What Are The Odds?

Ever been struck by lightning? Ever won $1,000,000 bucks in the lottery? Ever had a tenure-track job handed to you? Hell’s Bells, then, you’re never standing in the wrong place; you’re never picking the sweet numbers; you don’t know the right people; and you didn’t come in second in the search for a tenure-line faculty job in the English Department at Green River Community College in Washington State.

In Washington State, there are 10,000 part-time faculty. As of March of 2008, AFT-Washington represented exactly 945 part-time faculty, and 519 quarter-time faculty. As of that same date, the union represented 1,783 tenure-line and tenured faculty members, members whom the union classifies at earning over $40K per year.

Adjunct Advocate bloggers have written about the American Federation of Teacher’s FACE initiative in Washington State here and here. Read up on it if you haven’t.

AFT blogger Phil Ray Jack writes about the drive to win FACE funding in his state in early-2008 here. To paraphrase, Phil Ray Jack told AFT blog readers that AFT Washington had won $500,000 “provided solely to convert classes taught by faculty employed in part-time positions to classes taught by faculty employed in full-time positions. Particular emphasis shall be placed upon increasing the number of full-time faculty….” Jack also writes in that same blog posting, “While we were able to get funding in at least the Senate budget, we lost most of the language that was intended to protect part-time faculty. There is a little good news, though. The budget language does specify that “the state board shall determine the distribution of these funds among the colleges in consultation with representatives of faculty unions.” Hopefully, we will be able to include ‘priority consideration of part-time faculty’ as a condition for receiving the funds.”

Let me translate that last part: AFT Washington union leaders helped decide to which of the state’s 34 community colleges the $500,000 would go. Seems fair, right? After all, the union fought for the money. Except, well, I’m somewhat naive where playing by the rules is concerned. I have this insane idea that fair is fair.

Our story continues….

The part-time faculty “priority hiring” language was never included in the legislation. According to Washington State officials from the Community College Council, union leaders were consulted, and the $500,000 was allocated to fund 20 positions on 20 campuses. Union leadership in Washington State consists of president, Sandra Schroeder, of whom we have written here and here.

Here’s the bunch in my bloomers about all of this. A memo from a VP on the Green River Community College campus went out to faculty saying that the FACE funded position would go to ESL, not English, Jack’s department. Further, there was no notification sent to the union’s other members teaching in the English department concerning the FACE-funded opening at Green River Community College. Finally, hiring Miss Idaho (second runner up) in a national search for a previously advertised full-time position for a suddenly-funded full-time position is something that the college has never done before. There is no language in the contract between the college and the faculty union that covers such situations. In fact, AFT-Washington officials have been quoted as seeing a need to address this issue through collective bargaining.

Phil Ray Jack is one of three part-time faculty members who sit on the 15-member AFT-Washington Executive Committee. He is the Vice President of the AFT-Washington’s COPE program, which oversees fund raising from union members for political purposes. Phil Ray Jack helped raise money for the campaign donations AFT Washington gave to the legislators who introduced the FACE legislation in 2007 and 2008. In February of 2008, Phil Ray Jack testified in favor of FACE before the Washington Senate Higher Education Committee. Finally, Jack is the president of the Green River Community College Faculty Union, a unified local.

In essence, the single AFT Washington FACE funded full-time tenure-track job awarded to Green River Community College was handed without a national search to the president of the faculty union, a union that only 10 percent of the school’s 300 part-time faculty have joined. What were the odds?

Well, to begin, the money was distributed to 58 percent of the community college campuses in the state. There was, then, roughly a 1 in 2 chance that Green River Community College would have received no FACE funding at all. Then, we had the 1 in 77 chance that the money would go to the English Department, where Jack teaches, as opposed to one of the other 76 departments at the college, or the ESOL Department where college leaders told faculty it would go. What about the part-timers in Jack’s own department. Would 6 out of the 25 who are employed by the English Department have applied for the FACE-funded job? He would have had a 1 in 6 chance of winning the post if only any of the part-time faculty whom he represents had been allowed to apply. How many hundreds of applications from among the part-timers state-wide/country-wide would have the English Department have received had it conducted a national search? In the end, Jack could have found himself competing with 150-200 applicants.

AFT Washington officials should come forward immediately with incontrovertible proof that Phil Ray Jack’s new tenure-track job wasn’t handed out under the table thanks to his seat on the AFT Washington Executive Council, his connections to union officials who decided to which campuses money would be allocated, and his public support of FACE in front of Washington legislature. What are the odds Sandra Schroeder and Green River Community College officials will do this?

