Food drives have become increasingly common in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
But the drive launched at Kalamazoo Valley Community College January 11th is a little different: People are bringing in food and gift cards, not to help out strangers in need, but their coworkers.
“The full-time faculty have been wonderful. They were the first ones to arrive with bags of food,” said Kelly O’Leary, co-president of the new Kalamazoo Valley Community College Federation of Teachers and part-time instructor of English and French.
While the first payday of the year came Jan. 15 for full-time faculty and staff, part-time faculty won’t get their first paycheck until Feb. 1, explained O’Leary.
“Only the part-time people have not been paid today. Everyone else will have been paid except for us,” said O’Leary in an interview.
An executive at KVCC said, however, that the current year’s pay schedule was posted four months prior to the new year and should not have come as a surprise.
“As has been the multi-year history, the full- and part-time faculty pay calendars were posted for all to access and review in August 2012 on the college intranet,” said Linda Depta, director of college relations for KVCC. “The calendar clearly reflected the part-time pay schedule. So there was no change from the posted schedule.”
Still, the change from 2012’s schedule caught a number of part-time faculty by surprise, said O’Leary, who created “I Am Working Without Pay” buttons on the union’s Facebook Page.
There will still be eight pay periods and everyone will get all of their pay by mid-May, but the February 1, 2013 checks will cover just two weeks of January and the gap between the end of fall semester and February 1st has been difficult for some instructors, O’Leary said.
O’Leary, who took a hardship poll, said she has two pages of stories of people unable to pay their heating bills and property taxes. So far, donations have come in the form of food, cash, and gift cards, she said. Those last have been most helpful for people with medical needs, she said.
When asked why faculty couldn’t have saved to cover the time frame between paychecks, O’Leary said that some members of the staff are working as many as five jobs to make ends meet.
Part-time faculty at KVCC make between $2,100 and $2,400 for a 15-week, three-credit course, she said.
The national average for a three-credit course is $2,987, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2012, Kalamazoo’s cost of living was 13 percent less than the national average, according to Kiplinger.
In the meantime, part-time faculty are counting down the days till they get paid.
“I have $1.60 left until the 23rd,” said one of the instructors, who asked that her name not be used for fear of retaliation. “I’m hanging on by a thread.”
She works another part-time job, in addition to teaching at KVCC, but said she still lives paycheck to paycheck.
“There’s nothing you can do. The rent for January is paid, thank goodness, but I’m going to be scrambling for Feb. 1,” she said.
Faculty food drive organizers gave her a Meijer gift card, which she said she used to buy gas to get to work, and she’s used the food pantry to obtain groceries for herself and her child.
“It bothers me to have to get food out of there,” she said. “You teach at a college, you shouldn’t have to hit a food bank to get food.”