Archive for August 27, 2013

A case study in systematic oppression: UA’s Women’s Studies Program

The majority of faculty at colleges and universities are now part-time, also known as adjunct or contingent. The majority of part-time/adjunct/contingent faculty are women. Both are Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 9.40.19 PMtreated inequitably.

Here’s a look at what happens when two forms of inequitable treatment — classism and sexism — intersect within the academy to create what feminist theorists define as systematic oppression.

Let’s take a look at the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Akron. We’ll consider the status — or class — of those who teach in the program, as well as their gender.

Classism, sexism and the two-tiered system

Like other departments and programs, UA’s Women’s Studies Program has what can be described as a two-tiered faculty system. The upper tier consists of a full-time faculty member who receives a nine-month salary of about $50K and full benefits that cost the institution about $8K per year. She teaches 24 credit hours per academic year, not including summer term. If she teaches during the summer, she receives additional compensation.

poverty levelsThe lower tier is comprised of three part-time faculty members and two graduate assistants who teach the majority of introductory classes within the program. The part-time faculty are paid by the credit hour at a rate ranging from $700 to $950.

They do not receive paid benefits such as healthcare, life insurance, etc. Neither are they likely to receive a summer teaching assignment, so they are unemployed during the summer term. Despite this, the university’s standard practice is to dispute all unemployment compensation claims by part-time faculty, including those filed by women’s studies part-timers.

Up until fall 2013, part-time faculty could teach a maximum of 21 credits during fall and spring terms, which would give an adjunct teaching the maximum load an annual wage of between $14,700 and $19,950 per academic year.

As of this fall, part-time faculty at UA can only teach a maximum of eight credits per semester because UA is subverting the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, to avoid providing adjuncts with health benefits.

That means that adjuncts in the Women’s Studies Program can only teach two three-credit courses per semester, as all women’s studies courses carry three credits. That brings the annual pay range of women’s studies adjuncts at UA to between $8,400 and $11,400, wages well below the poverty level.

Graduate assistants receive the lowest stipend UA offers, $663.51 bi-weekly, along with a tuition waiver. In return, they teach two women’s studies courses per academic year. They do not receive paid benefits.

This two-tiered system — where an elite group of faculty receives wages and benefits commensurate with their education and experience, while another group of qualified faculty is paid poverty wages — promotes classism as well as sexism, since — as we have already noted — the ranks of part-time faculty have been feminized.

Marginalized by the report

The two-tiered system, with its inherent classism, was reinforced when UA’s Women’s Studies Program hired Ohio State University’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies to conduct a review of its existing Women’s Studies Program and its Women’s Resource Center, which is currently without a director or support staff. During that process, which took place May 10-11, 2012, individuals who play key roles in UA’s Women’s Studies Program were overlooked. That’s because they belong to the lower tier.

Notably and predictably, adjuncts were not included in the agenda for the review until the last minute. YWCA-blog-earnings-ratio-chart1Then they were given a 15-minute slot on the two-day schedule of events. While at the table, they were asked to discuss Women’s Resource Center programming, not academics.

The former long-term director of the program and a strong advocate for adjuncts during her Women’s Studies Program tenure, was not asked to participate in the campus discussions at all, even though she is a tenured faculty member at UA and maintains her interest in the program.

The report OSU issued after the review continued to support the two-tiered system. In it, adjunct faculty were invisible. The report’s recommendations regarding the future of the Women’s Studies Program and the Women’s Resource Center marginalized adjuncts, ignoring their important contributions to the success of the program and the ongoing relationships they build with UA students. Adjuncts who teach solely in the Women’s Studies Program — and teach the majority of women’s studies courses — were mentioned in passing. Although they and graduate teaching assistants are the mainstay of the program, teaching at least 500 students per year, adjuncts were described in one paragraph as “occasional lecturers who teach in the Program.”

Meanwhile, full-time faculty members who teach mainly in their own disciplines, but teach an occasional course that is also cross-listed as a women’s studies course, received accolades for their “labor of love” and sympathy for their inability to obtain release time from their academic departments to teach in women’s studies.

Even graduate students, who, like part-time faculty, experience exploitative working conditions, got more attention than adjuncts. The report criticized the pay of graduate teaching assistants in the program as being “at the lowest pay scale level.” Adjunct compensation, however, was never mentioned.

