MSU agrees to pay adjunct faculty $67K in back wages

Source: Lansing State Journal

February 27, 2014

Matthew Miller

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University has agreed to pay more than $67,000 in back wages to its unionized adjunct professors.

The Union of Nontenure Track Faculty, which represents more than 500 fixed-term faculty members at MSU, had filed a grievance last spring over the raises given to its members in 2012 and 2013.

The union’s contract called for 2 percent average raises in both years. But, in totaling up what members actually received, the union found a significant shortfall in 2012 and a smaller one the following year.

“No one, I think, was intentionally doing anyone any harm,” said UNTF President Penny Gardner. It had more to do with the difficulties of implementing a common procedure across a large and decentralized university.

“We’re delighted that the university has seen that it’s a data thing and that we’re entitled to it,” she said.

James Nash, director of the university’s Office of Employee Relations, said the two sides had gone through “a good process.”

“We all agreed on the right thing to do at the end,” he said.

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

Source: New England Center for Investigative Reporting

February 6, 2014

Jon Marcus

The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures.

The disproportionate increase in the number of university staffers who neither teach nor conduct research has continued unabated in more recent years, and slowed only slightly since the start of the economic downturn, during which time colleges and universities have contended that a dearth of resources forced them to sharply raise tuition.

In all, from 1987 until 2011-12—the most recent academic year for which comparable figures are available—universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day, according to the analysis of federal figures, by the New England Center of Investigative Reporting in collaboration with the nonprofit, nonpartisan social-science research group the American Institutes for Research.

“There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration,” said Andrew Gillen, a senior researcher at the institutes. “It raises a question of priorities.”

Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.

“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.”

Part-time faculty and teaching assistants now account for half of instructional staffs at colleges and universities, up from one-third in 1987, the figures show.

During the same period, the number of administrators and professional staff has more than doubled. That’s a rate of increase more than twice as fast as the growth in the number of students.

It’s not possible to tell exactly how much the rise in administrators and professional employees has contributed to the increase in the cost of tuition and fees, which has also almost doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1987 at four-year private, nonprofit universities and colleges, according to the College Board. Those costs have also nearly tripled at public four-year universities—a higher price rise than for any other sector of the economy in that period, including healthcare.

But critics say the unrelenting addition of administrators and professional staffs can’t help but to have driven this steep increase.

At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.

“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”

The figures are particularly dramatic at private, nonprofit universities, whose numbers of administrators alone have doubled, while their numbers of professional employees have more than doubled.

Rather than improving productivity as measured by the ratio of employees to students, private universities have seen their productivity decline, adding 12 employees per 1,000 full-time students since 1987, the federal figures show.

“While the rest of the economy was shrinking overhead, higher education was investing heavily in more overhead,” said Robert Martin, an economist specializing in university finance at Centre College in Kentucky who said staffing per students is a valid way to judge efficiency improvements or declines.

The ratio of nonacademic employees to faculty has also doubled. There are now two nonacademic employees at public and two and a half at private universities and colleges for every one full-time, tenure-track member of the faculty.

“In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate—executives would lose their jobs,” analysts at the financial management firm Bain & Company wrote in a 2012 white paper for its clients and others about administrative spending in higher education.

Universities and university associations blame the increased hiring on such things as government regulations and demands from students and their families—including students who arrive unprepared for college-level work—for such services as remedial education, advising, and mental-health counseling.

“All of those things pile up, and contribute to this increase,” said Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators.

“I think there’s legitimate criticism” of the growth in hiring of administrators and other nonacademic employees, said King. “At the same time, you can’t lay all of the responsibility for that on the universities.”

There are “thousands” of regulations governing the distribution of financial aid alone, he said. “And probably every college or university that’s accredited, they’ve got at least one person with a major portion of their time dedicated to that, and in some cases whole office staffs. These aren’t bad things to do, but somebody’s got to do them.”

Since 1987, universities have also started or expanded departments devoted to marketing, diversity, disability, sustainability, security, environmental health, recruiting, technology, and fundraising, and added new majors and graduate and athletics programs, satellite campuses, and conference centers.

