The United Faculty elections are well underway and the stakes are higher than ever for part-time faculty members across the Contra Costa Community College District.
According to their site, www.uf4cd.org, the “United Faculty of Contra Costa Community College District is an independent collective bargaining association and a member of the California Community College Independents (CCCI) and the Bay Faculty Association (BFA).”
The election’s only contention is for the presidential seat with its two contenders being the sitting President, Professor Donna Wapner, and Los Medanos College Music Professor Silvester Henderson.
In emails exchanged among faculty members at LMC it is clear that Henderson is running against the status quo. In an email sent to faculty October 2 by Jeffrey Michels, the professor emphatically campaigned for Wapner saying, “a vote for Donna is also a vote for me.”
After giving a detailed background into the UF over the past 12 years, Michels who served as the UF President for six years, gave a strong call to action.
“We need to support our UF leadership team, and that starts with reelecting Donna Wapner,” said Michels. “Donna has led our union for the past four years with integrity and tenacity; she works hard; she fights hard; and she has earned my respect and the respect of our entire Executive Board.”
In response to the email, Wapner’s opponent, Henderson who claimed he never received the initial email said, “Please remember that a vote for me is not an offense toward to current UF leadership team. A vote for me is the start of a ‘New & Fresh’ Journey!”
Milton Clarke, LMC Political Science professor and the UF Vice President representing LMC faculty, later chimed into the discussions. Clarke gave a multitude of points which argued the current leadership has significantly bettered those who belong to the union.
Namely, some of the achievements for the increasingly important part-time faculty. Clarke noted how their efforts, “increased the salaries for adjunct faculty…[earmarked] equity funds to pay adjunct faculty for working with students outside of class” and “modified and simplified the benefits system for adjunct faculty to allow more part-timers access to medical benefits.”
The importance of the part-time faculty vote has largely been followed by the push earlier this year by DVC political science professor Jeremy Cloward to create a separate Part Time Faculty Union for adjunct faculty members.
Clarke said he has heard nothing of the PTFU since the initial push. Clarke seemed relieved of this, adding that, “there’s strength in numbers.”
Susan Reno, a Nursing instructor in the CCCCD and the Part-time Representative for LMC pointed out the district’s adjuncts make up almost 75 percent the instructors, who value not only themselves, but also the education of their students.
“It’s not just about the money, it’s also about helping students,” said Reno of the lack of access students have to what she called “freeway fliers.”
“Freeway fliers” are adjunct professors who, due to restrictions on number of courses per district, work in multiple leading to long commute times and thus “freeway flying.” These professors are often stretched thin between districts limiting student access to them.
“It’s a travesty that we don’t pay adjuncts the same hourly rate that full-timers get,” said Clarke, who shared concern about how adjuncts do not get prescribed office hours.
Voting for United Faculty are due electronically Wednesday, October 17 at noon.