When students enter an Allan Hancock College classroom, they do not know if the instructor is full or part-time. Nor should that be a concern to them.

When students walk into a classroom, they have every right to expect the same quality of education, regardless of whether the instructor is a part-time, adjunct instructor or a tenure-track. 

And part-time instructors do deliver quality education to the students at Allan Hancock College. If they did not, Hancock would not have received the high rankings it was honored with in 2011, when it was named one of the top five community colleges in California, and one of the top 120 community colleges in the country.

These honors would not have been given without the unflagging contributions of the more than 400 part-time instructors who teach there.

While students may not know if their instructor is full time or part-time, they might be shocked to learn that, on average, their adjunct instructors earn only 43 percent of what a full-time teacher makes for doing the same work. The credits earned in a class taught by a part-time instructor are just as valuable as those earned in a class taught by a full-timer.

Nowhere on a student’s transcript does it say, "This class was taught by a part-time instructor, therefore the units earned are worth less than if they were earned in a class taught by a person with tenure." Nor does the student pay only 43 percent of the ordinary tuition rate to take a class given by a part-timer.

It is long past the time when this great disparity should be addressed.

For far too long community colleges have balanced their budgets on the backs of part-time instructors. When budgets are cut, as they have been over the past several years, it is the part-time instructors who have had to lose their jobs or see their workloads severely reduced here at Hancock College.

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In 2006, Hancock offered 4,073 sections over the course of the year, and 2,523 of these were taught by part-time instructors. In 2011, 2,788 sections were offered, and 1,596 were taught by part-timers. Approximately 150 part-time instructors who were once employed at Hancock are employed there no longer.

At its heart, the parity disparity is a moral issue. If you believe it is acceptable to pay people at widely disparate amounts for doing the same work, the issue need not trouble you. But if you believe it is wrong for people to be paid at a far lesser rate for doing work identical to what someone else does, you will begin to understand why this matters so much to the Part-Time Faculty Association. You can also understand why we are urging Hancock College take the lead, and begin addressing this injustice.

In the past, the college administration and Board of Trustees have shown leadership and vision in regard to part-time instructors. They are to be commended for their willingness to take a risk and agree to seniority rights for part-time faculty.

Now the administration and board have an opportunity to show leadership once more. The Part-Time Faculty Association urges them to take the lead once again and begin the process of closing the parity gap. Work with us as we formulate a plan that will enable the adjunct instructors at Hancock College to get on the road to full equality, and end the parity disparity.

Mark James Miller is president of the Part-Time Faculty Association at Hancock College. He can be reached at sunrune@charter.net. Looking Forward runs every Friday, providing a progressive viewpoint on local issues.