Archive for Working conditions

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.

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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.”

Plain Dealer readers call out higher ed on adjunct treatment

Cleveland area readers don’t like how universities and colleges are treating part-time faculty — or how that treatment affects students — and they have put their opinions in writing.

Plain Dealer readers responded to the newspaper’s May 26 story on the inequitable workingScreen Shot 2013-06-07 at 12.46.51 AM conditions of part-time faculty — and how adjuncts are fighting back — by writing letters to the editor.

The newspaper published the letters Sunday, June 2, under the headline, “While adjuncts do the work, administrators multiply.” The letters took up a full page of the opinion section — and all were sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts.

The May 26 Plain Dealer story, written by Harlan Spector, is one of many written or broadcast about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the working conditions of adjunct faculty and the learning conditions of students.

Many colleges and universities are placing limits on the number of credit hours adjuncts can teach to avoid providing adjuncts with health care benefits. Others are underestimating the number of hours adjuncts put in outside of the classroom.

Both approaches, cutting adjunct hours and inventing a false ratio to institutionalize the status quo, are wrong and show that colleges do not consider students, faculty or the quality of education a priority.

Has our educational system become corporate? Has it forgotten its mission to educate and to set examples for fair and equal practice? – Gloria Lucshesi, Cleveland Heights


Professor Staff takes to the WCPN airwaves

If you missed today’s WCPN Ideastream show, “Professor Staff Dominates Today’s Colleges,” professor staff wcpnyou can add your comments about adjunct working conditions and more at this link.

Guests were:

Maria Maisto, president, New Faculty Majority 
Evan Chaloupka, adjunct professor, Lakeland Community College
April Freely, adjunct professor, University of Akron
Susan Albertine, vice president, Office of Diversity, Equity,and Student Success, American Association of Colleges and Universities

Adjunct issues trend on Twitter, are voiced on MPR

Trending on Twitter this week is Maria Maisto, President of New Faculty Majority and her Trending on Twittertweet  on the Walmart strike.

Maisto also shares her thoughts on the new faculty majority — aka adjuncts — in this story on Minnesota Public Radio. In it, she talks about how adjunct working conditions are student learning conditions.

More recent media coverage of adjuncts

Who to follow on Twitter


UA changes rule on part-time faculty

The University of Akron Board of Trustees approved a change to University Rule 3359-20-06.1 regarding part-time faculty appointments.

The new terminology reads:

While many part-time faculty may be reappointed from successive academic terms, all part-time faculty are employed on an at-will basis.

The rule formerly read:

While many part-time faculty may be reappointed from successive academic terms, the appointment and any reappointments confer no expectancy whatsoever of continued employment.

UA board rule change

Text of UA rule on adjuncts

Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, said UA’s move was a calculated one.

“It’s clear that this change is intended to make it more difficult for adjunct faculty to collect unemployment benefits. However, New Faculty Majority will simply bring this to state and federal policymakers as a good example of the ways that colleges are trying to have their cake and eat it too.”

We asked employment attorney Nancy Grim whether this rule change would make it more difficult for UA adjuncts to get unemployment compensation. Here was her response:

“Maybe a little more difficult. `Expectation of continued employment’ is a term in the unemployment statutes.  `At will’ means you can be fired at any time for any reason.

“It was convenient that the UofA expressly stated there was `no expectancy whatsoever of continued employment’  (though only useful if people brought that to the attention of the unemployment office or hearing officer in each case).

“Still, this remains a factual question for each case.  As we discussed, applicants should affirmatively submit facts that show they do not have a reasonable expectation of continued employment.”

Here are links to helpful unemployment compensation resources:

Revised on May 10, 2013.

How higher education makes part-time faculty invisible

One way to cover up a problem is to make it invisible.

Part-time faculty, who generally make low wages and receive no benefits even though they comprise two-thirds of college and university faculty nationwide, are rendered invisible because so many different words are used to name them, according to Marisa Allison, acting director of research at the New Faculty Majority Foundation and a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at George Mason University.

Marissa Allison, acting research director of New Faculty Majority, presents her research on contigency and women at the AAUW Ohio Equity Day and Convention 2013.

Marisa Allison, acting research director of New Faculty Majority, presents her research on contigency and women at the AAUW Ohio Equity Day and Convention 2013.

