Archive for Public records request

UA doesn’t follow required hiring guidelines for adjunct faculty

The University of Akron has established Part-time Faculty Hiring Guidelines, but admits that it does not follow them. This is the case even though the university says this hiring procedure is “uniformly required” for low-paid adjuncts, who make up roughly 70 percent of UA’suakron infographic faculty.

The guidelines require that, “Prior to the beginning of each semester, the hiring unit/department should establish a part time faculty hiring committee. The goal of the committee is to complete the hiring of new part time faculty in the month prior to the start of each semester. Expediting the hiring of part time faculty employees, will allow the faculty members the opportunity to familiarize themselves with campus, to obtain necessary access to university provided services (i.e. PeopleSoft access, University ID, etc) and to receive prompt pay.”

In a Sept. 26, 2013, public records request, we asked for “Documents listing the members of part time/adjunct/contingent faculty hiring committees formed by departments/units within the College of Arts and Sciences who hired part-time faculty for fall term 2013, as required by the institution’s ‘Part- time Faculty Hiring Guidelines.'”

UA responded with an admission that it does not have documents that indicate compliance with this hiring guideline.

According to an Oct. 9, 2013, response from Scott M. Campbell, UA’s associate counsel, “I have contacted the two departments within the College of Arts and Sciences that have the most part time faculty to gather any responsive records – Communications and English. There are no responsive documents to your request. While there is a committee and/or involvement from various staff members that will review the hiring of part time faculty, there are no responsive documents.”

We doubt that any such hiring committees exist when an institution as large as UA cannot provide paperwork to document them.

The guidelines also state that “A well-documented screening process will aid the institution in defending a decision that is scrutinized by regulatory agencies or individuals who challenge the legitimacy of the process.  Your committee may want to develop a screening checklist or screening matrix to document each applicant’s qualifications.”

In our Sept. 26, 2013, request, we also asked for “screening checklists or screening matrix, prepared as part of the screening process used by the College of Arts and Sciences hiring committees for part time/adjunct/contingent faculty for fall term 2013, as required by the institution’s “Part-time Faculty Hiring Guidelines.”

Campbell responded that the university had no documents to show that the Department of English and the School of Communication, comply with that guideline. He wrote: “I have contacted the two departments within the College of Arts and Sciences that have the most part time faculty to gather any responsive records – Communications and English. There are no responsive documents to your request.”

The components of the hiring process for part-time faculty, include:

UA hiring process

Tri-C stonewalls public records requests, demands payment

When it comes to public records, all of the Ohio colleges and universities we have contacted have thrown up as many barriers as they could, despite the Ohio Sunshine Laws that give Ohioans access to government meetings and records — free and anonymously.

Some — like Youngstown State University — claim not to understand our request and then move at snail speed once we explain. Others — like Kent State University — claim they don’t have the standard documents we seek and send us hyperlinks to documents that are not responsive to our requests. And others — like Cleveland State University — do their best to ignore us, then provide an incomplete response.

But so far, the response from Cuyahoga Community College has been the worst and is apparently in violation of Ohio law. During the past three months, we submitted several public records requests to Tri-C. And we recently received the two replies copied at the bottom of this post.

Tri-C’s legal staff doesn’t follow law or its own policies

Tri-C’s response to our first request asked us to pay $650 because of “the volume of records responsive to your request” and asked us “to remint [sic] a payment.” The second response, with a subject line that began “Draft For Your Review,” said our follow-up request was “not specific enough for the College to reasonably identify responsive records.” It cited a section of Ohio law that did not support its objection.

So despite the fact that Tri-C employs several individuals on its legal staff — that staff is apparently unable to compose emails with appropriate subject lines or correctly cite the Ohio Revised Code. We suggest that Tri-C’s legal counsel’s office review the Model Public Records Policy posted on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

We disputed both of Tri-C’s claims with Tri-C’s legal counsel, citing Ohio law on the issue. And we have copied the Ohio Attorney General’s office on our emails. So far, we have not received a reply from either entity.

What the law says

In the case of Tri-C’s demand that we pay $650 for the documents we requested, Ohio law Sunshine lawspecifies that a public office may only charge its actual copying costs. It cannot charge for its own employees’ labor to copy or scan.

Despite that — and even though Tri-C’s own Public Records Request Form specifies that it will charge five cents per page for copies — Tri-C demanded 13 cents per page to cover “the cost to copy/scan the documents requested.”

