Montgomery College Part-Time Faculty Union:
A Partner for Student Success and Academic Excellence
Importance of Part-Time Faculty at Montgomery College
With over 60,000 full-time and part-time students, Montgomery College is the largest and most diverse community college in Maryland. The College offers a wide range of academic courses and workforce training to prepare students for university degree studies, provide skills for technical employment and enhance professional qualifications of those currently employed. The entire community—families, businesses and government—benefits when the College succeeds in its educational mission.
Part-time faculty are playing a central role in carrying out that mission. Over 900 part-time instructors are teaching nearly 50 percent of the courses at Montgomery College’s three campuses and distance education programs. Most bring not only high academic qualifications but also real-world experience to the courses they teach from successful businesses, important Federal agencies and respected non-profit organizations. They teach to the same high standards as full-time faculty. And they provide the College with the flexibility to offer a wide range of courses throughout the day on campus and online as well.
Reasons for Forming the Part-Time Faculty Union
In 2008 Montgomery College part-time faculty voted to form a union through Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500. The desire for union representation reflected the growing frustration among part-time faculty over the “traditional” community college model for faculty employment which, beyond unequal compensation for teaching responsibilities, had evolved into a culture of exclusion and a denial that part time faculty were valued contributors to the learning community.
As greater emphasis has been put on helping students identify and achieve their academic goals, the traditional view of part-time faculty has become outdated at the College and throughout higher education. All faculty are responsible for delivering academic excellence, and it is simply unfair to treat so differently part-time faculty who provide the same instructional value as their full-time counterparts.
Close Alignment of College and Union Goals
Under the leadership of President DeRionne Pollard, Montgomery College is undergoing a major transformation to better align the College’s structure and resources with changing student needs, employer requirements and increased competition more generally in the global marketplace. Montgomery College 2020 provides a blueprint for carrying out that transformation focusing in particular on “student success” in both school and the workplace. Achieving the 2020 plan’s ambitious goals will require everyone at the College—full-time faculty, part-time faculty and administration and staff— pulling together to deliver on our promise and mission.
The SEIU 500 Part-Time Faculty Union endorses these goals and wants to be a constructive partner in implementing Montgomery College 2020. Consistent with those goals, we believe that the College will not be able to mobilize and harness the full talents and enthusiasm of part-time faculty without changing the traditional model of community college employment to bring greater equality and inclusion within the institution. Improving the quality and success of the College’s educational endeavor is an all-inclusive effort. Academic success requires utilizing the vast knowledge, skills, and experience of educators. In today’s community colleges, that means a full-time and part-time faculty performing at full strength and on an equal footing.
Key issues for Part-Time Faculty—Pay Parity, Benefits, Equality and Inclusion
High-performing organizations whether in business, government or nonprofit sectors share many common characteristics. Several are particularly important. Employees are treated with respect. They are adequately compensated. And they feel a sense of inclusion so they are motivated to work together productively as a team. The Part-Time Faculty Union sees the traditional model of community college faculty employment falling short in these and other areas. We believe a model attuned to the expanded role of part-time faculty in community colleges must incorporate:
- Pay parity – Part-time and full-time faculty should receive the same compensation for the value of courses taught. Currently part-time faculty receive less than half for teaching the same courses.
- Benefits – Unlike full-time faculty, part-time instructors receive minimum benefits beyond direct financial compensation. This makes the disparity in total compensation between full and part-time faculty even greater.
- Equality – Part-time and full-time faculty are both professional employees with similar qualifications. Yet there is substantial inequality in how the two classes of employees are treated, for example, in course assignments, work space, administrative support and performance appraisals.
- Inclusion –Interested and capable part-time employees are often excluded from department decisions and relevant committee work and are not given adequate opportunity to participate in college activities and projects related to their field or academic interest.
These are all important concerns of part-time faculty. But they should also be concerns of the entire Montgomery College community because they affect the ability and motivation of part-time faculty to meet the higher levels of performance required to achieve the ambitious goals of the 2020 plan.
Student Success—The Ultimate Test
The Part-Time Faculty Union recognizes that the ultimate test of change and transformation in all aspects of the College is student success. Are Montgomery College students succeeding in their academic goals? Are they graduating in higher numbers? Are they better prepared for employment in today’s competitive marketplace? We want to help ensure that the answer to all of these questions is an unqualified “yes.” And we are convinced that improving the compensation, status and support of part-time faculty as valued contributors to our learning community will play a key role in achieving that success.