Report recommendations ignored

Kathryn Feltey

Kathryn Feltey, interim director of UA’s Women’s Studies Program

The report, for which UA paid paid $1,640, has not been implemented and was not distributed beyond a handful of top administrators. This is despite the fact that it described the program as being “greatly under-resourced” and “in a state of disarray” and recommended that UA strengthen both the Women’s Studies Program and the Women’s Resource Center “to address the needs of women on campus.”

The critique of the Women’s Studies Program also included these points:

  • Program bylaws are not approved.
  • There is no oversight of courses.
  • Holes exist in the curriculum.
  • Few students graduate with a minor or undergraduate or graduate certificate.
  • Few women’s studies courses are offered each semester, making it difficult for students to complete the program requirements.
  • There is little promotion and visibility of the program on campus.
  • There is inadequate advising of students who are potential minors.
  • The program does not have a dedicated, visible space on campus.
  • The program does not have adequate leadership or office support.

The report recommended hiring a full-time director of the Women’s Studies Program, and a national search to fill that position was conducted earlier this year. But despite the search committee’s recommendation that it bring its top candidates to campus for in-person interviews, the search was scrapped by the College of Arts and Sciences. A new search for the position began this fall, with a salary line of $70-$100K, but it was cancelled due to budget constraints, according to an email sent today.

Meanwhile, the program has been without a permanent director since the summer of 2010. Since spring term of 2011, Kathryn Feltey, associate professor of sociology, has served as interim director.

During her tenure, she has refused to assign available classes to part-time faculty with experience in the program. Instead, she has filled all available graduate assistantships and adjunct positions with students and faculty from her own discipline, weighting the program toward sociology and away from its natural interdisciplinary focus.

This semester, two Introduction to Women’s Studies classes were still listed in the university’s online schedule as being taught by anonymous “Staff” on the Friday before the semester began, a practice that does not serve the best interests of students.

The walk must match the talk

imgresThe classism and sexism inherent in the two-tiered faculty structure supported by both UA’s Women’s Studies Program and the report it commissioned goes against the underlying principles of feminism and women’s studies. For it is in women’s studies classrooms and offices and hallways that the slogan “The personal is the political” is heard as a daily mantra. And it is in the women’s studies classroom — and program — that actions should speak louder than words.

UA’s Women’s Studies Program Web page includes a quote from a student who graduated with a minor in the program.

Engaging with women’s and gender studies classes promotes complex thinking and the development of a theoretical orientation that encourages an intersectional perspective as well as the deconstructing and challenging of social inequalities, hierarchies as well as many normative academic discourses and ideologies.

At UA, that is all theory and no praxis. And students and faculty of women’s studies know that theory without praxis is worth nothing at all.

UA’s top 50 earn $10 million-plus. Adjuncts? $8.90/hr.

Question: How many full-time students at the University of Akron have to fork over nearly $10K in annual tuition and fees this fall to cover the salaries of the institution’s 50 highest paid administratorsAnswer: 1,040.

At $9,734 a pop, it takes the tuition of roughly five percent of the university’s 20,547 full-time students (according to fall 2012 enrollment figures) to pay the $10,127,487 a year that UA’s top 50 administrators earn. That figure covers just the salaries for their 12-month contracts. Bonuses, retirement benefits, health benefits and other perks are additional.

The problem is called administrative bloat. And according to the U.S. Department of Education, about $1,000 to $5,000 per student, per year is spent on administration costs. That’s roughly six to 14 percent of a pupil’s annual tuition bill.

Diversity, pay equity issues

However, when one analyzes the UA data, another issue appears. Only about 15 percent of those in the top 50 at UA are women, and the top 10 earners are all men.

These facts raise questions regarding UA’s record on diversity and gender-based pay disparity, although the institution touts its commitment to “creating a framework for excellence that incorporates diversity at its core.”

