As many of our members have likely heard there is, again, discussion about compressing the work calendar in the District.  Although no real proposal has yet been distributed (nor agreed to), there are many rumors and much speculation flying around about what it might mean. Your Executive Board wants the membership to think carefully about the possible implications of a compressed calendar on our working conditions and workload. To that end, we’ve created this post to begin following the calendar issue and will do our best to provide as much information and insight as we can in the coming weeks and months about how a compressed calendar might impact the membership.

Calendar Changes Require Consultation with the Association

First, and importantly, Article 12 A of our contract clearly states, “The Academic Calendar for all members of the bargaining unit shall be established by the District after consultation with the Association.” Obviously, regardless of what others may believe or say, the District is required to consult with the union before any changes in the calendar occur. Your E-Board is VERY aware of this and will be actively monitoring the process of discussions regarding a compressed calendar closely to ensure this part of the bargaining agreement is followed.

Required Workday Breakdown

As per Article 13 A, “The work year for a regular ten-month employee shall contain 177 workdays for any academic year and at least 170 days of scheduled classes for students…” Both the 177 day work year and 170 days of scheduled classes’ criteria are crucial elements that need to be considered together in any calendar discussion because of the implications of any change. There are several ways people seem to be envisioning the compressed calendar that do not seem to account for these two important elements.

For example, the E-Board has heard suggestions that compressing the calendar to 16 weeks will provide two weeks per semester of ‘free time’ for faculty. This ‘sounds’ correct at first but is simply not true. There is NO free time created if the number of days of classes is reduced since employees would still be required to work 177 days for the work year. There are several ways this reduction in scheduled class days could play out:

Two Weeks of free time? Hardly. If the days of scheduled classes are reduced by two weeks this would lengthen each class period on a daily basis to satisfy unit requirements. Under this scenario, a four (4) unit course would require that each class increase from one hour and fifty minutes (1:50) to over two hours. This is necessary to recoup the loss of approximately 27 minutes per week, for 16 weeks – to maintain the appropriate minutes of seat time required in the course. Obviously, this means that each instructor is losing about thirty minutes of flexible time each week, for each four unit course. Assuming a 16 unit load (for easy calculation), an instructor would be forced to spend almost two extra hours teaching each week and lose those same two hours to grade, prepare, and fulfill other responsibilities. The work remains the same, but TIME for non-instructional work is lost as a result of the compressed calendar.

The two so-called ‘extra’ weeks supposedly created by this compression would still have to be worked (177 days per contract). In essence, this simply manipulates how 80 hours of work is scheduled, since the compressed calendar did nothing to reduce the actual work that was normally fulfilled in 18 weeks, but will now have to be completed in only 16 weeks (unless the weeks 17 & 18 are returned to faculty, as they should be). Without raises or other considerations like reducing the number of service days per year, agreeing to a scenario of new activities/responsibilities in the final two weeks of the semester effectively reduces instructor pay by adding 80 hours of extra work to each instructor each semester. Assuming 300 full-time instructors, that amounts to the District acquiring 12,000 hours of uncompensated work each semester (24,000 hours per school year). That equates to 500 days a semester or 1000 days per year, respectively. As can be seen, the so-called ‘free’ time that results from a compressed calendar could easily become time requiring newly created faculty work without any corresponding compensation. The work load for each semester, and the number of days worked, remains the same regardless of whether the calendar has 16 or 18 weeks of instructional days

Remembering that, in reality, NO NEW TIME is created with a compressed calendar, no increased time is suddenly now available for others to place requirements on an instructor’s time. This is because, aside from the increased number of instructional minutes required of faculty each week of the compressed calendar, time for committee work, department meetings, and other tasks faculty are required to fulfill during the work year will have to be adjusted to compensate for the changes in scheduling due to increased class requirements (regardless of the number of units per class). It is a virtual certainty that tasks faculty would normally be able to undertake during our current 18 week calendar will be negatively impacted using a 16 week calendar, because all of the work now required to be done in 18 weeks still needs 18 weeks to be completed. Therefore, despite what others might argue, all 80 hours of seemingly ‘new time’ created by the compressed calendar is already accounted for by the workload and work expectations that currently exist under our contract.

So, there is no ‘new time’ suddenly available that comes under the discretion of mgt. (or any other entity) to claim they can negotiate for added work as a result of moving to a compressed calendar. Instead, all of the work required of every faculty member each year remains the same, adjustments for how and when this work will now be accomplished is the question, NOT what new tasks or requirements of faculty will now be imposed on members because of a fallacious belief that there is new time made available from compressing the calendar. Adding anything extra, adds extra work plain and simple. To agree to additional work requirements as a result of adopting a compressed calendar, without also demanding appropriate compensation (or the reduction of existing work requirements) is simply giving away faculty services free of charge…something none of us would agree to do if we continued using an 18 week calendar, and something we should not do simply because we haven’t fully thought through what a compressed calendar really means to our workload.

Scheduling. Given the increased time each course will be required to meet each week to satisfy unit requirements using a compressed 16 week calendar, it will be necessary to reduce the number of courses offered unless hours of operation are increased, or more classroom space in made available, which is not possible at Valley, as the lack of classrooms is already the primary reason for not being able to add sections with the 18 week calendar. This is the result of simply looking at the logistics of scheduling. For example, if a four (4) unit class now requires two hours and four minutes (2:04) each day, twice a week, the ability to use the normal two (2) hour block of time will no longer be a possibility – and this does not take into account the 10 minutes that now buffer classes. This means either class starting times will need staggering or fewer classes will be scheduled…unless more classrooms are opened, or the hours of operation are expanded to accommodate more classes. One must certainly wonder whether fewer classes or staggered course times will result in improvements for students.  Developing the type of sophisticated schedule that might be required using a compressed calendar is certainly in question at CHC, where a simple final exam schedule has been abandoned for a host of reasons including: crossover of courses that caused problems for students, and times that negatively impacted part time instructors teaching on different campuses because of exam times that varied too far from normally scheduled class hours.

One last point to consider is that the bulk of scheduling rests on the shoulders of department chairs as outlined in our contract and includes deciding course offerings, meeting patterns, staffing, and classroom assignments.  At other campuses, the complexity of schedule changes that the 16 week calendar would bring (noted above) is often handled by software (e.g. RoomBook), which helps ensure maximum efficiency in using classrooms and avoids time conflicts.  Absent such software, department chairs would be responsible for making these adjustments, which is further complicated with late start or short term classes, adding to an already cumbersome process. The workload behind this scheduling process becomes even more complex and over burdensome for department chairs when we introduce the idea of adding an intersession, which is another option being considered by the District.

We hope that this information is helpful for our members, and as the discussion about a compressed calendar continues, we will provide you with relevant updates.