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American Association of University Professors

Another Slap in the Face to Part-time Faculty

Shared governance structures are allegedly in place at UA to guarantee faculty input in discussions of policy changes and implementation of changes to management of resources. The lack of shared governance at The University of Akron has been severely criticized in the past by The Higher Learning Commission.  Now, we’re forced to ask: Why was there absolutely no discussion of the new time and attendance system that was recently implemented?

Changes to how full-time faculty report absences and submit sick leave requests seem simple enough; little more than an online substitute for the former required paper trail. Part-time faculty, however, must now report each and every week a detailed accounting of their time spent in and out of class in the prosecution of their important and already grievously and cynically undervalued duties.

Some departments simply do not use part-time faculty; others employ them for over 70% of their instructional offerings.  Institution-wide part-time faculty perform 52% of scheduled instruction. Currently, this means about 1500 part time faculty are now required to submit detailed weekly reports of their time.

Part-time faculty have never had to keep records like this in the past. The Affordable Care Act has clearly put a scare into the administration – a scare that none of our sister institutions in Ohio, other than Shawnee State perhaps, have taken very seriously. In response, The University of Akron has already cut many of these part time faculty to only two classes per semester (many were teaching as many as four) – the logic being that time spent in preparation and delivery of three or more classes would be too close to full time, and thus require the institution to provide federally mandated health care benefits.

Now, it seems that in addition to losing classes–and income– part-timers will have to carefully document that they do not work too many hours per week.  At an institution in a profession that depends for its public reputation on absolute integrity–in scholarship, research, teaching and financial management–our colleagues are now placed in a difficult ethical position.

Department chairs and faculty supervisors must approve these submissions every week. How will department chairs address instances wherein their part-time charges are over the full-time hour limit? Will they feel compelled to participate in falsifying the record in order to keep class sections open? If not, how will they offer classes the administration often demands must be offered when they are forced to cut teaching options for their part-time colleagues?

What are the options for part-time faculty who discover that they consistently work more than 30 hours per week? Should they reduce the amount of effort expended in providing instruction to their students? Should they intentionally and secretly devalue their own work, already performed for indefensibly low wages, and falsify the results in order to come in under some arbitrary target? What happens if they report honestly the amount of time and labor expended in service to the University of Akron and come in over this target? What options are available for the institution?  Will course loads–and therefore, pay–be cut? Will part-time faculty, the most contingent of all contingent faculty, simply not be re-hired? There is no obligation for the university to continue employment beyond the current contracted term.

Of course, the University will always have the option to do the just, moral and ethical thing and provide the legally mandated benefits to their loyal employees.  They could, in fact, do just that.

But let’s be serious.

This kind of burden imposed on the part-time faculty places them in the untenable and fearful position of having to choose between scaling back the quality of teaching they offer, their honesty in evaluating their own work, or preserving their jobs and income.  That may be the way to run a for-profit corporation, but it’s a deplorable and cynical way to manage the affairs of a not-for-profit institution of higher education. And in the context of an institution willing to provide millions of dollars in golden parachute retirement deals to departing administrators; in a state in which the Governor’s hand-picked minion chosen to oversee the affordability of college education in Ohio is one of the most egregiously overpaid college administrators in the history of the business, it’s also an insult to every thinking member of the profession.

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