Report of the Two-Year College Faculty Taskforce (2012)
Submitted to Council of the American Historical Association
The final report of the Working Group on the Future of the AHA recommended that the AHA seek to broaden its membership by seeking “to recruit AP high school teachers, community college instructors, and the broad category of practitioners often labeled ‘public’ historians.” As a result of the working group’s recommendation, the AHA Council formed this task force (2009–2012), modeled in part on the task force on public history (2001–2005). Members of the Two-Year College Faculty Task Force included: Trinidad Gonzales, South Texas College, chair; Cheryll Ann Cody, Houston Community College, AHA Teaching Division, and Council; Judith Jeffrey Howard, National Endowment for the Humanities, retired; Natalie Kimbrough, Community College of Baltimore County; Kevin Reilly, Raritan Valley Community College; David A. Berry, Community College Humanities Association, ex-officio; and Debbie Ann Doyle, Coordinator, Committees, American Historical Association. Frank Malaret, Sacramento City College, the original chair of the task force, stepped down in 2010. Noralee Frankel, AHA Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching, staffed the task force until June of 2011.
Council charged the task force with gathering general information about current two-year college faculty members and exploring how to increase AHA membership of community college faculty by better serving their professional needs. Council asked the task force to formulate recommendations for future action, with cost estimates where appropriate. Members gathered information through a survey of 130 AHA members employed in two-year community, junior, or technical colleges and through open forums held at the AHA annual meeting. This report presents the task force’s recommendations for recruiting future AHA two-year college faculty members, and for orienting the Association to better serve this constituency.
The task force’s accomplishments included organizing receptions, forums, and panels at the Annual Meeting, conducting a survey of two-year college faculty, and creating a resource page for the AHA web site1. The task force implemented a joint membership with the Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) allowing AHA members to join that organization for a reduced fee of $35. Task force members also provided valuable input for the AHA's successful 2011 application for an NEH Bridging Cultures grant to organize a professional development project for two-year college faculty and administrators entitled “American History: Atlantic and Pacific.” Kevin Reilly has agreed to serve on the advisory committee for another significant grant project, funded by the Lumina foundation, to articulate the core of historical study and identify what a student should know and be able to do at the completion of a history degree program. The project will identify appropriate outcomes for the study of history at the associate level. Members have also written articles for Perspectives on History, including Frank Malaret's description of the AHA website resource page and Natalie Kimbrough's “A Day in the Life of a Community College Professor.” Throughout its tenure, the task force has carefully deliberated the recommendations to the Council included in this report.
The nation’s first public community college was founded in 1901, as a collaboration between Joliet Township High School and the University of Chicago. Community colleges were originally designed to prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Over the years their mission has expanded. Today comprehensive community colleges seek to prepare students for more advanced study, for careers in fields such as nursing and business, and for jobs in the local economy. Most two-year colleges have a complex mission and seek to serve both transfer and vocational students; the amount of emphasis placed on each area varies a great deal from institution to institution. The number of two-year schools in the U.S. grew dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s. Today there are nearly 1,200. Two-year institutions vary greatly in their governance, opportunities for faculty promotion, job security, and the availability of tenure. They also vary in size and facilities. Some community college campuses resemble a modest four-year college, others are housed in high schools or converted commercial structures.
Two-year college faculty may work as part of a large history department or as the only historian on their campus. Some two-year college faculties will see major transformations in the next decade as longtime members retire, often to be replaced by adjuncts. Many community college faculty members maintain an ongoing interest in research, which may be supported and required by their colleges. Because community colleges are open enrollment, teachers are challenged to provide college courses for students who possess a wide range of skills, including many inadequately prepared for college study as well as honor students attending a local college to save money to attend a transfer institution.
Two-year college faculty face a range of challenges derived from the adoption of the market values of efficiency, accountability, flexibility, profitability, and centralization by a growing share of college administrators and governing boards2. These values have been translated into a number of practices that allow two-year schools to support growing enrollments with diminished budgets. Two interrelated features of these new efficiencies are a growing reliance on part-time faculty and a heavy reliance on technology. 3While discipline-based data are not available and aggregate data no longer collected, the U.S. Department of Education reported that part-time faculty constituted 66.7% of those teaching at two-year colleges in fall 2003. Two-year colleges are early adopters of technological innovations both in distance education and in the classroom, offering courses which range from fully digital, to hybrid classes that meet face-to-face once a week, to courses that make extensive use of internet sources and are described as web-enhanced. Budget-conscious administrators view investment in the technology needed for these innovations as a means of reducing the cost of full-time faculty salaries. Current full-time professors are being required to develop standardized courses (and the technological sophistication to deliver them) that in years to come can be staffed by part-time faculty. Many faculty at two-year colleges have begun to feel like they are being treated less as professionals and more as employees to be managed. In the face of a growing business model at some institutions, faculty struggle to maintain their status as valued professionals.
