This year, part-timers have been active from the classroom to the state level in advocating for higher education funding and the rights of students. Lisa Chaddock, part-time instructor in geography at San Diego City College and Cuyamaca College, traveled to Sacramento in March to testify in the Assembly Higher Education Committee on behalf of AB 1826, which would limit full-time faculty overload to 50 percent of a full-time load.

Chaddock describes it as “an amazing experience,” but a particularly emotional one, as she had very recently been notified of a dramatic reduction in her fall teaching schedule and elimination of her summer assignment. “These things swam in my head and caught in my throat as I was speaking, and I don’t know if I’ve ever come so close to falling apart in public before.”

Commenting on the effects of budget shortfalls on community colleges statewide, which Chaddock described as “reprehensible,” she reflected on her action at the Capitol: “At least we worked together to bring about some small steps toward change that will benefit part-time faculty, and perhaps will bring future change as we fight for more full-time positions on our campuses. If the legislators thought of us as ‘temps’ before, at least a few of them now are aware that this is not really the case.”

Part-time history instructor at Alameda College Mustafa Popal describes his advocacy work as rooted in the needs of his students. What led him to take part in many activities this spring advocating for affordable public higher education, including actions at the Capitol, are his core teaching philosophy and commitment to students.

Popal describes his mission in teaching history as “empowering students to actively engage in the collective, conscious evolution of our shared reality,” meaning that the “overall design principle” for all classes he teaches is “creativity, collaboration, and community.”

Taking his philosophy to heart, some of his students approached him in spring of 2009 during the first wave of significant budget cuts. “They basically came to me and asked me to put my money where my mouth was. ‘How are you going to help us take an active part in defending our access to higher education?’ they asked me. So I became faculty advisor to the Save our Schools student club.”

In spring 2010, he created a class on 20th Century American Protest Movements and launched a service learning project to help students apply and test in their own lives and communities the theories and actions they had studied. This “dynamic experience” is now in its third year and, Popal says, “gives value to their learning outside of the frame of simply fulfilling requirements.”

It was these experiences that drew Popal to become an active member of the Peralta Federation of Teachers, as he realized that “there was a component missing to this student activism: greater faculty participation. I discovered that the union needed to be a voice in shaping the fight to save education, working alongside students instead of leading or being led by them.”