Helping Part-Time Teachers Help Themselves

Joseph Tomei

There are many part-time teachers out there, each with different reasons for taking the part-time route. Some are hoping for a full-time position, others prefer to use their time to pursue other interests, while others still don't want the added responsibilities that full-time positions bring. While the title is a little presumptuous, it shows my optimism that if a work force is not too discontent with its lot, things go more smoothly. Thus, this article first outlines how full-time teachers can help part-time teachers, before examining how the latter group can help themselves. On a personal level, this column will set out my aims in this coming school year for the part-timers at my school.
Given ever shrinking budgets and the exceedingly Byzantine formulae used to calculate pay, it is unsurprising that I think full-time teachers can do little about the wage part-timers receive. However, action is possible in other areas. First, if you are in charge of scheduling, making a concise and clear package of necessary documents, instructions, and examples for syllabi would make everyone's life easier.
Second, help ensure that part-timers have full use of university facilities. Access to library and computer facilities, an e-mail account, and updates on happenings in the department they teach in as well as the one closest to their research interest all cost nothing to the school. If the argument comes up that this has never been done before, simply point out the percentage of part-timers and show how facilitating contact with them can avoid schedule conflicts and other problems.
One part-time teacher complained to me recently that he had no access to research money. While acquiring new funds for part-time teachers may be out of the question, a full-time teacher or group of teachers may be able (unofficially) to set aside a portion of their budget for part-time teachers to request books for the library.
Of course, these steps require communication, which is how part-time teachers can help themselves. It is surprising how few part-time teachers seek out full-time staff, foreign or Japanese, to discuss research and opportunities for publication. Part-time teachers can use not only the institutional affiliation of the university where they teach but may also-depending on the institution-be able to publish in the university's in-house journal or kiyo.
Another important place to make contacts is reading circles or kenkyukai that Japanese teachers participate in. They range from informal groups of six to eight teachers discussing an article once a month, to larger groups of up to 50 teachers with a more formal conference once or twice a year.
All of this requires a little more committment than arriving five minutes before class and leaving five mnutes after, and for those teaching at five (or more!) institutions, time becomes a factor. But for anyone serious about finding a full-time place in the Japanese university system, it's a necessity.
Other notes
In the labor dispute at Kumamoto Kenritsu University (see "Working Papers," February 1999, p. 37) I am happy to report that of the six teachers affected, three were moved to more stable three year contracts as prefectural appointees and two others were given one-year contract extensions with the question of status left open for further negotiations (one moved to another university). The upcoming PALE Journal will be devoted to these developments.
Also, in my previous column (see "Working Papers," March, 1999, p. 31), I wrote 'It was only with the passage of the 1982 law that the tenuring of foreigners was even permitted.' Mike Fox noted that foreigners have always been eligible for tenure at private universities, which is true. The point I wanted to make was that the number of foreigners on hiring committees is painfully small. While private schools have had the ability to hire foreigners on tenure, they have, sadly, followed the lead of public institutions.