The odds are much much better we’ll see AFT use Phil Ray Jack as the FACE Poster Boy around the country. After all, he is living proof that any and all part-time faculty represented by AFT can beat the odds and get a tenure-track teaching job thanks to FACE.

What are the odds? I just recently re-read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s story about what happens when one breathes life into an artificial and corrupt creation.

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23 Comments

  1. Well, Superman and Part-Time Thinker, it looks like we superheroes ‘runned off the varmint’ (Eric)
    This is a site for adjuncts; not for fat-cat full-timers who have nothing better to do (other than getting their friends selected as full-timers as well) than convince us that we’re substandard educators and correct our vernacular. Eric – go get your OWN site!! Better yet – ya better get to work with your full-timer union chapter to fight us, because we’re coming after YOUR job!!! oorah!!

  2. Eric, I notice that the theme of most of your responses is to show everyone how much smarter you are than us adjuncts. You’re just a veritable legend in your own mind, now aren’t you?

  3. It’s totally in form, Eric, to be worried about my spelling when you should be watching your back. You think your cushy fat-cat tenured job is secure? LOL!!!

  4. Spiderman are your Spidey senses tingling? I’m with you; you don’t need x-ray vision to see through Eric Nelson’s arguments, and that this was an inside job. Nelson’s questionable reasoning and spurious arguments are not even worth the proper spelling of “egregious.”

  5. Bravo, Part-Time Thinker, for exposing the rotten underbelly of this aggregious nepotism case. It’s really interesting how your expose drew out so many full-timer ‘scum’ in response. To the full-timers: your days are numbered. Higher education teaching will be almost 100 percent contingent in 20 years (as it should be) and all of you fat-cats will be in line with us professional part-time faculty begging for work – THAT’S parity!! Enjoy your fat-cat cushy positions as long as they last because the ‘Boston Tea Party’ is coming and you will be the ones going overboard, not the adjuncts!!

  6. As a member of the English hiring committee, I find this discussion amazing. Does anyone know or care how much work it is to sift through 70 applicants, interview 9, and then come to a decision as a committee? We ended up agreeing that two of the candidates were too good to pass up, and we stated at the time that we really wanted to hire two. Admin said we couldn’t — but a couple of weeks later there was more funding. Who wouldn’t want to continue the existing committee and existing process, rather than start all over again? Does anyone other than the above blogger really think that is corrupt, unfair, an inside job, etc? I don’t think it is any of those. We were thrilled that we could hire both of our excellent top candidates.

  7. No, I mean slander: “The utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.” Look it up.

    This IS about you. To repeat: it’s facile to take cheap shots behind the mask of anonymity.

    All the references to literary pseudonyms, while suitably pretentious, are a pedantic smokescreen–but they don’t hide the fact that you’re a moral coward.

    C’mon out from under your rock so we can see you, eh?

    This is my final posting. I’m sure your riposte will be heated, albeit unilluminating.

  8. You mean, of course, “libel,” not slander. We won’t hold the mistake against you, even though you teach English. The issue is not who I am; I am someone who was hired to write a blog anonymously so that the blog does not focus on me, but rather on the topics I write about. Ever read Oronte Churm? Invisible Adjunct? George Elliot? O. Henry? Mark Twain? I am the Part-Time Thinker. I thought it was a clever title, but I’m slightly conceited about my own cleverness.

    Your attempt to shift the focus to me rather than keep to the topic of the blog entry is the exact reason it’s necessary to write about these subjects anonymously. Corruption, cronyism, dishonesty and financial shenanigans have nothing to do with my courage, or lack thereof.

    Here’s a taste for YOU. In the most recent issue of your AFT Washington’s newsletter, there an unsigned piece about the new union at Western Washington University (UFWW). There’s a glaring untruth in that piece. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint: you’re going to have to actually read the union contract, and compare the contract to the summary in the newsletter. Oddly, the error (as usual) paints a rosier picture than actually exists for the part-timers.

    This is what I am paid to do; find the truth, whether you or anyone else likes it or not. The truth is at GRCC not a single part-time faculty member in the English department got to apply for the TT job handed to Phil Jack, and funded with FACE money. That was unethical and possibly illegal. Maybe some part-timer in the union will file a lawsuit, and then we can all find out for sure.

  9. Yes–that’s what I thought. You won’t identify yourself because you’re afraid. You know that, if you do, people will see you for what you are–a bitter, disgruntled adjunct with a personal axe to grind. I’ve got you “sussed”–in fact, I’m pretty sure I can ID you.

    Anyone who reads this series of missives will see that all of your charges have been answered–Bluechip’s responses are particularly eloquent in their point-by-point rebuttal–and that you’re trying to create controversy where none really exists.