Top 10 earners at UA:

  1. Luis A. Proenza, president, $500,000, effective Jan. 1, 2014. This amount does not include $125K in disparity
  2. William Sherman, provost, $291,600. Sherman retired and was rehired this summer and will collect his STRS benefits, along with his salary. See the full list of UA employees who retired since 1999 and were rehired, thus double dipping by simultaneously collecting both a pension and a salary.
  3. Stephen Z. D. Cheng, dean, College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, $285,492
  4. Chand Midah, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, $279,246
  5. George R. Newkome, vice president, research; dean, graduate school, $266,717
  6. George K. Haritos, dean, engineering, $264,594
  7. Thomas Wistrcill, director, athletics, $243,477
  8. Robert A. Weiss, department chair, polymer engineering, $242,034
  9. Ravi Krovi, dean, College of Business Administration, $239,789
  10. David J Cummins, CFO, $236,900

At the same time as the University of Akron is paying its administrators top dollar, it is facing a $30 million budget deficit. And the majority of its faculty, its part-timers, earn fast food wages.

Administrative bloat = increased tuition, student debt, adjunct abuse

Nationwide, tuition and room and board costs at public institutions have increased 42 percent since 2000, while administrative costs have zoomed upward 60 percent. Likewise, the number of administrators on college campuses has grown. By 2008, there were more than twice as many administrators as tenure-track faculty at institutions nationwide.

These statistics have produced a nationwide outcry against the practice, including a Wall Street Journal series on the problems of university systems across the country. It featured a chart detailing how administrative spending boosts college costs.

At the same time as the number of administrators has ballooned, institutions have significantly increased their use of non-tenure-track full-time and poorly paid part-time faculty. UA has the second highest percentage of part-time faculty in Ohio and one of the worst graduation rates in the state at 14 percent.

Less than 40 percent of students nationwide are now taught by tenure or tenure-track professors who earn a wage commensurate with their education and experience. The remaining 60 percent are taught by part-time faculty who make poverty level wages.

Meanwhile, total student debt in the U.S. is approaching $1 trillion, and the average college senior in the U.S. now carries $25,000 in student loan debt at graduation. In Ohio the average is $28,683, seventh-highest in the nation.

Poor pay for the new faculty majority at UA

UA’s approximately 1,500 part-timers make up more than 70 percent of all faculty on campus, receive no benefits and earn about $2,400 per three-credit course. Each of them will earn $9,600 for the 2013-2014 academic year, if they teach six credits per semester. That makes the wages of an adjunct faculty member at UA roughly 50 percent less than that of a fast food worker.

Nationwide, part-time faculty members make an average of $8.90 per hour, despite having earned advanced degrees.

uakron infographic large

Hours cut to avoid providing health benefits

Always poorly paid, UA adjuncts are in worse shape this academic year. That’s because UA is limiting adjuncts to eight credits per semester to avoid paying health benefits.

However, since most courses at UA are three credits, adjuncts have effectively been cut to six credits per semester or 12 per year.

UA has no system in place for requirement that adjuncts track hours

While the University of Akron has put a new requirement into effect that limits the number of hours part-time faculty can work each week, UA has no system in place for monitoring or reporting those hours — and has not indicated when such a system will be implemented.

Neither does its new requirement take into account the extensive amount of time that part-time faculty spend before the term officially begins — preparing syllabi and other course materials; creating online content; answering queries from students; and attending orientation sessions, training, and departmental meetings.

The new requirement, distributed by email via an attached memo from Laura Moss, assistant director of human resources information services at UA, was sent to vice presidents, deans and department heads on Aug. 1.

It reads in part:

Part time faculty members are expected to work no more than twenty-nine hours per week in combination of all assignments at the University of Akron. Two (2) hours of preparation/grading time for each load hour assigned above can be credited toward the 29 hours per week limit.  Weekly hours in excess of 29 must be pre-approved by the department chair or immediate supervisor. Actual hours worked per week must be reported to the department chair or immediate supervisor on a regular basis. Part-time faculty load limits should not exceed eight (8).

This wording is also included on the Personnel Action Form for Part Time Teaching & Summer Session that part-time faculty are required to sign.

UA has limited part-time faculty to eight credit hours per semester in order to avoid providing them with health care, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

No details on how part-time faculty will report work hours

The memo from HR also states that part-time faculty will be required to “begin reporting actual hours worked to their supervisors on November 1, 2013. Additional information on this reporting will be communicated at a later date.”

