SFCC teachers struggling to meet the demands

May 6, 2019

Santa Fe Community College is an asset to our community and, in general, is a wonderful place to work. There are many talented, dedicated and giving professionals that make up our institution and contribute to its success.

In spite of so many positive aspects of our college, however, there remains the ongoing issue of faculty working conditions that make it increasingly challenging to work here. I have grown discouraged, but not by the students, staff nor faculty. It has been the unfair workload and compensation. It should have come as no surprise that the full-time faculty voted to unionize, since little has been done to address the concerns that have been raised for the last several years.

Because of our passion for what we do and our commitment to students and their success, my colleagues and I continue to struggle to meet the demands of our current contracts in spite of ongoing challenges. Contrary to what comments I have heard that faculty are just complainers, spoiled, lazy, etc., we are hardworking, dedicated, committed and highly valuable members of this institution.

To call us any of these terms is to devalue our work and negate the very legitimate concerns that are being brought to the negotiating table. One wonderfully positive aspect of being a part of our union is that I have come to know many faculty members better from across the institution. I have learned how hardworking and dedicated they are and that they are accomplishing amazing things that benefit our students. I also have come to see that the concerns we are bringing to the negotiating table are institute-wide and not limited to one or two departments, and these issues have been going on for years, not just during the last few years.

What is perhaps overlooked by many is the fact that faculty are not here from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then off until the next day. There are countless hours spent preparing lessons and classroom activities, grading papers, answering emails around the clock. And, of course, many classes are scheduled at night and on weekends. The boundaries for work are always vague, since much of what we do depends on us and not on an 8 to 5 work schedule with supervisor oversight. If we could log our hours and be paid hourly, I believe there would be a lot less to negotiate.

The standard advice for students is that for every hour spent in the classroom, they should be studying two to three hours outside of class. If we apply that to faculty preparation and grading, we would be starting with a 45-hour workweek. Even if we were to say that our work requires one hour of preparation and grading for each hour spent in the classroom, we are starting with a 30-hour workweek.

Then add the following: office hours, college service, advising, mentoring of students, selection of textbooks, marketing/recruitment, curriculum development, program review, establishing criteria for hiring/selection of new faculty, peer observations, presenting budgetary needs, providing subject matter expertise, attendance at all department/school and other mandatory college-wide meetings, sponsorship of student groups, participation in college-wide extracurricular activities, in-service training, professional development (when available and approved), etc.

In summary, it is time for a change for the better for our faculty and not just for administrators, in the form of better pay and fairer workload.

Carole Chávez Hunt is a native of Northern New Mexico, having eight generations of family history in Chimayó. She is a professor of Spanish and Portuguese and is the chair of World Languages at SFCC.