Letter to the Editor: BC Faculty outrage over pay inequity

To President David Rule and the Bellevue College Board of Trustees,

We, the undersigned, are all faculty in the Social Science Division, and we are writing to you out of our deep concern for the state of our Division and the College as a whole.  We believe that our institution is on a precipice. We are on the verge of losing an unprecedented number of faculty, and we are writing to you because you have the power to do something about it.  We call on you to show strong, decisive leadership before it is too late.
The Social Science Division plays an important  role at Bellevue College. In addition to the important content and skills that we teach, we improve the college’s “bottom line.”   Indeed, our Division increases efficiency for the entire institution. Our class sizes are larger than other Divisions (42 in person and 36 online), our fill rate/percentage  is the highest at the College (at 88%), and our student-to-faculty  ratio is twenty-three (23) percent larger than the next closest Division. We bring these facts to your attention not because we view these numbers as a competition between Divisions, but rather we want you to know the crucial role we play at the College. Our Division directly and positively impacts others; indeed, other programs can have smaller class sizes because ours are larger. An effect of this on our faculty is that on any given day, a Social Science Instructor might be working with upwards of 120 students. Not only do Social Science faculty make a sizeable  impact on our student body, but we positively impact
other Divisions and improve the overall workings of the College.
In addition to the significant number of students we serve, our faculty are also engaged in some of the most important and influential governance bodies on campus, such as the Tenure Review Committee, the All-College Council, the Curriculum Advisory Committee, the Faculty Commons Council, the Faculty Assessment Coordinating Team, and Planning Council. We advise student clubs, travel nationally and internationally  with students, lead professional development workshops, bring speakers to campus, and participate in a wide range of panel discussions on topics that are important to both students and employees at the College. We build partnerships with other organizations and institutions, such as the University of Washington.  We are published scholars, and we travel as keynote speakers, spreading the
Bellevue College name and reputation. We are Margin of Excellence Award Winners and Nominees. We are active and engaged, working far beyond the requirements of the BCAHE contract.  We do high­ quality work and contribute to the core mission of the College in very important, meaningful ways.
Faculty are central to the mission of our institution. However, we have lost quality Full-time and Adjunct faculty from our Division in recent years, and we are on the verge of seeing an alarming and
. unprecedented number of Instructors leave the College. Several of our Full-time Social Science Instructors are looking to leave, and our Adjuncts frequently apply for positions elsewhere. As of January 2014, twenty-seven percent of our Full-time Faculty are currently on the job market.  A loss of this size would decimate our faculty and be destructive on many levels, and it would cost the College
more money in the long run.  The central reason these faculty are looking to leave is for a higher salary elsewhere. Our salaries are not competitive; they certainly do not provide a living wage, given that the cost of living in our area is so high. We even struggle to pay for our children to attend day­ care/preschool at our very own institution. We know that we have lost finalists from our job searches due to the poor salaries we offer, and we know of outstanding colleagues who will not apply to teach here due to our low pay.
And when candidates do come to campus to interview  with us, we are embarrassed to talk with them about our salaries.
Adjuncts lack job security and fair pay, and can earn more money by teaching elsewhere. Moreover, the atrocious Adjunct/Full-time ratio means that Adjuncts have less voice in the workings of our institution and that Full-time Faculty are left carrying an excessive amount of governance on their shoulders, governance that should be spread out among more faculty.
Indeed, our College has, over the past few decades, created not only a structure but also a culture of exploiting faculty at all levels. We are not paid for the countless hours we work on behalf of students and for the College (including on ‘non-contract’ days), and we certainly are not paid for our worth to the College.
Full-time faculty salaries at Bellevue College have been frozen for at least five years, with the exception of the somewhat meager turnover dollars, while adjunct salaries have been frozen even longer. To add insult to injury, we’ve experienced pay cuts in myriad forms- an across-the-board 3 percent salary cut, receiving payment only for ‘above the band’ credits, the elimination of the Distance Ed funds that were previously paid to many of us, and other “invisible” cuts such as paying for parking.  Although some of these cuts occurred during our nation’s deep economic recession, most have not been corrected since the recovery. In fact, we have not seen increases- outside of turnover dollars and the restoration of the
3 percent cut- despite the fact that the College continues to run net positive fund balances. These net positive fund balances have been unquestionably built on the backs of faculty, both Full-time and Adjunct.
Working so much for so little destroys morale, and morale among faculty in our Division is low.  It doesn’t have to be this way. We are tired of hearing that administration agrees with us but that its hands are tied and there is not much that can be done without permission of the legislature.
There are creative ways around the legislative constraints.  We are economists, accountants, political scientists, historians, and sociologists expert in organizational structure, inequality, and social change. We know that we contribute a lot to this campus, and we have made these contributions because we care about our students and are fulfilled by what we do.
Indeed, faculty have been shouldering the weight of this College for the last several years, given our daily interactions with students and extensive unpaid governance to help run the institution.
However, we cannot and will not continue to contribute as much as we currently do if faculty compensation is not addressed in a meaningful way in the near future.
You are on the verge of losing the faculty at this College- and we mean this in more ways than one.  Our salaries are unsustainable and demoralizing, and our workloads are excessive. We want to help recruit and retain quality faculty, but we refuse to keep working at the level that we have been if there is not a serious overhaul of the contract with sizable increases in compensation for Full-time and Adjunct faculty..
Our core mission is to educate and serve students, and faculty are central to that mission. Rhetorically, our·College  gives a lot of attention to our core themes: “student success,” “teaching and learning excellence,” “college life and culture,” and “community engagement and enrichment.” However, these will become empty words on paper if we don’t ably recruit and retain the human capital that is educating the students we are here to serve. We are calling on administration and the Board of Trustees to align spending decisions more directly with our core mission.
Franklin Roosevelt is attributed with saying, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” We would like to believe that the administration and the Board agree with us and want to do something about this problem.  The President has stated on several occasions that he personally believes that faculty deserve a $10,000 across the board raise, and the Vice President of Human Resources has stated that his compensation philosophy is to “recruit and retain the best faculty.”  We have been told to wait, that bargaining is under way, to direct our energies at the legislature who has “tied the hands” of the College, and to manage our expectations because the pot of money available for increased faculty compensation is not very big. We understand the constraints of state law, but we also know there are creative ways around those constraints. We have been waiting for five years and the time to act is now. The faculty at this College are grossly underpaid and the situation is simply not sustainable.  If you are receiving this letter, it is because you have the power to help solve this problem.  We are requesting
action, not words.

Please act before we fall from the precipice.

Faculty and Program Chairs of Social Science