The memo does not state how that reporting will take place. It does not explain whether part-time faculty will be required to report the “actual hours worked” prior to Nov. 1. And it does not explain what will happen if a part-time faculty member exceeds total allowable hours. For a three-credit course, that limit would be six hours outside the classroom.

Here is a screenshot of this portion of the memo:

hours text

Details on part-time faculty earnings

An attachment that accompanied the memo included a chart stipulating minimum pay per credit hour for part-time faculty teaching in three categories: Assistant Lecturer, Associate Lecturer and Senior Lecturer.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 11.03.07 PM

For more details about the compensation paid to part-time faculty, download the Excel spreadsheet listing all part-time faculty employed during 2012-2013 academic year, with title/status, department or program, number of credits taught and rate of pay. We received the document as the result of a public records request we submitted to UA.

UA “required” hiring guidelines not applied

UA has also established Part-time Faculty Hiring Guidelines that emphasize the “uniformly required, administrative aspects of the [hiring] procedure. Due to the decentralized nature of the process, hiring units have discretion over the size of search/review committees, advertising venues, and use of additional forms and letters to ensure the highest quality employee is hired.”

The components of the hiring process for part-time faculty, which are seldom applied despite their characterization as being “uniformly required,” include:

UA hiring process

UA, “reasonable assurance” and ODJFS

In addition, UA’s human resources department has provided its vice presidents, deans and chairs with a “Reasonable Assurance Memo,” warning them that “failure to give timely reasonable assurance of employment for the next semester can lead to the loss of valued faculty and increased unemployment charges to the department.”

UA’s human resources has also provided a sample memo that chairs and department heads can send to adjuncts in an effort to avoid paying unemployment compensation to part-time faculty who are without work between terms.

UA characterizes the offer of a class for the next term as “reasonable assurance,” despite the fact that the class could be cancelled or reassigned to a full-time faculty member due to lack of enrollment. UA’s characterization — and some Ohio Department of Job and Family Services rulings regarding part-time faculty’s eligibility for unemployment compensation — are contrary to information disseminated by ODJFS. One publication states, “Regardless of whether you are a professional or nonprofessional, if the offer of work is contingent upon sufficient funding or enrollment, you would not have reasonable assurance for the next school year or term.”

UA grad rate

Effects on student success

Meanwhile, adjuncts at UA are concerned about the effect these regulations will have on student learning and student success, particularly since UA has recently received extensive publicity regarding its low four-year graduation rate, which at 14 percent is one of the lowest in the state.

Infographic on Un-Hired Ed: The Growing Adjunct Crisis


UA limits part-time faculty work hours, subverts student success

Part-time faculty around the country are being hit with reduced work loads — and in some cases are being left with no work at all — causing those same faculty to worry about the effect on their students.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 2.35.07 AM

Twitter / OhioPTFacAssn: @uakron requiring #adjuncts …

The University of North Texas plans to eliminate its part-time faculty next year and replace them with full-timers. The move doesn’t necessarily mean that adjunct faculty will move into cozy full-time faculty slots. It may mean they will be left out in the cold instead.

Part-time faculty in states such as Indiana and Ohio are already feeling the chill. Scores of Ivy Tech Community College adjunct faculty across Indiana will be able to teach up to only nine credit hours this fall because of administrators’ plans to avoid paying an estimated $10 million for medical insurance once the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.

UA adjuncts pinched while Proenza lands golden parachute

Adjuncts at the University of Akron are experiencing the most severe cutbacks in the state. Their work loads have been limited to eight credit hours per semester, as administrators work to circumvent the intentions of the ACA. They use a budget deficit estimated at between $26 and $30 million as their excuse.

But UA Trustees still managed to find enough money to offer retiring president Luis Proenza a uakron infographic largeglittering golden parachute when he leaves next June 30. His salary will increase to $500K for his last six months on the job, he’ll be paid $125K in bonuses, and when he returns from a fully paid one-year sabbatical, he’ll land comfortably in a $375K tenured faculty slot, making him the highest paid faculty member on campus.

Meanwhile, UA has put new paperwork requirements into effect for its poorly paid adjuncts that make their working conditions more negative — and threaten their students’ college success as well. HR is now requiring adjuncts to disclose other teaching assignments and limit the hours they spend preparing, grading and interacting with students in order to avoid penalties.

