A debate over how to achieve pay parity between two groups of faculty members has left lingering tensions among professors in the Maricopa County Community College District in Arizona. While a proposal to lower pay for one group, which includes librarians, didn’t come to pass, at least in its entirety, faculty continue to feel divided in the aftermath of the process, and some worry the new agreement may still negatively affect campus libraries and relations between professors.
The district employs two kinds of faculty members: service faculty, who teach and work as campus librarians and counselors, and instructional faculty, who only teach. Each group includes adjuncts and full-time professors. A number of librarians in the district say they found out in December that a draft of a new faculty agreement included a pay reduction for adjunct service faculty members in order to achieve pay parity for adjunct instructional faculty members, who earn less than their service faculty counterparts. Adjuncts who work as service faculty currently make $53 per hour, and those who only teach earn $32 per hour.
In addition, as a part of the proposed agreement, full-time service faculty members who choose to do additional hours of work to earn more money would receive lower pay for those hours than in the past, librarians said. Their required work hours would also be reduced from 35 hours to 30 hours per week to match the work hours of their instructional faculty colleagues, with the possibility of working extra paid hours.
Search over 40,000 Career Opportunities in Higher Education
We have helped more than 2,000 institutions hire the best higher education talent.
After months of discussion and pushback from some librarians, the committee of faculty and administrators responsible for drafting the agreement partly reneged on the plan, only proposing a lower pay rate for new adjunct service instructors hired after May 13. The pay of current adjuncts would not change for now and instead could be revisited as part of a separate agreement next summer. However, the plan to reduce work hours for full-time service faculty members, and drops in pay for their extra work, made it into the proposed agreement, librarians said. The agreement was unanimously approved by the district’s Faculty Executive Council last Monday and will now go to the Board of Governors for review this month and final approval in April.
A Disagreement About Shared Governance
Proponents of the agreement say changes were made to it in consultation with both service and instructional faculty members and they believe the issue has been resolved. The librarians who fought against the pay reduction say they’re still upset it was proposed in the first place and the process has left them feeling bitter, belittled, and divided. Librarians are a relatively small faculty group in the sprawling 10-campus system, which serves upward of 80,000 students, and some feel their nonlibrary colleagues haven’t kept their best interests in mind.
Pam Gautier, a residential librarian at Glendale Community College, said she would have been happy to see parity achieved through pay boosts for instructional faculty members, but she felt “real surprise” that the initial solution to address pay parity “was to cause harm to one group.” She added that she heard only one librarian, a member of the drafting committee, was consulted while the initial proposed agreement was being crafted, which she believes was a breach of shared governance practices. Some librarians favored the agreement, while others, like her, strongly opposed it.
Ultimately, “feedback was taken into consideration and changes were made, but it was through a really painful process of demanding that, rather than a partnership to try and get to that point and achieve that,” she said.
Glenn Colby, senior researcher at the American Association of University Professors, said he hasn’t come across many explicit cases of proposed pay cuts to achieve pay parity, but “it is common, in my experience, for institutions to take a pool of money they’ve allocated for increases and give more of that pool to some than others in order to address inequities.”
“And for those receiving the lesser amount, when you consider there’s inflation going on, cost of living increases, it’s effectively a pay cut,” he said. Granted, the fact that it’s not called a pay reduction “softens the blow,” even if the results—having less disposable income—are similar.
Another full-time service faculty member in the district said keeping the pay of current adjuncts the same was an “awesome” win, but the group was “so emotionally drained by this process that it doesn’t feel as good as it maybe should.” The faculty member, who requested anonymity, said some adjunct colleagues were making plans to leave the district during the deliberations out of fear that their wages would drop, and it remains unclear whether all of them will stay. Full-time faculty members who advocated for the part-time adjuncts feel burned out as well.
“Over all, a majority of us really love our jobs, but this has really just put a damper and made us question what does the district value,” the faculty member added.
