Lab hour pay, evaluations questioned

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Faculty Senate President Lang Coleman vents frustration about the district including student evaluations in the faculty evaluation process during a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday at St. Philip's College. Coleman said most students don’t fill out the evaluations, and those who do tend to complain about Canvas.  Photo by Neven Jones

Faculty Senate President Lang Coleman vents frustration about the district including student evaluations in the faculty evaluation process during a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday at St. Philip’s College. Coleman said most students don’t fill out the evaluations, and those who do tend to complain about Canvas. Photo by Neven Jones

By Jennifer M. Ytuarte

A professor requested that lab hours be paid at the same rate as lecture hours or at 80 percent instead of the current two-thirds rate during St. Philip’s College’s Faculty Senate meeting Sept. 9 in Watson Fine Arts Center.

Jose Rivera, aircraft technology professor at Southwest Campus, expressed frustration with the district’s payment structure for lecture versus lab units during the meeting’s faculty comment period.

Rivera said lab and lecture portions of technical and career courses are more blended, and lab hours are where the instructor works hardest.

Rivera said he gets paid less if lectures carry over into the laboratory portion of the course.

He gave an example: AERM 1452, aircraft sheet metal, will be changed to AERM 1352 removing an hour of lecture to bring the aircraft associate of applied science degrees and certifications into compliance with a new state requirement limiting most degrees to 60 hours beginning fall 2015.

AERM 1352 is now taught with three hours of lecture and four hours of lab a week. This course now constitutes six units.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has proposed changing it to one hour of lecture and six hours of lab a week, making up only four units of an instructor’s load.

The THECB’s “Guidelines in Workforce Education Course Manual” determines lecture-lab combinations for specific courses.

The district pays lab hours at two-thirds of a lecture hour.

Rivera said, “If I have to teach a student how to tear down an engine, instead of being half and half, half lecture and half lab, they list it as only one hour of lecture and the rest in lab so it can conform to the 60-hour rule.”

He added, “We work with high pressures, explosives, chemicals, coatings, power machines, and while the task is being performed, you still have to be imparting instruction and keeping everyone on task.”

The 60-hour rule, HB 3025 approved during the 2011 legislative session, mandates all associate degrees not exceed 60 credit hours.

Rafael Brisita, aircraft construction and manufacturing chair, said not all departments can conform to those standards.

“They want you to be 60 semester credit hours for community colleges, so the students do not waste too much time and their hours don’t waste the state’s money,” he said during a phone interview Sept.10.

Brisita said the average student in his department takes 20 hours per semester, while some students take up to 23 hours.

“In our area, there are three lectures and four labs. They are very extensive,” Brisita said. “With the new rule, instead of three hours lecture and three hours of lab, they (the THECB) make it one hour of lecture and five hours of lab, so on paper it will show more lab, which pays the faculty less.”

During the meeting, Rivera proposed returning the lab hour pay rate to a 1-1 ratio, or changing it to 80 percent, like other large community colleges.

Faculty Senate President Lang Coleman asked if Rivera had a list of colleges, and he said he would gather that data before the next meeting.

The senate then asked Rivera to submit a list of pay rates of comparable community colleges with large student bodies to show the board during the next board meeting Sept. 16.

The second faculty concern was evaluations and how the district is pushing St. Philip’s to include student evaluations as a measurement of success.

At this campus, student evaluations are considered in faculty evaluations, but at St. Philip’s, faculty evaluations rely on self-evaluation, in-class evaluation by both a peer and the department chair and a group peer review.

“There are so many variables in there to make an accurate assessment,” Coleman, who is a psychology professor, said.

Coleman teaches online classes. Out of all his students, four or five actually complete the evaluations, he said. Most of them include negativity toward Canvas, the Alamo Colleges’ online classroom system.

“They complain about Canvas, or the difficulty of the coursework,” Coleman said “Why should that affect whether or not I get a good review?”

“They might as well go to and get our scores from there,” Coleman said. “It’s that silly.”

Coleman said the review process does not directly affect full-time faculty. It is used to review re-employment of adjuncts and included in the promotions and tenure packet that affects faculty when they apply for tenure.

Jessica Cooper, interim department chair of allied health and early childhood, said Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor for academic success, wants to roll out a new evaluation process by fall 2015.

Cynthia Katz, math professor and senate member, said she has issues with the new evaluation process including an anonymous group of peers.

“We are to create a pool of our peers, and I believe we have the right to know who evaluates us,” she said.

She said she spoke with Fabianke about the secrecy clause, and Fabianke said it was in line with the district’s current policies.

Katz said she was unsure of the clause’s purpose, but said the board needs to follow the ideas of faculty, who believe student evaluations should be thrown out of the equation.

The faculty evaluation committee revised the current evaluation system and selected 10 faculty from each college to participate in a pilot program last spring.

It evaluated faculty on five roles: teaching, scholarly, creative activities, service and administration.

During a phone interview Wednesday, Cooper said right now the evaluation is hypothetical. She said in the pilot program, faculty was able to select a set, and each set weighed the roles differently.

Cooper said a department chair would choose administrative as their strength, while a professor would choose teaching.

She said in the teaching role, student surveys would be assigned a percentage toward the overall score.

Cooper said the spring pilot ended unfinished and a second pilot with 20 faculty per college began with the fall semester.

Faculty Senate president Coleman said faculty is going to argue vehemently with the board’s committee with using that matrix.

“They are looking for completion data and want it as compact as they can get,” Coleman said. “We are not a business; we need to measure quality.”

In other news, a unanimous vote re-established The Senator, a faculty-written monthly newsletter.

Coleman said he wants the publication as a line of communication between the senate and faculty.

He said it would give Dr. Adena Loston, president of St. Philip’s College, a medium to talk to faculty and address their concerns.

Coleman also said the Faculty Senate will set up office hours in Room 107 of Sutton Learning Center.

The room is currently used for storage, but Coleman asked for a workstation with a telephone, and the senate discussed volunteering their office hours to staff the desk and be a point of contact for faculty.

The next meeting is 2 p.m. Oct. 7 in the Morgan Gallery of Watson.

For more information, contact Coleman at 210-486-2613.


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