While the number of COVID cases are shrinking, and the vaccination rate increasing, the effects of the pandemic continue, with adjuncts having been hit particularly hard, as despite the heroic efforts of faculty to provide remote and online instruction, California community college enrollment has dropped systemwide by 11 to 12% since last fall, according to Edsource.
After last year’s heavily pandemic-impacted legislative session
reduced the number of bills signed to its lowest number since
1967, the CFT is again taking up the adjunct cause on bills
directed towards raising the part-time percentage cap on teaching
in a single district, and in developing a path towards
part-time/full-time pay parity.
At this year’s virtual CFT Convention held March 26-27, the
Part-Time Faculty Committee sponsored two resolutions reflective
of both the longstanding and new problems beginning to emerge in
the wake of the pandemic which has impacted adjunct health and
While the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified longstanding societal
inequities in America, public higher education was already in a
state of crisis, from the staggering costs of college, to the
lack of access and support for lower income students, Black,
indigenous, and people of color, the deteriorating, or clear lack
of infrastructure, the reciprocal increase in highly paid
administrative positions, and last but not least, decrease in
full-time tenure track positions.
During the pandemic, issues in higher education — like underpaid
adjuncts teaching the majority of classes, often without
benefits; chronic underfunding; crushing student debt; and the
focus narrowing to be only on job training rather than the public
good — have come into greater relief.
With the new Biden administration and Congress come new
opportunities to ensure significant, sustainable public
investment in higher education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the long-standing crisis in
public higher education. Declining state support, the erosion of
tenure and shared governance, the increased use of contingent
appointments, and the loss of the faculty voice on campus are
threatening the core mission of higher education in our society.
Now is the time to stand up for a just, inclusive system of
higher education — one that can help transform our society.
For years, Paul da Silva, a biology teacher at the College of
Marin and a member of United Professors of Marin,
Local 1610, wondered about the lack of teachers on the
college’s Board of Trustees and tried to talk retiring professors
into running. No one took him up on it.
So when he decided in the summer of 2019 that he would retire, he
concluded, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, he’d have to be the
candidate he wished to see in the world.
Dr. Jill Biden, a community college teacher, union member, and
soon to be First Lady, spoke virtually to members of the AFT and
the National Education Association, thanking them for all the
phone banking, text messaging, voter registration drives and poll
work they did to get her husband, Joe Biden, elected. AFT
President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Becky Pringle
In spite of the pandemic, a number of local unions won big gains
for adjuncts, from parity pay to distance education, to the
preservation of healthcare for adjuncts with reduced loads. These
wins are especially significant at this time in which revenues
are falling and concerns over future budgets made many
administrators skittish to bargain.
While the COVID-19 pandemic meant that this summer’s AFT
Convention had to go virtual, and in turn, resulted in format
changes which made schedules tighter, and the work of those
attending harder in many respects, one of the great achievements
for CFT was the passage of a resolution calling for the right of
contingent faculty to participate in shared governance.
California is at an educational crossroads made dire by the
coronavirus pandemic, and Proposition 15 is an important step in
getting California back on the right track.
COVID-19 has not only ravaged the health and lives of countless
Californians — it has also ravaged state revenues, with Governor
Newsom himself acknowledging overall state revenue declines being
in the “tens of billions.”
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted public education,
so too did it impact the California Legislature and CFT’s
What would normally have been a rigorous six-month period to
discuss the state budget and legislation, was reduced to two
virtual sessions, one running from May 4 to June 19, and the
other from July 27 to August 31. This forced the Legislature,
which was slated to hear and discuss some 2,390 bills, to shelve
consideration of any bills not deemed related to the pandemic,
wildfires, and affordable housing.
By Geoff Johnson, AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca
Higher education in America is sick. Its classrooms and campuses
have been largely shuttered, save but for students taking lab
courses, or practicums, ironically in hospitals. Students and
instructors are now confined to the domains of their computers
and laptop screens in the educational netherworlds of Zoom or
Cranium. With the exception of online instruction developed prior
to the crisis, what is being delivered, more so than taught, is a
curriculum of coping under the duress of the coronavirus
Fires in California, many started by lightning, have burned a little more than a million acres, and scores of people have lost homes and thousands more have been forced to evacuate, including CFT members. The fires, some of the largest in the state’s history are burning in areas including Lake, Napa, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.
The California Community Colleges organized a high-level
task force to create a roadmap of available resources for
the safe reopening of community college campuses.
The task force report contains considerations and recommendations
for the Chancellor’s Office. However, the broad recommendation of
of the Safe Campus Reopening
Workgroupis that further
action be undertaken locally by subject matter experts. This
includes labor partners such as AFT local unions as well as
state, federal and local governments, medical professionals, and
those directly managing the pandemic response.
By Katharine Harer, San Mateo Community College Federation of
Teachers, AFT Local 1493
You’re teaching all your classes online, providing support to
freaked-out students and dealing with a flood of emails every
day, while at the same time, and often in the same room, hour
after hour, your children need you to be present and available.
You can’t send them to school or childcare or to the grandparents
or to play at their friends’ houses. You can’t send them
anywhere. Will lack of sleep, personal space and time make you
trip and fall, and if so, who will catch you?
By Mark James Miller, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own unique challenges to
every facet of society. Everyone has been seriously impacted by
the virus, and students in higher education are no exception.
Nationwide, students are delaying their education until the
pandemic is over and colleges return to the traditional classroom
approach instead of the online model being used in its place.
Some are simply uncomfortable with online learning, and others
are fearful that the education they receive remotely is not of
the same quality as what they get in the classroom with the
By Josh Brahinsky and Roxi Power, UC-AFT Santa Cruz
When graduate-student workers at the University of California at Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly in December to reject their statewide union contract and follow the West Virginia teachers’ model of a wildcat strike, the precarious lives of academic workers became a news story once again.