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:
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.
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, “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.”
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.