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Tag Archive for University of Akron
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’s 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’s new rule that caps the number of hours each adjunct can work outside the classroom at 2 hours credit hour. The limit helps UA avoid providing health benefits under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. How is the new limit affecting you?
- UA’s timekeeping procedures. Are they efficient and effective? What are your concerns?
- FOR PROFIT, the solo play that will be performed FREE at UA on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Theater as part of national Campus Equity Week. It takes a poignant but humorous look at student debt and will be followed by a panel discussion that includes an adjunct faculty member. This is a great opportunity for you and your students to learn and speak out about equity issues in higher education.
- The Ohio Higher Education Campus Equity Week Summit, Oct. 26 in Columbus, a free event that is part of national Campus Equity Week. You are invited to join us in planning advocacy to improve higher ed on your campus and in our state.
The opinion piece below was written by April Freely, Co-chair of the Organizing Committee of the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, in response to the Akron Beacon Journal story and column she mentions. Update: It was published as a letter to the editor in the Akron Beacon Journal on Sept. 10.
I am one of the part-time faculty members on the UA campus, working without benefits for just above minimum wage, at around $8 an hour — a wage Jim Tressel acknowledged is comparable to the pay of an Academic Encourager in the Biliczky story.
This fall, a new restriction was written into the small print of the job proffer for part-time faculty, who are 59 percent of all faculty campus-wide. While an Academic Encourager is expected to meet the needs of 20 students in a 25-hour week — for a three-credit course, part-time faculty members are now expected to meet the needs of 25 students in only 6 hours a week outside of class time. I had to tell my students that my job is at risk if I spend “too much time” in conference with them, prepping for class, or grading papers in their writing-intensive courses.
This is not a policy that promotes student success.
Our students deserve better. Our faculty deserves better. I care about issues of contingency because the faculty is the heartbeat of any campus. As long as we are not investing in our faculty, our students will not thrive.
As an African-American, first-generation college student who grew up in Cleveland’s inner city, I might have been one of those students assigned to an Academic Encourager. Around 70 percent of our students statewide are from vulnerable populations: veterans, resumed-education students, minorities, first-generation college students, students in poverty. These students need more faculty involvement, not less.
I wish everybody had an Academic Encourager—their investment in our students is worth more than this—which only brings into stark relief the poor University support for the majority of our faculty.
It is my hope that the University won’t just do something to encourage student success, but that they will take the most appropriate course of action. Faculty are a good investment—as they know the material, set the benchmarks, and most importantly, know the particular strengths and weaknesses of the students: when I tell my students they can accomplish a course goal, it is not an empty platitude.
More facts on adjuncts and wages
Adjunct wages at UA
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 adjuncts in most programs can only teach two three-credit courses per semester, as most UA courses carry three credits. That brings the annual pay range of adjuncts at UA to between $8,400 and $11,400, wages well below the poverty level.
At the same time, however, the university has not implemented a system by which part-time faculty can track their work hours.
Adjunct wages nationwide
Adjuncts nationwide typically earn an average annualized salary of $21,600 for teaching the maximum number of classes that research has shown to be acceptable without damaging the quality of education being offered. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with equivalent education, responsibility and experience average $65,000 per year.
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 administrators? Answer: 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:
- Luis A. Proenza, president, $500,000, effective Jan. 1, 2014. This amount does not include $125K in bonuses.
- 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.
- Stephen Z. D. Cheng, dean, College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, $285,492
- Chand Midah, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, $279,246
- George R. Newkome, vice president, research; dean, graduate school, $266,717
- George K. Haritos, dean, engineering, $264,594
- Thomas Wistrcill, director, athletics, $243,477
- Robert A. Weiss, department chair, polymer engineering, $242,034
- Ravi Krovi, dean, College of Business Administration, $239,789
- David J Cummins, CFO, $236,900
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 glittering 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, 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
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.”
A column in today’s Akron Beacon Journal written by higher ed analyst Joseph Yeado of the Education Trust blasts The University of Akron for its plummeting graduation rates — particularly the dismal six-year graduation rate of 9.8 percent for black students.
The piece criticizes UA for lack of leadership and “an extensive building spree.”
It also calls for campus-wide engagement in “establishing a culture of completion where everyone, from tenured professor to resident assistant, is responsible for ensuring student success.”
We would note that current policies and practices regarding part-time faculty at UA make that impossible.
At the University of Akron and some other Ohio institutions, it is routine practice to dispute unemployment claims filed by former employees, including part-time faculty members. This month, a member of UA’s part-time faculty fought the university’s denial of her claim and won.
The adjunct applied for benefits when spring semester ended in May. Her application was approved, and she received benefits from May 18 through June 8.
When UA disputed her claim, the Department of Job & Family Services issued a redetermination saying she was not eligible to receive benefits during the summer months because she had “reasonable assurance of continued employment” with UA for the fall term, as she had received and accepted a verbal offer to teach one course during fall semester 2013.
The adjunct filed a written appeal of the redetermination, and the process moved to the next level — a telephone hearing conducted by a hearing officer with Ohio’s Unemployment Compensation Review Commission.
At the hearing, the adjunct represented herself, and UA was represented by Neil Bhagat, an attorney with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, the firm that currently represents UA in its unemployment compensation disputes. UA also had Sheldon Wrice, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, on the line as a witness during the phone hearing.
Here’s how the part-time faculty member who won her appeal described the process:
“the administrator [Wrice] was understanding of my situation. At one point, he stated that I could be bumped by a full time faculty member up until the first day of classes. He also commented that an offer of employment was not a guarantee of employment, and that I did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as it relates to full time status…Although, my individual facts and circumstances could be different from others, they [other adjuncts] certainly will be able to cite the prior court case of the University of Akron v. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as it relates to the reasonable assurance clause in the Ohio unemployment statute.
“As an aside, I think it is important to note that claimants can question witnesses during a telephone hearing. I simply asked questions of the administrator that cast doubt upon the certainty of part-time employment — especially in the areas of bumping and enrollment numbers. I hope this helps others to support their claims when denied unemployment based on this murky ‘reasonable assurance’ issue.”
When hearing officer Emily Briscoe issued her July 22 decision granting unemployment compensation to the UA adjunct, she cited Webster’s Dictionary in defining the terms “reasonable” and “assurance.” See the text of this section below or read the decision in its entirety, with the name of the part-time faculty member redacted by OPTFA to protect her privacy.
The adjunct who won this appeal shared her story with the Ohio Adjunct Discussion Listserv in the hope that “it will help others decide to push forward with their claims and appeals.”
I do believe that the reasonable assurance justification employed by the University can be challenged. Additionally, I will simply add to the sentiments expressed in a previous [discussion list] thread, that unemployment benefits are our legal right when we lack employment. No one should be discouraged because they perceive some sort of backlash. If you think about it, what are you really losing? With the anticipated cutbacks in adjunct hours and class offerings, we are all vulnerable. The only way to ensure that we are treated fairly is for us to file. Hopefully, we can send a message to academic institutions that we will assert our rights to benefits and pursue them vigorously.
Although adjuncts are entitled to unemployment compensation between terms, they often do not file for benefits for several reasons:
- They may not realize they are entitled to benefits.
- They may fear retaliation.
- They may be unwilling to go through the necessary filing and appeals process because they have heard that the claims of other adjuncts have been denied.
More unemployment compensation resources: