Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outing the eponymous Professor ‘Staff’

The long awaited NFM Foundation report from CFHE Center /think tank is out and fab. I really wanted to write “simply mahvelous” but fabulous is what Gary calls it, so I’ll go with ‘fab” and the awesome alliteration of “fab Foundation” report as assembled, organized, written and edited by Gary Rhoades and our own fab five. Steve Street (to whom the report is dedicated), Maria Maisto, Esther Merves, Judy Olson and Anne Wiegard. Introducing the release, Gary Rhoades writes,

Attached (linked actually, see below) is the second report of the think tank, the Center for theFuture of Higher Education, courtesy of the FABULOUS work of the NewFaculty Majority Foundation

"Who is Professor ‘Staff’ and how does this person teach so many classesoffers not only data about "just in time" employment and insufficient access to instructional resources for contingent faculty, it also provides a tool for redressing SOME of those problems at limited cost, though we emphasize in closing the report that there is a structural deficit in higher education that must be resolved to ensure affordable, quality higher education. 

The key points in brief [but no surprise to any contingent faculty] are as follow:

1.   “Just in time” hiring is bad for teachers and for students. Of the faculty surveyed, approximately 2/3 of them were hired for classes with three weeks or less to prepare.
2.   Contingent faculty access to key instructional resources is invariably late and limited.
3.   The current just in time and late/limited access to instructional resources regime is NOT a result of fiscal and flexibility restraints but of managerial inattentiveness.
4.    The timing of hiring of contingent faculty needs to become transparent, and administrators need to make clear the instructional resources available to contingent faculty when hired. 

To make promotion as painless as possible, CFHE member Jeff Kolnick has written a VERY nice op-ed template, again. He's happy, as with our first report, for people to use it to cut and paste and adapt to their situation. It's a small time commitment, so PLEASE submit op-eds to your local papers, even to the student newspaper on your campus. If your semester/quarter starts later, then you can time your "back to school" piece with the start of classes.

[Ed note: although Gary omits blogs and social media from the mix, I’m taking 
the liberty to add it: if you blog, belong to a higher ed or contingent faculty listserv or group, post the op-ed there. Share on Facebook. Tweet and retweet links to the report. Email, forward and so on.]

We got good coverage with the first report but need more of the campaign members, [supporters, and contingent faculty stakeholders] to push this piece.  The fact that we have a usable tool as part of the report should make this really attractive, and is a good "hook," in that we're not only identifying problems, we're offering solutions.

Who is Professor "Staff," and how can this person teach so many classes? Appearing AUGUST 2012 by Steve Street, Maria Maisto, Esther Merves and Gary Rhoades for the Center for the Future of Higher Education. 
Download Report and associated documents:
Higher education media coverage of report launch:

How Universities Treat Adjuncts Limits Their Effectiveness in the Classroom, Report Says” by Audrey Williams June, Chronicle, August 23, 2012

The Adjunct Scramble” by Kaustuv Basu, Inside HigherEd, August 23, 2012


  1. Are colleges going to be able to afford coverage of all of their affiliates when the next portion of changes to Medicare in 2014 that requires large employers to provide medical insurance for their employees?

    Will re-professionalization of higher education (and laying off a lot of Affiliate faculty) be an unintended consequence?


  2. The question Anonymous poses is one raised recently by NFM's Vice President, Matt Williams, in his personal blog, and reposted on this one, though his question was less leading (what will be the consequences . . .?). I think that in general, the answer to part two of the question will be "No." If adjunct faculty pay rates stay as they are, these workers will still be bargain employees even if the institution has to foot the health insurance bill. Take someone teaching two or three courses a semester for an annual salary of about $10,000. Add a generous annual health insurance bill of about $12,000 for premiums, 20% of which the employee would undoubtedly be responsible for paying, and the college's annual coast for delivering 4 to 6 course sections would be roughly $20,000. An entry-level full-time TT employee would still cost at least twice that amount (for providing only one or at most two more courses per semester, less than twice the work of a part-time colleague), and the college would lose its much touted "flexibility" in staffing/scheduling. The answer to the first part of the question is, the institutions, colleges and universities do need major refunding, but they also need to reprioritize how they use the funding they do have.

  3. Anon ~ you might want to refer to and comment on since it relates to your specific question. Responding to the Report, could you explain how your question relates to hiring and orientation for adjunct faculty?

    I'm curious too what you mean by the "reprofessionalization" of higher education as well as what concrete recommendations you yourself have. Obviously, sick and possibly contagious, instructors teaching 75% of the classes is not a solution and could conceivably expose institutions to liability for policies that put students at risk.

  4. I would also add in response to Anonymous' comment and to reinforce Anne's comment...

    Colleges and universities commonly bemoan their financial circumstances, yet the truth is that the priorities of American colleges and universities are focused on everything BUT instruction. The example that I commonly use is of The University of Akron, which spends about 2.5% of its $400+ million annual budget compensating part-time faculty while it spends roughly half this amount on CASH COMPENSATION ALONE (i.e., sans benefits and perquisites) for its president and 35 or so vice presidents.

    Anne is correct, of course. If a university doubles or even triples its per adjunct expenditure, it is still cheaper than using a tenure track faculty member to teach the same unit of instruction. Yet using faculty who are so underpaid and undersupported remains a false economy. Student outcomes will remain dismal until such point as institutions recognize that teacher working conditions have an impact on student learning outcomes. You cant build five televisions with the parts required to build three. It simply doesn't work.