Increasing the presence of community college faculty in the AHA would have benefits beyond an increase in membership revenue. Two-year college faculty teach a large percentage of introductory college history courses. At least half of all undergraduate students are enrolled in two-year colleges4. Many individuals will take their only post-secondary history course at a two-year institution. Community college faculty train many students who go on to teach in the schools, or to obtain advanced degrees in history. Attention to this constituency serves the AHA’s core mission of promoting historical studies.
The survey conducted by the task force reveals that two-year college faculty look to the AHA for a sense of connection with the profession. As one response put it, “in my mind the only differences between myself and faculty at four-year colleges and universities are that I have fewer opportunities for teaching upper-division courses and less time to conduct research.” Respondents valued AHA membership for professional development, access to the American Historical Review and to Perspectives on History, and because they considered membership important to the field, the profession, and society. Responses to a question about how the Association might better serve two-year college faculty included calls for the Association to address the treatment of two-year college faculty as “second class citizens” as well as specific suggestions, such as publishing more on teaching. Two-year college faculty look to the AHA for intellectual support and validation of their status as professionals5.
If we identify community college faculty only with teaching, we misrepresent their professional identity. Research is important to two-year college faculty. Some faculty publish original research in refereed journals and monographs. Many publish articles and texts on teaching and resources. All community college historians are consumers of research, even when they simply read the American Historical Review for new ideas to enrich an introductory course, or check out web sites to find primary sources, new findings, and interpretations that keep them intellectually alive. They share in the intellectual life of the profession. The AHA should offer community college historians intellectual renewal, opportunities to learn new things about their own areas of study, about fields they teach, or simply about topics that excite their curiosity. To the extent that the AHA can emphasize the connections between teaching and research, we can attenuate divisions between faculty whose primary responsibility is teaching and faculty who are required to publish.
To meet these needs and expectations, the task force recommends the following:
The Anuual Meeting
- Getting community college faculty to the annual meeting and offering sessions of genuine interest is crucial for engaging them with the Association. The AHA should ensure that the annual meeting offers sessions and events relevant to two-year college faculty.
- The Association should increase the number of annual meeting sessions that firmly link teaching and research. AHA divisions and committees should work with the Program Committee to organize sessions that focus explicitly on teaching and pedagogy and experiment with new formats, such as pairing selected panels with follow-up sessions on teaching.
- The annual meeting should regularly feature sessions on teaching online classes, a growing practice in both two-year and four-year colleges.
- The Association should regularly organize a preconference workshop or full day workshop for community college faculty at the annual meeting.
- The AHA should encourage community college faculty to participate in sessions at the meeting, integrated with faculty at other levels of education. The invitation from the 2013 Program Committee chair sent to two-year college faculty in the AHA membership database was a step in the right direction.
- Two-year college faculty should be represented on the Program Committee.
- The AHA should actively market the meeting to two-year college faculty, particularly those in driving distance of the meeting city. The Local Arrangements Committee should include someone with a broad network among the region’s two-year college faculty who can help with outreach.
- The Association should continue to have a reception for two-year faculty at the annual meeting. A member or members of AHA Council should be in an attendance. This would cost approximately $1,500 to $2,000 for catering.
- The AHA should evaluate the feasibility of reducing the cost of meeting registration for two-year college faculty, either by offering a one-day registration fee or through a significantly discounted registration. The potential costs of offering a discount would have to be evaluated and balanced with the potential increase in the number of attendees.
- Explore the possibility of publishing more articles about teaching in the American Historical Review.
- Publish pamphlets addressing issues related to teaching from subject-centered publications to the mechanics of organizing a course and dealing with teaching to a diverse audience.
- Continue to increase coverage of community colleges in Perspectives on History.
- Only one community college teacher has received the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award since its inception in 1988. The Association should actively encourage two-year college faculty to nominate colleagues for the award.