    You have needlessly, frivolously slandered a good man, and you don’t have the “cojones” to take personal responsibility for your ad hominem attacks by identifying yourself. All too familiar. And pathetic.

    Come out where we can all see you, Chicken Little!

  10. Eric,

    My name is Clark Kent, mild-mannered blogger, who can leap tall piles of manure in a single bound. And what’s being shoveled at GRCC is a heap o’ manure as tall as the Empire State Building. Put down the shovel and step away from the computer, or else clue the several thousand people who read this blog into how the hiring process at GRCC works, and we can decide for ourselves whether this last “hire” was out of the ordinary.

    Let’s start with the last time GRCC filled a TT job without advertising it either internally or externally.

  11. You’re attempt at metaphor is a stretch at best. Come clean. Who are you? All of your charges have been answered, yet you fail to answer the charges against you. It’s easy to snipe and assassinate character behind the veil of anonymity. Ever read the postings on Ratemyprofessor.com? You’ve got a personal grudge.

  12. So, at your college, if one applies for a TT position and doesn’t get the job, the very NEXT TT slot that gets funded in that department, HR and the department leadership don’t post it; they don’t do a national search; they simply call ME? Come on.

    This is so blatantly absurd that one doesn’t need to have worked at your college to find it a singular act of hubris on the part of those doing the hiring, and on the part of the individual who took the job; he has a singular responsibility to represent as union president the other people who could have applied.

    He stuffed all the chocolate in his mouth, pockets and even and some down his shirt, and you’re trying to tell me that’s simply how one eats chocolate. Unions are all about sharing, just not, it would appear, at your school.

  13. I DID answer your question. You aren’t listening. You’re inventing a distinction that doesn’t exist. And you still haven’t identified yourself. I have the sneaking suspicion that this is personal for you. Are you, perhaps, a disgruntled long-time GRCC adjunct who has failed to secure your own full-time employment?

  14. Bluechip,

    Thanks for the continued dialogue. HR people are experts in HR, not law. That’s why GRCC has a legal office, and doesn’t just forward everything to HR. State laws in Washington are very clear concerning hiring procedures at entities funded with tax money. One of the procedures involves actually posting the position so that everyone qualified will have an opportunity to apply.

    Maybe Phil Jack would have won this job, as well, but he shouldn’t have gotten it on the sly without it having been posted officially. That the union president did this is particularly ironic. He has a duty to represent his members, not put his own personal interests first when it is more convenient (i.e. when the school simply offers him a job for which some of his members would clearly have been qualified to compete against him for).

  15. “The part-timer LOST”?

    I guess it depends on what part of the water glass one considers.

    The English division hired three part-time adjuncts to replace the three retiring faculty. The other finalist for the position Phil was a finalist for is also an adjunct at Green River. The other two new hires were adjunct instructors also teaching in the region but not at Green River.

    Thus, it seems in the tie, it is equally true that one part-time faculty WON.

    And yes, it is legal (which was confirmed by HR) to select an additional hire from the application pool. The last time this was done in the English department at Green River was about twelve or fourteen years ago when a fulltime instructor took unexpected forced retirement due a health condition and the college hired two faculty, even though the original announcement was for only one position. That additional position was filled by a part-time instructor at Green River. No one complained then, and it was “legal.” (I know because my application was submitted two hours after the 5 pm deadline and it was rejected by HR because the “legal” deadline had passed.)

  16. Eric,

    I heard you the first time. Now, can you please answer the simple question I asked at the end of my entry?

    “May I ask when the last time the college hired on the tenure-track without advertising the position?” Does GRCC routinely hire TT faculty without national searches or advertising the positions? Not according to the HR sources I spoke with at GRCC.

    Phil Jack may be qualified; Hell’s Bells! He may be the next best faculty member since Socrates prowled the Agora, but he didn’t get his job by applying for it. he applied for a DIFFERENT position. No one else got to apply for the job he was given, because some people who thought no one would ever notice, much less write about it, simply gave away a TT slot with money meant to encourage faculty excellence. Giving away TT slots doesn’t encourage excellence; it encourages cronyism.

  17. I repeat: Phil was not a “runner up.” And he was hired on his merits.

    In addition, he WAS a candidate in a national search. He competed against many other adjuncts for the position he got. The hiring committee looked at 70+ applications.

  18. Eric,

    Your points are well-taken. However, Phil Jack was the runner up for the English position not funded with FACE money. I have no problem whatsoever with that search (other than in a tie, the part-timer LOST). The slot funded with FACE money resulted in a hiring without advertising the position to a single other part-timer in the school! this totally defeated the purpose of the legislation, and may I ask when the last time the college hired on the tenure-track without advertising the position? That’s not even LEGAL at a public college.