The new policy, distributed by chairs and department heads, reads:

Part time faculty members are expected to work no more than twenty-nine hours per week in combination of all assignments at the University of Akron. Two (2) hours of preparation/grading time for each load hour assigned above can be credited toward the 29 hours per week limit.  Weekly hours in excess of 29 must be pre-approved by the department chair or immediate supervisor. Actual hours worked per week must be reported to the department chair or immediate supervisor on a regular basis

Adjunct working conditions and student learning conditions

What do these cuts in part-time faculty workloads and limits on their work hours mean for students? They don’t mean success, especially at universities such as UA grad rateUA, which has the second highest percentage of part-time faculty in Ohio and one of the worst graduation rates in the state at 14 percent.

With UA’s part-time faculty teaching the bulk of general ed classes — those that fill the schedules of freshmen and sophomores — tuition-paying students will find it more difficult than ever to establish relationships with adjuncts who are forced by necessity to hustle off to their next teaching assignment just so they can avoid selling plasma to pay their bills.

They will also find those same faculty guiltily watching the clock — and realizing they must limit the time they spend working on their classes and engaging with their students. Once a part-time faculty member reaches his or her 29-hour limit, do they stop preparing a class lecture, grading student assignments, answering student emails, meeting with students, posting materials to the university’s online learning system?

Part-time faculty angst

Part-timers are a conscientious lot, and they are already asking those very questions — and lamenting the answers they feel compelled to give. Here are a few such sadly pragmatic answers, contributed by adjuncts themselves:

“If we truly follow this mandate, what will that mean to the students as far as the quality of our work? I have always used Springboard (UA’s online learning environment) in the past as a convenience to the students (posting handouts, grades, information), but this semester I have decided to go back to the old fashioned way (paper only) to save time posting information and updates and such on the computer. I already feel that my own teaching standards are being lowered.”

“I know right now that for several weeks, I’m going to go well over 8 hours (for a four-credit course) in just grading alone. And I only have 25 students. I’m concerned that the result would be to ‘lie’ and say I reach my 8-hour maximum each week, when in reality I go much beyond that.”

“When I teach my ____ courses, I spend almost 6 hours prepping alone for each class day! I can’t even begin to imagine the ramifications of this.”

“The thought of telling students that I have gone past my quota of work hours for my pay, almost makes my stomach ill. It makes me feel like such a failure as an instructor.”

“One of my students noticed me grading quizzes quickly as they came in and then on break, and asked why I turned quizzes around so quickly. I responded with a vague ‘I don’t have much time this week outside of class,’ which is technically true because I have family coming to visit. The brief conversation, however, got me thinking about why not point out the fact that all of my grading and class prep is done in my free time? Don’t students have a right to know why their instructors aren’t giving their full attention? By my calculations, with the time that I spend on the class and the pay, I’m close to if not below minimum wage this month.”

“You’re doing your job if you inform them that office hours are ‘by appointment only.’ They have a right to know why you’re not available everyday. You’re doing your job if you tell them what to expect concerning the grading of their assignments and tests and when to expect them to be returned and/or to be posted with comments. I’m doing nothing wrong in my approach when I present a very honest picture of what will take place during an academic semester.”

One blogger framed the situation this way, addressing his answer to the parents of potential college students:

All in all, this means that if your student wants to have an ongoing intellectual relationship with a professor—say, for a senior thesis, field study, or internship—he or she will have to make a conscious effort to find a faculty mentor and stay in touch with that person…Students can’t count on seeing the same professors in most of their major classes.

Local columnist: Convert adjuncts to full-time

Award-winning Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer didn’t hold anything back when he opined that UA graduation rate is awful in his well-placed Aug. 11 column.dyerweb

And he gave UA some good advice: “Isn’t it time for UA to devote a big pile of money to, say, converting its faculty from predominantly part time — 59 percent! — to full time, rather than sprucing up the campus?”

Once he learns about UA’s latest moves to monitor and strictly limit the time part-time faculty spend serving students, he might feel led to write a follow-up. And members of the public may raise some ire as well.

After all, as Dyer put it, “Area taxpayers should be demanding to know why a university that has been constructing things faster than a post-World War II Levittown is foundering in one of the most important categories in higher education.”