Some of these, they say—such as beefed-up fundraising and marketing offices—pay for themselves, and sustainability efforts save money through energy efficiency.

Others “often show up in student referenda, to build or add services,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “The students vote for them. Students and their families have asked for more, and are paying more to get it.”

Pressure to help students graduate more quickly—or at all—has also driven the increase in professional employees “to try to more effectively serve the students who are coming in today,” Pernsteiner said.

But naysayers point out that the doubling of administrative and professional staffs doesn’t seem to have improved universities’ performance. Since 2002, the proportion of four-year bachelor’s degree-seeking students who graduate within even six years, for instance, has barely inched up, from 55 percent to 58 percent, U.S. Department of Education figures show.

“If we have these huge spikes in student services spending or in other professional categories, we should see improvements in what they do, and I personally haven’t seen that,” Gillen said.

Martin said it’s true that adding services beyond teaching and research is fueling the growth of campus payrolls. But he said universities don’t have to provide those services themselves. “They can outsource them, the way that corporations do.”

To provide such things as security and counseling, said Martin, “You can hire outside firms, on a contract basis with competitive bidding. All these activities are a distraction from what the institution is supposed to be doing.”

Universities and colleges continued adding employees even after the beginning of the economic downturn, though at a slightly slower rate, the federal figures show.

“Institutions have said that they were hurting, so I would have thought that staffing overall would go down,” Desrochers said. “But it didn’t.”

There’s also been a massive hiring boom in central offices of public university systems and universities with more than one campus, according to the figures. The number of employees in central system offices has increased six-fold since 1987, and the number of administrators in them by a factor of more than 34.

One example, the central office of the California State University System, now has a budget bigger than those of three of the system’s 23 campuses.

“None of them have reduced campus administrative burdens at all,” said King, who said he is particularly frustrated by this trend. “They’ve added a layer of bureaucracy, and in 95 percent of the cases it’s an unnecessary bureaucracy and a counterproductive one.”

Centralization has been promoted as a way to reduce costs, but Vedder points out that it has not appeared to reduce the rate of hiring of administrators and professional staffs on campus—or of incessant spikes in tuition.

“It’s almost Orwellian,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll save money if we centralize.’ Then they hire a provost or associate provost or an assistant business manager in charge of shared services, and then that person hires an assistant, and you end up with more people than you started with.”
In higher education, “Everyone now is a chief,” he said. “And there are a lot fewer Indians.”

An ‘Alarming Snapshot’ of Adjunct Labor

Source: Chronicle Vitae
Date: January 24, 2014

by Sydni Dunn

When Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California, launched an online forum asking adjuncts to submit stories of their working conditions, contingent faculty greeted the effort with cautious applause. Finally, a national public figure was speaking up about higher education’s deepening labor gap. But would the talk lead to any substantive action?

Weeks after the forum’s submission deadline, that has yet to be determined. But today Democrats in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which Miller serves, weighed in with a 36-page report detailing its findings.

The report draws on 845 stories submitted by adjuncts in 41 states over the course of six weeks. For the most part, it echoes news articles and other recent research on adjunct labor: “Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security.”

But it also suggests a possible solution: passage of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013, a bill introduced last February that would, among other things, extend Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and family and medical leave protections to part-timers. (The bill was referred to a House subcommittee in April and has languished since.)

This is just one idea, though, and there’s no indication that the bill will soon make headway. Miller said in a statement that he plans to work with fellow committee members, universities and colleges, and contingent faculty to posit more solutions to the “troubling issues.”

The report’s findings will help guide those discussions, said Julia Krahe, communications director for the education and workforce committee.

‘Just-In-Time Professor’

Miller said that the report—“The Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education”—is “in no way an exhaustive account of the circumstances of adjunct faculty,” but it raises “some serious concerns.” It pairs data gathered from the forum entries with anonymous quotes from the respondents.