    Students are entering college increasingly unprepared to handle the academic and social demands placed upon them. Someone needs to bridge this gap. Teaching is time and resource intensive. Adjuncts need to be supported adequately in order to accomplish this very difficult task. In fact, if properly supported, we could stop calling them adjuncts. Students need to interact with professionals who receive professional support and whose existence is not so tenuous that they may find themselves homeless if their "promised" classes fail to materialize.

    Of course, Vanessa raises the "Typhoid Mary" argument, which is also compelling. The ecological argument is also compelling. Having these "freeway flyers" burn fuel and other resources pinging from campus to campus is just absurd...and ecologically damaging.

    Then there's the moral argument. That one's obvious, so I won't recap it here.

    I would hope (i.e., expect) that a reprofessionalized academy would repurpose those adjuncts who are already working in higher ed. Regularized employment should be the objective. Equal pay for equal work. Job security. Academic freedom. The tools that are required to perform the job. Professional development. Health benefits.

    1. What it comes down to: many, many reasons for the current system to be bad management and design ~ a false economy that is, ultimately, unsustainable on many levels.

  5. The comment by Anonymous raises a question that confronts us in every dimension of our work. How can we hope to improve the salaries, benefits, and working conditions of adjunct, affiliate, and other contingent faculty if our chief value to our employers is that we come cheap?

    The answer, I think, is that our chief value isn’t this at all. We are dedicated teachers; we have enabled the institutions where we work to meet their responsibilities to students year after year; and the most effective way to re-invest in higher education is to invest in us.

    (The alternative, of course, is to continue pursuing corporate strategies that have no interest in higher education because they are indifferent to the quality of human labor.)

  6. Thank you for answering my comments.

    I am new to your blog (and to being an Affiliate as well) and had not seen the previous post regarding how the Affordable Care Act might or might not affect Affiliates. Based on the discussion, it seems that the net effect is still somewhat mysterious. But it does seem that reclassifying Affiliates as independent contractors looks like it may become an issue for lawyers in the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service. So we will have to wait until 2014 to see what happens.

    The state legislature in Colorado, where I teach, recently passed Senate Bill 12-1144 that provides for five year (I think reduced to three years during the debate process) contracts for non-tenure track faculty in institutions of higher education. What I was musing about in my original post was that as a potential cost-saving move Affiliate positions would be condensed into what my university refers to as Category II positions, five year non-tenure track contracts to teach 4-5 lower division classes each semester. Category II positions currently pay 90% of TT positions and are exempt from Faculty Service. Converting many of the Affiliate positions at my university to Category II positions as a response to the Affordable Care Act is something that I have recently heard from a couple of chairs and a dean that I know. So I assume that someone in "upper management" is talking about this in "public." They also know that I wouldn't turn down a full-time position. I have a better publication and service record than some TT's in my department. I am also the president of the on-campus affiliates organization and have an interest in obtaining health insurance for Affiliates.

    I have been curious to see if other universities might have been having a similar discussion of creating multi-year non-tenure contract positions. The consequence of this would eliminate a lot of Affiliate jobs, but would create more stable, better paying/benefit positions.

    1. I've noticed discussions and reactions(so far mostly speculation) varies by state: state codes, what is already in place. Some state do classify more adjuncts as contractors, especially for non-transfer and ABE classes.

      This suggests state labor law interpretations of federal guidelines allow it even though the IRS rule of thumb is that contractors are hired to a specific job but not told how to do it ~ that distinction makes them employees. I suspect that suddenly swelling the the ranks of contractors would raise IRS eyebrows and draw unwelcome attention. Numbers and "business" (department) size might be another factor.

      I've also read differing opinions on the affect of conversion reducing the number of p/t positions available since each conversion at one institution would seem likely to open 1-2 classes at another (unless moonlighting and overloads are common and not capped). Of course, I am just speculating too.

    2. Hi Anonymous and others,

      I’d like to address a few issues raised by Anonymous, my fellow Coloradoan.

      First, as anybody reading this is liable to be aware, the notion that the Affordable Care Act will encourage employers to drop employee health coverage has long been floated by individuals and organizations opposed to Obama. I can’t say that the idea is just a scare tactic—in fact, nobody’s going to know until 2014 what the impact might be—but the best evidence seems to suggest that the incentives for continuing (and improving) coverage will outweigh the disincentives. Here’s an analysis by the Rand Corporation that you might find interesting:

      The objective behind Colorado HB 12-1144 was to provide faculty who are already teaching full-time loads, as at-will employees on a semester-by-semester or year-to-year basis, with multi-year binding contracts. I haven’t heard yet of administrations combining multiple adjunct positions into a single full-time position, but if they are it won’t be a consequence of HB 12-1144; that option has always been available.

      However, will the Affordable Care Act inspire administrations in Colorado and elsewhere to combine positions (thus costing some faculty their jobs) in order to reduce health costs? It’s possible—but the idea, at least from some perspectives, is counter-intuitive. The dominant ethic of higher education administrations over the last 30 plus years has been to acquire maximum authority over the faculty, in the name of flexibility. To create a single full-time position, even if non-tenured, out of several adjunct positions, is to reduce administrative flexibility. Thus, the disincentive (losing sacred flexibility) is likely to outweigh the incentive.

      Anonymous speaks of a full-time non-tenure track position at his school, that pays 90% of a tenure-track slot, calls for a heavy teaching load, and does not have a service component. I find such positions troubling. While such positions may be attractive to individual faculty (which is why I can’t fault Anonymous if s/he accepts), the workload formula is a disincentive for faculty to participate in shared governance, and thus such positions are harmful to the cause of contingent faculty and to the professoriate as a whole.

      Anonymous, please feel free to contact me:

      I’d like to hear more about what’s going on at your school.



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