Part-Time Faculty Layoffs Continue at SMC
Many media outlets and pessimistic economists are calling our current economic downturn the new Great Depression.
Despite many protests against cutting education budget allotments, funding for schools has been cut. This leaves teachers and other members of the school district now anxiously awaiting the Governor's May Revision to see what exactly the future entails.
At SMC, there are already part-time teachers who have lost their classes.
"Part-time faculty are hired on a semester-by-semester basis," explains Jeffery Shimizu, Vice President of Academic Affairs. "There are a few faculty members who lost their assignment partly due to low enrollment... or they were bumped by somebody that had... a levels-guarantee of their classes."
On hearing from teachers who had wanted an assignment and didn't receive one, Lantz Simpson, President of the Faulty Association, said, "We've heard from a few, " and, "Of course they're not very happy. If they don't have any other job," he said. At least they're eligible to get unemployment."
Simpson adds that, "The college is actually over-enrolled by about 1,000 students which means that if the college wants to offer classes for those students they can but the state won't give them any money for it." Essentially, there are more students and less classes.
On this note, observing simply his own classrooms, SMC student John Castillo, Sociology major, said, "I don't know numbers or anything but there's usually about 10 more than there should be." In contrast, he said, "I took a philosophy class last semester and there wasn't even anybody that needed to add."
On part-time faculty losing assignments, he said, "I don't think that's a good idea because I know that a lot of the part-time faculty also go to other schools and that says a lot about how good they are as teachers. To lay them off... just in my opinion, it's not a good idea because they're probably some of the best ones here, so I'd be sad to see them go."
Nothing in this economy is currently ideal. Keeping any teachers from assignments they wanted wasn't favorable.
We're gearing up that for the next year and a half, 18-24 months, it's going to be a very difficult financial situation for the state of California," Shimizu said.
As far as full-time faculty he said, "We haven't come to that level yet, at Santa Monica College," and they haven't even yet had to come to that level of discussion, he adds.
At some point the stimulus will assist SMC, but Shimizu addresses its faults. On any hopes the stimulus may offer, Shimizu said, "That's a funding that we hope will be allocated to infuse the shortfall that we, that districts, might have. However, we don't know how much money that's going to be, and the other difficult thing with this money is that it's one-time money." He explains that it could help schools to get through things this year, but there is no guarantee for after that.
"And K-12 is going to get most of that anyway. We have a funding formula in the state of California," he explains, where universities are separate entities. "We're attached on to the K-12 district. We get a small percentage of the funding source." ($6.5 billion compared to $46 billion for K-12, according to Legislative Analyst's Office.) "They can raise their tuitions," he points out, "We're not allowed to do that."
Shimizu sums up the situation as, "Our main goal is to try to provide access for students in their high demand areas... but we need to be efficient. We want to make sure that we fill our classes up appropriately. We need to make sure that students enroll early and that they do not drop classes and try to re-enroll... because there's a lot of competition for seats now." This explains the "Don't Shop and Drop!" posters plastered about on campus.
Stephanie Scott, who worked at SMC as a part-time Physical Education professor for over a year, explained that when she first worked there "It sounded... that I'd probably be teaching three classes a semester, which is what I got the first semester, three and a half classes (co-teaching)." But as signs of our troubled economy became more apparent, Scott ended up resigning on sensing a grim future at the school.
"I didn't notice a big difference until Winter of '08. In spring I had a pretty full load. Winter semester they completely took me off of teaching PE 10, which was my main class that I taught. They put me in teaching tennis, which is something that I don't even have any background in to teach. From the beginning of that semester I felt like I was a fish out of water. I just used a lot of books and instructional videos and stuff like that, but from that point on it was uncomfortable."
When she got her schedule she had nothing for summer and one class for fall. As with many teachers, she grew worried. "I feel like they just kind of plugged me in there... because they had to take care of the tenured people first... I could see looking into the fall and the rest of the year that it wasn't looking very good. I put in my notice actually because I knew that I needed to look for something that was going to be a 40-hour week, full time."
Her financial status quickly suffered, as she endured the now common struggle of finding a job. "I went back to my parents house in Michigan for a little while just because of all the financial pressure... I just now got something full-time again."
And Scott parts with advice that shouldn't be overlooked. "The number one thing that you have to do is you can't panic," she said, which she feels is what a lot of America did. "You can make bad decisions when you're reacting from a place of fear."