- The task force suggests that the AHA consider creating a research grant for two-year college faculty who are members of the Association. This would address the frequent complaint that community college faculty do not feel respected in the profession as a whole by recognizing that many of them do pursue quality research projects. It would also help compensate for the lack of institutional resources available to community college faculty for funding research or travel to archives. An initial endowment of $50,000 would support a $1,000 annual grant to one scholar. The task force encourages the AHA to begin a fundraising drive.
- The Teaching Division should help maintain the resource page for two-year college faculty on the AHA web site, adding sites of interest, news on collaborative efforts involving cooperation between community colleges and transfer institutions, information on grants and fellowships to support research and teaching, etc.
- The task force urges the Association to provide professional development opportunities for two-year college faculty, such as the “American History: Atlantic and Pacific” Bridging Cultures NEH grant and the project funded by the Lumina Foundation. Grant funding is particularly important since funding for travel to professional conferences has been put on hold at many community colleges due to budget concerns.
- The AHA should consider working with other organizations, such as the Community College Humanities Association or the American Studies Association, to organize regional professional development programs.
- Develop webinars, podcasts, and other professional development resources for two-year college faculty who do not have access to conference travel funds.
- If the Teaching Division moves forward with the “Teaching Tips” website project, there should be active outreach to ensure participation by two-year college faculty.
- The Teaching Division/Council member who represents two-year institutions should maintain a presence in online conversations in venues such as the Yahoo group for community college historians. The AHA should make a conscious effort to involve two-year college faculty in any social media projects it undertakes.
- The Association should use existing resources, such as the department chairs’ listserv, to learn about current articulation agreements between two- and four-year colleges.
- Gather information to develop a broad professional profile of community college history faculty through surveys and other data collection and publish regular reports in Perspectiveson History. Understanding who community college history faculty are would help the AHA to serve them better in the future. For example, it would be useful for the Association to have a sense of what professional publications community college faculty read on a regular basis, and what they publish—teaching materials as well as research. The intent of this research is to provide a clearer picture of the needs of two-year faculty and how the AHA can respond. This would involve significant costs for staff time to identify research objectives, develop and distribute surveys, and analyze the results.
- The task force encourages the AHA to draft a best practices document concerning group adoption of textbooks for multiple sections and instructors.
- The task force encourages the AHA to look into offering discounted health insurance to its members, which would be particularly valuable to part-time and contingent faculty teaching in two-year as well as four-year institutions.
- Encourage community college faculty to volunteer for AHA committee service. For example, faculty who have published a book could serve on book prize committees.
- Continue efforts to market to two-year college faculty. Staff or the executive director should attend the biannual meeting of the Community College Humanities Association.
- The AHA Council should reconstitute the Two-Year College Faculty Task Force in three years from receiving the task force’s recommendations for the purpose of evaluating progress toward the implementation of its recommendations. The reconstituted task force should provide a follow-up report to the Council concerning the success or failure of the implemented changes.
The two primary obstacles that prevented the AHA from fully integrating community college faculty in the past rested with the twentieth century’s structural world of higher education, and the elitist mindset that it created. The post-World War II political economy allowed four-year colleges and research universities to maintain their distance from two-year institutions, since in many instances a high school diploma or an associate degree allowed individuals to make an adequate living wage. The political pressure to enhance the pathway to a four-year degree did not exist in the late twentieth century to the extent that it does in the early twenty-first century. The resulting shift from an industrial economy to an information economy changed the nation and higher education. Thus, two-year institutions are on the front lines of many debates concerning higher education that four-year colleges and research universities do not deal with immediately because they are protected by stakeholders with more political power. Nonetheless changes that affect two-year colleges will eventually make their way to four-year and research institutions. It is important for the AHA to remain abreast of what is occurring at two-year institutions so that the organization can provide a needed voice concerning proposed educational policy changes that will affect all of higher education. The continuance of twentieth-century elitism by some four-year and research faculty is no longer acceptable as a viable course for the AHA.
1. See www.historians.org/resources/TwoYearFaculty.cfm. Panels sponsored or co-sponsored include “Getting a Job at a Community College” and “Teaching the Survey” in 2011 and “Recognizing Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” and “Successfully Teaching History in the Online Environment: Experiences, Tips, and Thoughts” in 2012.
5. Respondents identified budget cuts, including declines in travel money, course offerings, and teaching resources and overreliance on part-time and adjunct faculty as the most serious issues facing community college faculty. Underprepared students who lack basic reading and writing skills are also a challenge.