The respondents, despite varied education and work backgrounds, submitted stories that were largely consistent, Krahe said. While some said their employment situation was better than others, citing union contracts or access to benefits, most shared the same difficulties.

Highlights from the findings include:

Contingent faculty often have low pay and few, if any, benefits. Of the 845 forum respondents, 166 supplied information on how much they are paid per course. Most respondents indicated they made between $2,000 and $3,500 per three-credit hour course. Of the 152 respondents who listed their estimated annual teaching salary, the average was $24,926.

More than 60 respondents reported salaries that would put them beneath the federal poverty line for a three-person family. Some respondents said they were on federal assistance programs like Medicaid or food stamps. One added: “During the time I taught at the community college, I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.”

On top of low pay, 75 percent of the respondents who discussed the topic said they did not receive benefits—either because their employer didn’t offer them or because they were otherwise ineligible. One adjunct wrote: “The health care plan that I could buy into costs more than my take-home pay on even a good year. My retirement plan is to work until they bury me.”

Most respondents teach several courses per semester and travel among several institutions. Nearly half of the adjuncts who specified their course load taught either two or three three-credit-hour courses per semester. But because some respondents took on many additional courses, the average course load is just over three.

Those instructors are also teaching at multiple universities at a time. Of respondents who gave information about the number of schools they served, 48 percent taught at two institutions, 27 percent taught at three, and 13 percent taught at four or more. Most identified themselves as “freeway flyers.” One respondent said: “My commute at the highest point was 900 miles per week; at the lowest it was only 550 miles per week.”

Adjuncts lack job security and predictable schedules. 95 percent of respondents who spoke on the matter said they had no job stability and did not know whether they would be teaching courses from one semester to the next. Furthermore, some adjuncts said they often find out if they have a course just days before the semester begins.

More than 100 respondents said they have never had sufficient time to prepare for their courses. One wrote: “I taught four courses in the fall, but was not told until the day before spring semester started that I wouldn’t have any classes for the spring. I was unemployed with no notice.”

Adjuncts report receiving little professional support. Several problems were cited frequently: a lack of administrative support, difficulty securing copies of required textbooks and students’ email addresses, limited access to professional-development courses, and inability to participate in departmental meetings.

One adjunct recalled: “Although I’ve been at my … very decent university job for the past 15 years, a tenured professor asked me, ‘So, you’re teaching for us this semester?’ Why am I not part of this ‘us’ after so much dedicated teaching, year after year?”

“Overuse and Abuse of Adjunct Faculty Members Threaten Core Academic Values”


Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

Date: January 13, 2014

Author: Richard Moser

he increasing exploitation of contingent faculty members is one dimension of an employment strategy sometimes called the “two-tiered” or “multitiered” labor system.

This new labor system is firmly established in higher education and constitutes a threat to the teaching profession. If left unchecked, it will undermine the university’s status as an institution of higher learning because the overuse of adjuncts and their lowly status and compensation institutionalize disincentives to quality education, threaten academic freedom and shared governance, and disqualify the campus as an exemplar of democratic values. These developments in academic labor are the most troubling expressions of the so-called corporatization of higher education.

“Corporatization” is the name sometimes given to what has happened to higher education over the last 30 years. Corporatization is the reorganization of our great national resources, including higher education, in accordance with a shortsighted business model. Three decades of decline in public funding for higher education opened the door for increasing corporate influence, and since then the work of the university has been redirected to suit the corporate vision.

The most striking symptoms of corporatization shift costs and risks downward and direct capital and authority upward. Rising tuition and debt loads for students limit access to education for working-class students. The faculty and many other campus workers suffer lower compensation as the number of managers, and their pay, rises sharply. Campus management concentrates resources on areas where wealth is created, and new ideas and technologies developed at public cost become the entitlement of the corporate sector. The privatization and outsourcing of university functions and jobs from food service to bookstores to instruction enrich a few businessmen and create more low-wage nonunion jobs. Increasingly authoritarian governance practices have become the “new normal.”

