BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It might be hard to believe that in this day and age prejudice and abuse can still persist, particularly in a public institution, and at that, one of higher education. Yet based on the information I have received from a good friend, this is true. The information below was gleaned from her.
Annette Kargodorian has 20 years of service as an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College’s Garfield Campus in the non-credit English as a Second Language (ESL) division. Prior to that, she was a public elementary school principal, vice principal, language specialist, and trainer of K-12 teachers. Evaluated by several different people, she has received “exceeds expectations” every single time with glowing student evaluations as well.
Let’s address the prejudice first, since this impacts the Armenian community more specifically than the abuse. In the ESL division, over 80 percent of the students are Armenian speaking. There are 80 instructors, of whom 72 are part-time (adjunct) and eight full-time. Of the 72 adjuncts, 22 are Armenian (30.6 percent). Of the eight full-timers, NONE are Armenian. There has NEVER been an Armenian full-time instructor the division. Just looking at those proportions – 80 vs. 31 percent – and you can see something is off.
This is not Cheyenne, Wyoming, but Glendale California where close to half the population is Armenian! Perhaps GCC’s administrators don’t care about equitable Armenian representation among their staff since Armenians are not a federally recognized minority. But even the slightest sense of decency, equity, and justice would motivate reasonable humans to behave differently and more fairly.
Armenian faculty believe that no matter how qualified they are, they’ll never be chosen as full-timers. Annette herself had applied many years ago and was told directly by the chairperson at that time “don’t bother” applying. What does that mean? The implication is that the interview is irrelevant. Basically, administrators decide which candidate will be hired before the process even begins. Several Armenians have applied over the years despite knowing they wouldn’t be hired simply due to their nationality. The current chairperson said she doesn’t like instructors with accents. That’s not exactly what I’d want to hear from the head of an ESL program! Of course even that doesn’t explain all the rejected Armenian applicants since some don’t have “accents”, having been in the U.S. since birth or childhood.
A few teachers have asked full-timers why an Armenian is never chosen, but never received a response. Annette has written to all five GCC Board of Trustees members, stating the Armenian instructors’ concerns, but she has received no response from them either. This is very troubling, since three of them are Armenian, a fourth is married to an Armenian, and the fifth is fairly close to our community.
The process of hiring a full-timer isn’t as transparent as it should be. The current full-timers interview applicants and rank their top four preferred candidates. That list goes to the college president who accepts their first choice and recommends approval of that candidate to the Board. To Annette’s knowledge, no president has questioned their top choice yet. Who wants to deal with extra work or hassles? During the last 20 years, the same “type” of person has always been chosen – a young, non-Armenian speaking female.
Part-timers are not allowed to serve on the interview committee. Annette has proposed to the college Senate requiring an adjunct on the committee when over half of the faculty are adjuncts. This was rejected. She asked the Guild (college union) to investigate, but they haven’t acted either. She contacted the Glendale Armenian National Committee of America, and that has not yet born fruit either. It is quite worrisome when advocacy groups are not moved to action by this form of injustice based in prejudice.
Last month, members of the Armenian National Committee of America – Glendale Chapter met with members of the Glendale Community College District Board of Trustees to discuss and review GCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity plans and procedures for hiring of staff as needed to fit the Armenian American community.
Members of the ANCA-Glendale Board met with Superintendent/ President Dr. David Viar, Board of Trustee President Ann H. Ransford and Member Dr. Armine Hacopian. More meetings are scheduled and the ANCA-Glendale board said it looks forward to strengthening the partnership to better serve the community.
Moving to the abuse issue, this is a far broader problem based on a shortage of funds. The majority instructors at GCC are adjuncts (like other junior colleges all over California) because they “cost much less” than full-timers. Basically, one full-timer costs as much as three adjuncts. Here’s where the abuse comes in. If adjuncts work more than a certain number of hours during the Fall and Spring semesters, then they have to be treated as full timers. But during the shorter Winter and Summer semesters, they can be worked to the bone, all because of the way California’s education code is set up. Similar to this is the alleged mis-application of certain provisions of the California Education Code regarding the Fall and Spring semesters, to faculty at Glendale Community College. In this case teaching hours get improperly calculated for purposes of keeping Armenian faculty from qualifying as full-time, tenure-track professors at the College. Annette has finally decided to sue GCC (Kargodorian vs. Glendale Community College, BS172095) over this last form of abuse. Her case is currently pending in in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Its outcome may have broader implications for the future treatment of Armenian (and all) faculty at the GCC. The case seems to be progressing in her favor at this point.
Imagine how you would feel as a professor after working 20 years, receiving stellar evaluations every time, having long student waiting lists, doing extra work, training others, working an overload, and not being hired as a full-timer when the rare opportunity arises? How would you feel if told not to apply regardless of your qualifications? How would feel if the division chair, dean, College Senate, Guild, president, and Board of Trustees do nothing to ameliorate the situation?