Special Reports

Pay Cut Controversy Divides Faculty at Maricopa County Community College District


In a move that has stirred controversy and divided opinions, the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) recently approved a pay cut for a group of adjunct faculty members. The decision, which was part of a wider compensation plan approved at a Board of Governors meeting, will see a roughly 20 percent reduction in pay for some adjunct faculty members working as librarians and mental health counselors within the district.

The pay cut is part of an ongoing effort within the Arizona district to address pay parity between two groups of faculty members: service faculty, who teach and also work as campus librarians and counselors, and instructional faculty, who focus solely on teaching. The district employs both adjunct and full-time professors in each group.

Last year, a district-wide faculty agreement was reached that lowered wages for new adjunct service faculty members to around $32 per hour. This move was made in response to complaints about a pay disparity between adjunct service faculty and adjunct instructional faculty. Advocates for the pay reduction cited a formula to justify the discrepancy, although this formula has been disputed by critics of the cut.

Pay Cut Controversy Divides Faculty at Maricopa County Community College District

(Photo : PEXELS / Pixabay)

The Evolution of the Debate

The agreement also included reductions in pay for full-time service faculty members who work "overload" hours, as well as a decrease in their required regular hours from 35 to 30, aligning them with their instructional faculty colleagues. However, these faculty members have the opportunity to work extra paid hours.

Adjunct service faculty hired before the agreement was implemented were initially exempt from the pay cut. However, it was noted in the agreement that this exemption would expire on June 30, 2024, with the issue to be revisited in the Adjunct Faculty Handbook that summer.

As the deadline approaches, the district's Strategic Compensation Plan Team, comprising faculty, staff, and administrators, proposed and the board approved a plan to reduce pay for "legacy" service adjuncts-those hired before May of the previous year-to $43 per hour for five years. After that period, their pay is expected to be reduced again. Newer adjunct service faculty members will be paid between $34 and $38 per hour, based on a tiered system with a cost-of-living increase over the previous year.

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Mixed Reactions and Ongoing Debate

The decision has elicited mixed reactions within the MCCCD. While some service and instructional faculty members have expressed support for the pay change, others have vehemently opposed it. Those against the pay cut have launched a postcard campaign and have been vocal in board meetings, arguing that the proposed reduction undermines years of advocacy for fair wages.

Kandice Mickelsen, an adjunct faculty librarian at MCCCD, criticized the proposed 20 percent pay cut for legacy employees, stating that it would essentially erase the progress made in the past 17 years. She also expressed concerns about the lack of respect and collegiality in communication regarding the pay cut.

Kim Boege, president of the Adjunct Faculty Group, initially proposed the current pay reduction as an alternative to a steeper cut that adjunct service faculty members would have faced. Boege stated that the proposal aims to achieve internal pay equity and that the changes would impact less than 2 percent of the faculty population.

Implications and Future Outlook

The dispute over adjunct faculty pay comes at a time when part-time faculty salaries nationally have remained stagnant. According to a recent report by the American Association of University Professors, part-time faculty members earn about $3,900 per course taught on average.

Moreover, the controversy in MCCCD reflects broader challenges faced by adjunct faculty members and academic institutions across the country. As colleges and universities grapple with budget constraints and changing educational landscapes, the treatment and compensation of adjunct faculty have come under increasing scrutiny.

The outcome of this debate in MCCCD could have far-reaching implications for adjunct faculty members, academic institutions, and the higher education landscape as a whole. As the district moves forward with its pay parity efforts, it remains to be seen how these changes will impact faculty retention, academic quality, and student outcomes.

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