Part-timers are called adjuncts, contingent employees, lecturers, non-tenure-track, term, part-time, post-doctoral, teaching assistants, and auxiliary employees. As a result, they exist generally unrecognized and unrepresented within the academy.

The low status of part-time faculty presents them with a number of challenges:

  • unequal compensation
  • lack of job security
  • no academic freedom
  • lack of professional development
  • lack of advancement opportunities
  • little to no benefits

Allison shared data on these issues at two breakout sessions she led on “Women as ‘Professor Staff‘: Gender Inequity in the Academy” at AAUW Ohio Equity Day and Convention, held April 6-7 in Newark, Ohio. She was joined by April Freely, co-chair of the Organizing Committee of the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association.

Inequitable compensation

Allison said that another way that part-time faculty are made invisible is by not addressing the inequitable way they are treated. While nationwide the median pay for tenure track faculty to teach a three-credit course is $6,000, part-time faculty make $2,700. Meanwhile, the median revenue that a three-credit course brings in is $84,000 nationwide, Allison said.

So it should come as no surprise that the number of individuals with advanced degrees who are receiving government aid such as food stamps has increased. Of the 22 million individuals with advanced degrees, 360,000 were receiving public assistance in 2010, she reported. That figure more than doubled between 2007 and 2010.

In addition, part-time faculty often lack access to support services and resources such as copying, office space, computers, telephones, and textbooks.

The demise of the tenure track

The problem will only get worse, Allison said, because the number of tenure track faculty is decreasing, while the number of part-time and non-tenure-track full-time faculty is on the upswing.

“The reliance of universities on contingent faculty is dramatic. They have become the majority of faculty across the United States,” she said.

This is particularly true because tenured faculty are staying on the job longer — 20-plus years — and there is a lack of tenure track jobs. According to Allison, universities are converting tenure track positions to non-tenure-track once a faculty member retires — if the position is filled at all.

The real numbers of contingency

Allison brought her tale close to home — and underlined the discrepancy between the figures universities and colleges publicize and those their institutional research departments compile — by sharing the latest figures from the University of Akron’s Office of Institutional Research.

While UA admits to having 58 percent contingent faculty, UA’s official employee count shows that in 2012, 78 percent of its faculty was actually contingent or non-tenure track, which is above the national average.

That means that just 22 percent of the university’s total faculty on all campuses was full-time tenure track or tenured, according to Allison’s calculations.

She pointed out that 42 administrators and 21 librarians, both groups with faculty rank, are included in the tenure track total. However, both groups may teach occasionally or not at all.

Gender, race and contingency

“While gender and race are generally left out of the conversation, these are important factors

because universities and colleges have more women students and faculty,” noted Allison, whose doctoral research addresses gender inequality in higher education. Her specific focus is the growth of women’s participation in the adjunct and contingent labor force.

She shared the percentages of female students in colleges and universities nationwide during the 2007-2008 academic year:

April Freely of OPTFA  and Marisa Allison of NFMF

April Freely of OPTFA and Marisa Allison of NFMF

  • 62% associate degree programs
  • 57% bachelor’s degree programs
  • 61% master’s degree programs
  • 50% professional degree programs
  • 51% doctoral degree programs

Women make up a large percentage of part-time faculty, so the lack of equity in the higher education workplace hits them hard, Allison said.

At Ohio State University, for example, 35 percent of the faculty is tenured or tenure-track, while 65 percent is contingent. Of the total number of faculty, less than half, or 42 percent, are female. But when it comes to contingent faculty, it is clearly a woman’s world. Females comprise 72 percent of contingent faculty, according to the figures Allison provided.

Contingency and student outcomes

“Our working conditions are student learning conditions,” Allison noted, with pay inequities and poor working conditions affecting students as well as faculty.

Research shows that colleges and universities with a high percentage of contingent faculty have diminished graduation and retention rates, negative affects from early exposure to part-time faculty, and reduced student-faculty interaction. Those institutions also see a decline in graduation rates and lower GPAs, she said.

Allison cautioned that the negative affects on students are not because of the quality of part-time faculty, as “contingent faculty are some of the best and most-beloved faculty on campuses.” But the poor working conditions suffered by part-time faculty make it impossible for them to serve students well.