  19. Anon & Bluechip:

    Thanks for your posts. My point is this: FACE was supposed to create opportunity for part-time faculty in your state. By cutting corners, not a single part-time faculty member had an opportunity to apply. In essence, you traded finding the best candidate, and giving everyone in the union an equal opportunity to apply, for some “free” money.

  20. I’d like the author of this piece to identify himself/herself. It’s character assassination that borders on libel/slander. It’s also frequently inaccurate.

    Phil Jack was hired entirely on his merits. He wasn’t a “runner up,” and I should know. I was on his hiring committee. I am also a former adjunct, hired “in house.”

    It’s cynical and sad when (understandably) bitter adjuncts attack one of their own who manages to get the “brass ring” that they themselves covet.

    The point the author makes about the ESOL division being slated for the position sidesteps the fact that, a few years back, the ESOL division itself was given priority in faculty hiring even after another division was slated for the position in question. This kind of executive override is not atypical, and it has nothing to do with the most recent hiring. Moreover, all divisions lobby for their own interests.

    As a member of the English division, I was delighted that we got the position–in years past, we have been passed over, and we were due. The numbers show it. But that’s another argument. Still, nobody deserves this position more than Phil. I nonetheless felt sympathy for my colleagues and friends in ESOL, both full-time and adjunct.

    In his position as our local’s president and in his work in Olympia, Phil Jack has worked tirelessly in the interests of ALL faculty, but with a special eye toward adjunct parity.

    It’s a shame that a tiny but loud handful of disaffected adjuncts see the need to denigrate Phil in the interest of “solidarity,” but it’s a familiar dynamic–attack a colleague as a “sellout,” rather than congratulating him on his success and continuing to work together to address the structural inequities of the “system.”

    I can imagine union-bashers reading the author’s posting and delighting in its divisive tone. Perhaps the writer has more time on his hands than Phil does–in addition to the fact that, until fall, he’s still a “freeway teacher,” without a car, he’s trying to work positively, often even for people who bad mouth him, and he doesn’t have the time to defend himself against such misguided, misdirected vitriol.

    Fight the real enemy. Attacking comrades such as Phil is a waste of your valuable time and energy, but it’s sure easier. It’s also a cheap shot at my friend and union brother. You should be ashamed.

  21. Why the paranoiac, bitter conspiracy theory about this? Jack was one of 2 finalists in a nation-wide English faculty search that Green River concluded just a month before the WA state conversion money was allocated (with almost no input from the faculty unions) and colleges were directed to hire positions for next fall. It seems logical and fair to me that the college, faced with a time crunch, hired the person who was now the very best available candidate from their nation-wide search pool of FT and PT English faculty applicants. This explanation does not have the narrative electricity or the sorely aggrieved satisfaction of the finely honed grudge of the original story, but I suspect it is far more accurate.

  22. As a member of the hiring committee at Green River, I can understand how things outside the situation might appear differently than from inside. The appearance of impropriety and an “inside job” was certainly an issue that came up, but hiring the candidate who had already performed well in the process was the best decision regardless of fears of what people would say.

    Part of the requirements of the FACE allocation was that the new faculty be in place by September 2008, which would mean a very short window to advertise, process applications, interview, and select the final candidate. Since the hiring committee had already sifted through a pile of applications; the specifics for the job description would be a duplication of what had already been done; and many adjuncts from this and other campuses had already gone through the process of getting letters of reference, writing out responses to the required and preferred qualifications, gathering the required documentation, and submitting the package in a timely manner, the logistics of forming a new hiring committee and duplicating all that effort would certainly be a workload concern and a questionable expense of college funds (which are already quite tight).

    While it may be true that ESL was suggested as the discipline to receive the new hire, it was not included in the original list of disciplines the legislature designated for the funding (ABE, Math, English, Science, or ECE). ESL was ushered in the side door as a “country cousin” of ABE with the suggestion that the new hire for the science division could be designated as the FACE hire if the bloodlines between cousins were considered too thin. Originally, the English department was in line for a new position this year, but three faculty retired. Because the English department was already hiring three new people, albeit as replacement faculty, the request for a new English faculty position was shelved and ESL ended up at the top of the list not receiving a new position (which is where the English position was last year).

    Of course, we could have designated Phil Jack as our committee hire and then selected the other candidate as the FACE hire, but such shenanigans would have made it seem like we felt we were being devious. Au contraire.

    During this process, Phil Jack worked as an advocate for the benefit of adjunct (part-time) faculty. Once he had fulfilled the duties of his leadership role, he opted to recluse himself from the conversation after the funding was approved.

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