time faculty to form their own unions is common sense, but why is it such a distant dream?

Currently, I as a part-timer am forced by state law into the same union as the full-time tenured faculty, the patrons who blithely control the union despite token part-time participation. In many cases, the full-timers are the de facto bosses of the part-timers, even controlling whether or not we are rehired next quarter or whether or not we get extra assignments. Would you like to be in the same union as your own boss?

Part-timers will get little respect from the full-timer-dominated unions until the part-timers have the legal right to organize separately. That doesn’t mean the part-timers must organize their own unions. It simply means that we could organize separately if the full-timers don’t include us fairly in the union’s efforts.

— Doug Collins, Seattle

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