A building with few roses in the forefront

      Pasadena City College (Photo – Janine T.)

      The new academic year at Pasadena City College has arrived, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride. Because college administrators may cancel classes at their discretion, in particular newly-established remote classes, students and faculty are not out of the woods yet.

      By Melissa Michelson

      Face to face classes reinstated, but at half-capacity

      Since mid-June when the COVID19 vaccines were rolling out, the college administration reinstated face-to-face courses for the upcoming fall semester at full capacity per class.

      A June 11 letter from Eloy Oritz Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, gave the go-ahead; all colleges “will be authorized to be back in session full time, in-person instruction,” and “no physical distancing will be required between students.” On June 14, PCC president Dr. Erica Endrijonas notified the college that “beginning Tuesday, July 6th; 76% of our Fall schedule will be synchronous and face-to-face…; we will have the return of all athletic competitions in 2021-2022.”

      Several weeks later, because of the dangers of the COVID-19 Delta variant, student capacity for PCC in-person courses was reduced to 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.

      Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between union and administration

      On August 3, the faculty union leadership and administration signed a MOU “Fall Semester 2021 Return to Campus Agreement”, which formalized the 50% classroom enrollment cap and allowed faculty who get paid for office hours to schedule them remotely. It also outlined a vaccine mandate for faculty and students, a weekly COVID testing mandate for faculty, indoor masking mandates, college-wide sanitizing measures and PPE available to faculty.  The MOU also stipulated that instead of work remotely off -campus, that “[academic] counselors shall work 4 days a week on site,” and only 50% of that time could be remote.

      To compare, Santa Monica College is offering around 85% classes online this semester, and academic counselors can work 100% remotely.

       PCC faculty up in arms

      On August 17, because of campus grumblings about the MOU, the faculty union called an emergency virtual meeting, attended by over two hundred faculty.

      Faculty didn’t want Form D, an internal college form, to be putting them and their students in harm’s way.

      They also complained about not being able to effectively interact with the students in a socially-distant classroom or offer an engaging experience without students interacting with each other during class.  Union leaders said they had brought up those concerns with the administration while negotiating the MOU, but the district repeatedly cited lack of Form Ds as the rationale for retaining face to face classes.

      A “Petition to PCC Board of Trustees For A Safe Working Environment” was then drafted and sent around for signatures, citing:

      • faculty had been teaching online since April 2020 at the height of the pandemic,
      • the PCC Board of Trustees themselves are not face to face but still on Zoom,
      • administrators have plastic protectors in their offices
      • professors, librarians and counselors are on the front-line with the public,
      • unanswered safety protocols, like how student masking indoors would be enforced at PCC.

      The faculty demanded that temporary Form Ds be reinstated to allow faculty to teach their classes online if they want to, and that all counselors and librarians be given the opportunity to work remotely.

      In addition, faculty were encouraged to speak at the August 18 PCC board meeting, and an August 20 protest on campus was scheduled, three days before classes would begin.

      Change in teaching modality

      Less than twenty-four hours after the meeting, the union announced that the District agreed to “give faculty a choice whether to remain face-to-face or transition to online” and called off the letters and protest.

      However, with the choice came a warning from the administration: newly remote classes will be opened at 100% capacity but may be cancelled if they aren’t 60% full.

      With most of PCC courses under-enrolled, faculty are being forced to choose between health, safety, or their jobs.  The current number of enrolled students and course caps can be seen on the Schedule of Classes.  It remains to be seen how many under-enrolled courses will be cancelled after Monday’s start date.

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      1. David A Cuatt says:

        Just two months ago, the college announced receiving a $30,000,000 donation. This cash gift can keep Adjunct and Full-Time faculty employed, keep all classes open, and help students succeed in their educational goals.

        Or the college leaders can hoard the funds instead.
        Let’s guess what’ll happen….

      2. Alexis Moore says:

        …”but Worry About Losing Their Assignment/Job”

        The only faculty who will loose their jobs are the temporary or contingent faculty, while if a FT faculty’s class is cancelled, they can and will bump a PT/Temp/Contingent.

        “On August 3, the faculty union leadership and administration signed a MOU “Fall Semester 2021 Return to Campus Agreement”, which formalized the..”

        That means the *union* was in agreement with the district. Did the union discuss these terms of this MOU with the membership of the union as they are legally supposed to do ? or with all of the faculty which they are tasked to fairly and legally represent…whether FT, tenured or Temp/Contingent Majority ?
        NO they did not !

        It is typical at PCC for the FT Faculty lead union to quietly and behind closed doors make decisions which most often affect those of us at the bottom of the two-tier system, I understand their politics and thus their motives as I worked there for 24 yrs, and was in union leadership until ousted by the same leadership.

        Contingent or Temp Faculty make up the majority of faculty at PCC–we number approx 2 to 1. We have the same qualifications as our FT colleagues but are rarely considered in the making of employment policy or working conditions which most affect our status as “contingent”. We are far from having equal pay for equal work, have no health benefits unless you are given a special assignment.

        The Faculty Union at PCC is not a democratic union and operates to keep Temp/Contingent faculty quiet and uninformed.

        Just the other day, yet another FT (retiree) has been appointed to replace the only remaining Contingent faculty member on the union leadership board.

        Now, all of the leaders of the faculty union at PCC are all from the FT ranks. These folks are supposed to equally and democratically represent all of us, but they don’t and thus we are paid about 30% less and have no health benefits and little job security.

        ………Income Inequality = Power Inequality………….

        Faculty Working Conditions
        Student Learning Conditions

        • Arnie Schoenberg says:

          Thank you Alexis for pointing out which faculty are being most affected. Full-time faculty so often overlook their privileges, and wall-to-wall unions end up being Company Unions, where the Union leadership colludes with management to better exploit the lower tier. It would be interesting to follow all of the Covid relief money and see how little trickles down to the faculty who need it the most.

      3. Corey Hanson Hegger says:

        Yep. I teach at GCC and had the option to return in person, which I prefer. But I risked losing my class if I did so.

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