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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