Accreditation related changes make part-timers feel especially vulnerable

Kathe Burick has been an instructor of dance and physical education at City College since 1980. Photo by Leslie Calderon/The Guardsman

By Lavinia Pisani

The Guardsman

Amid budget cuts and furloughs, many of City College’s part-time instructors have never felt so insecure about their jobs, but some of them are even more concerned about the overall effects of the school’s accreditation sanctions.

Among those concerns are continued layoffs.

Five years ago the college employed 803 full-time faculty and 1,023 part-timers, according to a March/April newsletter published by the faculty union, the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121. Now the college is down to 768 full-time and 824 part-time faculty.

“I no longer believe that this accreditation process has anything to do with providing quality education, or student success, or accessibility,” said Kathe Burick, 63, a part-time dance and yoga instructor.

In fact, the union filed a complaint on May 1 against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Along with the California Association of Teachers, the union’s complaint asks that the “show cause” sanction be removed because the commission violated federal and state laws, and its own policies, when it imposed the sanction on City College.

Burick is afraid that under the accreditation standards the school won’t serve the philosophy and values that have always differentiated the college from others.

“I have always been proud to work at City College because we are here for people who couldn’t afford it,” Burick said, as she teared up.

Burick thinks that private interests are trying to impose a model onto City College that would only accommodate people who can afford to be full-time students.

Family obligations, work schedules and cost of attendance can be barriers for students who might otherwise chose to attend school full time.  For this reason, she is also worried that the result will lead students to take on more debt to be able to go to school.

“From my perspective they are trying to make higher education a commodity the same way that health care has been made a commodity,” Burick said. “Education in a democracy is a human right. I mean, you can’t have a democracy without a well-educated public.”

Health care is the second concern she has.

Burick teaches five two-unit classes, which she must maintain under the current policies to keep her health benefits. Losing that benefit would have a big impact on her life as she is now waiting to get a second cataract surgery done. The cost would be around $11,000.

“I hope I won’t lose my benefits before that happens,” Burick said. “Hopefully I won’t lose them at all.”

The alternatives are limited, if available at all, but she has faith in the work of the union to keep health benefits for part-timers.

Burick is surely not the only one affected by budget cuts.

In December, many part time instructors were laid off, including two dozen instructors just in the English as Second Language Department, according to the union newsletter.

Despite anticipating that some layoffs were likely, the pink slips were still devastating for some people. ESL instructor Danny Halford must wait to see if he can be rehired in the fall.

“There was no surprise. I knew it was coming,” Halford said in an interview published in the union newsletter. Halford still felt melancholy on the first day of spring semester in January and realized “I have nowhere to go, and nobody needs me.”

Li Miao Lovett is a counselor for the Child Development and Biotechnology departments and edits the union newsletter. She has watched her colleagues, including some of whom have been working at the college for decades, suffer through the recent layoffs.

“It is still a precarious situation,” Lovett said. “I wish we will reinvest in our people because if you don’t have the people, you don’t have a college.”

The Accrediting Commission is expected to announce its decision in July.

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