Barbara Enagonia is head of the Chemistry Department at the Montgomery College Rockville campus, where she has worked since 1966. Yet she is still a temporary faculty member, without benefits or health coverage during the summers, ineligible for salary merit increases or sabbatical leaves.
Year after year, she has been offered teaching contracts, often only days before the school semester began and after a summer of uncertainty.
"At the beginning it used to worry me," said Enagonio, who began teaching part time at the college in 1966 and full time six years ago. "But after all these years, I'm confident they'll hire me again."
Enagonio is among 84 faculty members -- 23 percent of the total at the college -- who work on a temporary status. In most cases the term is a misnomer, as the nine-month contracts are mailed out each year to the same people. "The department doesn't think of me as someone who is temporary," Enagonia said.
The problem of an increasing number of regular "temporary" employees is only one of dozens that the college is struggling with today as a result of growing pains.
The two-year community college, started in a local high school in 1946, now has 17,000 students at modern campuses in Rockville, Takoma Park and Germantown. Enrollment has doubled in the last 10 years.
The rapid growth and burgeoning administration also led to faculty discontent. Faculty members believe their role in college affairs has diminished, and as a result voted in April 1980 to form a union and be represented by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The same issue has been a stumbling block in contract talks.
Since last October, representatives of the teaching staff and administrators have been meeting across a bargaining table, but a contract has not yet come out of the talks. There has been major disagreement over what is subject to negotiation. The faculty members want their participation in college governance to be part of the talks. The Board of Trustees said that only wages, hours "and other terms and conditions of employment as mandated by state law" are negotiable.
The trustees authorized Robert E. Parilla, who came to the college as president in 1979, to declare an impasse in the negotiations and start a mediation process if he believed it would be in the best interest of the college. But Parilla said he has no intention of doing so at this point.
"There may be some progress and as long as there's hope to make progress, there's no need to go to mediation," he said.
Because wages are on the bargaining table, the faculty did not get the increases that were budgeted in early 1980 for fiscal year 1981. But since the talks have been protracted, the Board of Trustees released funds at the end of June for an 8 percent salary increase retroactive to a year ago July 1, while next year's salaries are still under negotiation. Last year, teaching salaries ranged from $12,364 to $29,385 for the nine-month academic year.
Donald Day, a physics professor and president of the AAUP chapter, is optimistic that a contract can be concluded at the bargaining table without a mandate.
"In a pragmatic sense, we have only been bargainging since March," he said. "In the first (few) months, there is a lot of political jostling until you have established positions. It's like a tug of war. For the first two or three seconds, nothing happens while everyone is finding out where the center of the rope is and how hard they have to pull. We didn't really get there until about March."
Day is convinced that collective bargaining is already improving communications between the faculty and administrators. These communications, he said, suffered a steady decline the final year of William Strasser's 13-year presidency, as the college moved to centralize administration and take on many of the responsibilities formerly left to faculty committees.
"The climate here is changing," he said. "It's very slow, tedious. There's going to be a lot more rancor and strife. It isn't anything that can be turned around in a couple years.There's 10 years of bad feeling in this school."
Those feelings were clear in conversations held earlier this year with a group of professors at the Takoma Park campus.
"I have been reduced to just teaching my classes," said English professor Michael Morgan. "Nothing outside that makes sense. Faculty committees are just going through the motions. I don't need that kind of therapy to pretend I have some say in the college."
Faculty committees are the traditional units by which the teaching staff takes on some administrative responsibilities, such as setting the school year calendar, changing curriculum or recommending changes in rank and tenure. They are seen as a duty, often a time-consuming one, but also as an important way to affect the college.
"I'm on the calendar committee but what I have to say about the calendar has no effect on the calendar," said Morgan. "This is not a democratic institution, it's an autocratic one. The youngest English teacher was hired 13 years ago. I'm one of the babies in the department -- graying hair and pushing 50. They're not hiring new people. They're doing the extra work with part-time teachers."
"We're like field hands chopping cotton while the overseers sit on the porch with their mint juleps. We want some say in how tight the chains should be," said Benjamin Henry, an English professor. "When you spend close to 20 years in a place and you're treated like dirt, it doesn't sit well."
"I have a tremendous amount of pride in this college," said Franklin Peterson of the Physical Education Department. "I go out in the community and people say, 'My son and daughter went to Montgomery College and boy am I glad because for the amount of money it cost, they got a really good education.' So now, it's frustrating. I feel tremondously frustrated. I've given a lot to this college and what's going on at the negotiating table is a slap in the face to me."
"Morale is low. Yes, that is a safe assertion. Morale is low," said Frederick J. Walsh, academic vice president, who came to the college five months ago from the State University of New York. He said administrators are aware of the communication problem with the faculty and are trying to address it.
"When the contract is settled, that will help. We're trying to increase the faculty role in governance." Walsh was given the specific mandate to improve that role, particularly because the administration does not want it spelled out in a contract.
Among examples of the erosion of faculty participation in running the college cited by professors at the Takoma Part campus is the consolidation of 13 departments into three institutes.
"With departments, student complaints and complaints about programs can be dealt with by the department chairman who is knowledgeable about the programs. Now, it goes to an institute dean," said L. Leon Duke, professor of English.
The administration also took calendar decisions from a faculty committee and shortened the semester from 15 weeks to 14 weeks over faculty protest, forcing professors to reorganize their lectures. Administrators switched the calendar back to 15 weeks starting this fall.
But despite the dissatisfactions and hard feelings that led many faculty members to hunt for other jobs, ask them what they like about the college and the response is immediate.
"It's one of the best community colleges in the country," said Day. "We have unbelievable facilities. We have more and better than anybody else. If you walk into any room, you will probably find an overhead projector. Or you can call and one or two or three or 10 will be delivered. If you go out to American University and ask for an overhead projector, my God, it's like asking for a piece of moon rock.
"By making things available, the administration makes our life a heck of a lot easier. We're supported well in that sense. People have very strong feelings for this school. I know I do.
"But if you start pushing me in a way that affects my teaching, I react very violently."