Meanwhile, “for librarians and library faculty, we are historically misunderstood as an academic discipline and on campuses,” the faculty member said. “People don’t value what we do a lot of the times. We’re always having to advocate for ourselves. This is like an age-old thing.”
Beth Malapanes, library chair at Gateway Community College, said “why us and why now was our big question,” and it remains unanswered.
Proponents didn’t address the timing or reasoning behind the push to create parity but said the agreement was reached collaboratively and will benefit faculty over all.
Sasha Radisich, a full-time economics faculty member at Glendale Community College and a member of the Faculty Association and the drafting committee, known as the Residential Faculty Administration Collaboration Team (RFACT), said he couldn’t speak on the association or committee’s behalf but “as an individual faculty member, it is my belief that the proposed changes to the Residential Faculty Agreement (RFA) will benefit both our District and our residential faculty.”
“RFACT used an inclusive, iterative, collaborative process for modifying our Agreement,” he said in an email. “RFACT’s recommended draft evolved significantly over the course of several months in response to the feedback received from multiple rounds of loop-outs to our constituencies.”
Charles Coolidge, the district’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, said the proposed faculty agreement was drafted with routine and appropriate shared governance practices.
“While we do not comment on active processes while ongoing, Maricopa Community Colleges use a collaborative process designed to gather and carefully consider input from multiple affected stakeholders to develop policies, including its faculty agreements,” he said in a statement. “Any proposed changes to our faculty agreements coming out of that process are subject to a public approval process with these stakeholders.”
The draft committee, which includes faculty and administrators, is comprised of three members appointed by the Faculty Executive Council, three members appointed by the Adjunct Faculty Association and three administrators chosen by the chancellor, according to the district’s website. The 25 Load Task Force, created to handle issues having to do with overload hours or extra courses, was also involved.
An email from the RFACT committee to faculty members said the committee “attempted to reconcile the strongly held—and sometimes mutually exclusive—interests of our diverse community of over 1,400 faculty and our adjunct faculty leadership and administrative and staff stakeholders.”
“We strived to create a final product that serves these varied stakeholder interests while still adhering to our budgetary constraints and also aligning with our mission and values,” the email read.
Despite the win that kept current service adjuncts’ pay the same in the final draft, some librarians are still displeased with aspects of the agreement, including full-time service faculty members making less for their extra work hours.
“The term ‘deserve’ came up in a number of meetings … ‘Do you deserve to be making more than instructional [faculty]?’” Gautier said. “Well, I deserve to be making what I was paid when I was hired, at the bare minimum. When I was hired on, I was told there was a certain salary I would be getting, and a certain amount of pay for extra work.”
Gautier is retiring soon from her full-time role because of health problems and hoped to work part-time as an adjunct to earn some money and continue working with students. But she’s rethinking that plan given the reduced pay and her medical bills.
“I’m considering applying elsewhere, which is really heartbreaking to me,” she said. “I love Maricopa. I love our students,” but it no longer feels as financially feasible to work as a library adjunct in the district.
Malapanes said librarians were sharply divided over the agreement, and that’s had residual effects as well. Some full-time library faculty members felt obligated to oppose the original agreement on behalf of their adjunct colleagues, while others thought the agreement was fair and favored full-time librarians and counselors having reduced hours like other faculty members, she said.
“It’s caused a rift in the library faculty,” she said.
She and others also worry the reduced hours for full-time library faculty members, and less pay to attract incoming adjuncts, will make it harder to have enough librarians working at any given time and might result in reductions in library operating hours, which are bound to affect students.
She added that adjuncts are overworked and underpaid nationwide, and she was proud that her district was different when it came to library adjuncts. She worries the pay reduction proposal for adjuncts will just resurface next year when the district creates a new adjunct faculty handbook.
“Everyone should be paid what our adjuncts are paid,” Malapanes said. “We shouldn’t be lowering our adjunct pay to the lowest common denominator in the name of parity … I’ve never heard of that. We’re not going to just stop. We’re going to keep talking about it and keep fighting for our adjuncts.”