In all of our public records requests, we have asked for digital copies, not paper copies, so there should be no copy charge. Most times, these documents are delivered by email. In the cases where the files were too large, they were burned to a CD and mailed to us at no charge, even though the institution could have asked us to pay for postage.

In the case of Tri-C’s claim that our request was “not specific enough,” on Aug. 30 we asked for clarification. The law mandates that public officials offer advice on how to revise the request so that it may be fulfilled. So far, Tri-C has not provided that, despite our request.

What we have requested

Between June 11 and Aug. 30, we have made a number of public records requests of institutions around the state. We will post all our requests on this page as time allows.

We have requested everything from lists of part-time faculty, their pay and their budgets; overall institutional budgets; sports budgets; lists of the top 50 highest paid employees; policies regarding part-time faculty employment; documents related to disputes of unemployment compensation; and more.

What we have received

So far, the institutions listed below have provided some of the records we requested. None has produced all of them. Some of the records are now posted at the links below; more will be forthcoming once we review them.

How we are using the documents

The documents we receive through our public records requests serve several purposes.

First, we are using them to help bolster the unemployment claims of part-time faculty.

Second, we are analyzing the data they provide to produce website posts such as the following, which we have publicized through Facebook and Twitter to generate hundreds of hits on our website:

FW: Public Records Request

From: Richard, Renee <Renee.Richard@tri-c.edu> Aug 29 (1 day ago)

cc: McDonald, Dannita <Dannita.McDonald@tri-c.edu>,
Northcraft, Sarah <Sarah.Northcraft@tri-c.edu>

VIA EMAIL ONLY

Dear Requester: Due to the volume of records responsive to your request there is a fee to produce the documents. We will produce the requested documents to you at actual cost (13 cents per page). See RC 149.43(B)(1) At your earliest convenience, please provide a check payable to Cuyahoga Community College District in the amount of $650.00 (approximately 5000 pages at 13 cents a page) to cover the cost of the copy/scanning. Should the cost to copy/scan the documents requested be less than the amount requested herein, we will provide you with a refund of the difference between the amount paid and the actual cost. Should the actual cost exceed the amount requested herein, we will provide you with a copy of the final invoice indicating the total cost to copy/scan the originals and requesting you remint [sic] a payment for the balance. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us.

Renee

Renee Tramble Richard Vice President and General Counsel
Cuyahoga Community College
700 Carnegie Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115-2878
renee.richard@tri-c.edu
Office: 216.987.4865 Cell: 216.403.6822 Fax: 216.987.4895

DRAFT FOR YOUR REVIEW: Public Records Request

From: Legal Services  Aug. 29, 2013 11:52 AM (2 hours ago)

to OPTFA

VIA EMAIL ONLY

Dear Requester:

The below request is not specific enough for the College to reasonably identify responsive records.  See RC 149.011(A)

Please revise and resubmit the request.

Elizabeth Jones

Paralegal – Office of General Counsel and Legal Services
Cuyahoga Community College- District Office
700 Carnegie Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115
P: 216-987-4860
F: 216-987-4895
Tri-C® Where futures begin SM
www.tri-c.edu

Help with your unemployment compensation claim

Within the past six weeks, the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association sent two public records requests to seven Ohio institutions of higher education.

As of now, we have received documents from Lakeland Community College and the University of Akron. We have uploaded these to our website.

You can find all public records we received by clicking on the Campuses tab, then on the link for the individual college or university. We will post more as we get them.

Among the documents we already received were a response letter from legal counsel at UA and an email from legal counsel at LCC that said a list of part-time faculty who have been assigned courses for fall semester 2013, as well as contracts for those faculty, will not be available until October (at UA) or the tenth week of the semester (at LCC).

If you are an adjunct at UA or LCC, these documents may help bolster your unemployment compensation claim and/or its appeal, if your claim has been denied because the university has argued you have “reasonable assurance of employment” in the fall term. These documents appear to indicate otherwise. Please consider downloading them and including them in your unemployment compensation appeal to help bolster your case.

We also recommend that you read this post about a UA adjunct who won her unemployment compensation appeal after a telephone hearing was conducted. We have posted the documents she included in her successful appeal, which made a cogent argument regarding the difference between the “possibility of employment” and “reasonable assurance of employment” using wording from the Federal Unemployment Tax Act and UA policies.

You can find the documents she used on the University of Akron page on this site. They are located under the heading “Documents for your unemployment compensation claim or appeal.”

You can find the public records we received at these links:

More unemployment compensation resources: