FIRST PERSON | Renee Fraser

Many of us have been teaching in community college for 20 years or more, and we remember the days when the mission was education, not production. Classes might have 25 or 30 students, so we could have seminar-style discussions and individual project presentations, and even memorize the names of our students. We might assign lengthy papers and essays, and we had time to read each one, make comments, and allow students to rewrite them.

Past practice in some districts was to allow any class with 15 students enrolled on the first day of class to continue to meet. The purpose was to make sure that a wide variety of classes were available to students at different times to fit their complex schedules so that they could matriculate within two years. The goal was small class sizes and individualized instruction. We believed that because of this, we served students better than huge lower-division university courses.

But more recently, districts have promoted “productivity,” meaning more students in each class. In this worldview, our students are products before they are human beings, and professors are assembly line workers cranking out “student success.” 

To assure that each class is “productive,” administrators are cutting “unproductive” classes. Some have told faculty that the magic number is 20 students. Others have cut classes with more than 20. Supposedly, students will move into the remaining classes, bringing them up to 40, 50, or 60 units of production.

Classes have been cancelled weeks before enrollment ends, giving faculty no chance to recruit students, who find their schedules upended and must try to cobble something together at the last minute, with the expected result of an extended stay at the community college. Part-time faculty members teaching for decades have lost their classes and their health insurance, even while districts have returned to financial health.

Renee Fraser is history instructor at Moorpark College and member of Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, AFT Local 1828

What can you do?

JOIN AND SPEAK UP Join the union so you can vote on contract changes that benefit part-time faculty. Find out how your union is addressing enrollment management and inequities in class scheduling and cancellation, and join their efforts.

TAKE ACTION Offer to help organize fellow part-timers in discussions and campus actions. Participate in Campus Equity Week.

SERVE Learn how you can become part of your union team through appointment or election. Serve as an officer, a steward, or an organizer.