The liberal arts and all areas of research not conducive to the creation of wealth are faced with austerity. It seems that the universities’ internal budgets remain in perpetual crisis as funding declines and more demanding accounting devices are established, thereby making each department, program, or school reliant on its own self-generated resources. This new financial “rigor” in instruction and research has tended to starve the core liberal-arts mission while promoting entertainment venues and real-estate development.

The search for truth, critical thinking, intellectual creativity, academic standards, scientific invention, and the ideals of citizenship have been discounted in favor of maximizing profits, vocational training, career success, applied research, and bottom-line considerations.

Three types of related issues—instructional, curricular, and professional—emerge from the growth of the contingent faculty in the context of corporatization.

Adjuncts and graduate students often deliver excellent instruction, but that is in spite of their working conditions. Most contingent faculty members and graduate assistants are so poorly compensated and teach so many students that they face powerful disincentives to quality instruction.

To professionally evaluate and mentor adjuncts and graduate students would take an enormous resource commitment from full-time professors, which would work against the fiscal imperatives responsible for the use of adjuncts in the first place.

Instead, contingent faculty members are often forced to rely solely on students to evaluate their work. It is reasonable to expect that such a system of evaluation makes teachers vulnerable to student pressure for better grades, reluctant to teach controversial subjects, or engage in stressful disputes over plagiarism and cheating.

Furthermore, when the job of teaching is separated from the job of establishing the curriculum and developing programs, faculty members become mere delivery systems of standardized content. People hired for the short term have no incentive to understand or question the long-term educational goals of the college.

Similar disincentives exist for contingent faculty members to develop long-term relationships with students. As a result, fewer faculty members will know students well, and advising will suffer. As a multidisciplinary conference on part-time work concluded, the nature of “the terms and conditions of these appointments, in many cases, weakens our capacity to provide essential educational experiences and resources” and therefore is “inadequate to support responsible teaching or, by extension, a career.”

Finally, and most important, the new academic labor system has fragmented the faculty, weakening its ability to act as a constituency. Tenure has lost support from both junior faculty members and those on the lower tiers, rendering the profession less able to defend its central institution. Without due process and full access to governance, the professoriate loses its ability to govern in the conventional manner; hence the turn to unionization as an additional means of advancing professional standards and values.

The political aspect is decisive. The multi­tier personnel system has produced classic “divide and conquer” effects that can be addressed by demanding more tenured positions and increasing the compensation and due-process rights of the contingent faculty. Drawing the tiers closer together in status and standing would serve the long-term interest of the teaching profession. It is no coincidence that tenure-track compensation sagged, and tenure requirements and review escalated, as the profession fractured.

The fragmentation of the profession is driven by administrators; yet faculty members are also often complicit in the transformation of tenure from a right into a privilege by allowing or even encouraging the escalation of the requirements for tenure. The traditional prerogatives of the faculty, in terms of having a voice in the standing and status of 75 percent of the profession, have been lost; the 17 percent of faculty members who have tenure compensate for this lost power by showing how tough they are on the remaining 8 percent eligible for tenure. Can we believe that the attacks on tenure or its increasingly unrealistic requirements are concerned with quality or accountability when there is almost no concern for the professional evaluation, recognition, and support of the 75 percent of the faculty off the tenure track?

The overuse and abuse of contingent faculty members is a threat to academic freedom and intellectual innovation. The contingent faculty finds its teaching constrained by fear of the administrators’ uncontested right not to renew their contracts.

In an address to the American Council of Learned Societies, Clifford Geertz, one of our most influential scholars, once recounted his own career, calling it “a charmed life, in a charmed time. An errant career, mercurial, various, free, instructive, and not all that badly paid.”

Geertz continued: “The question is: Is such a life and such a career available now? In the Age of Adjuncts? When graduate students refer to themselves as ‘the pre-unemployed’? … Has the bubble burst? … It is difficult to be certain. … But there does seem to be a fair amount of malaise about, a sense that things are tight and growing tighter … and it is probably not altogether wise just now to take unnecessary chances, strike new directions, or offend the powers. Tenure is harder to get (I understand it takes two books now, and God knows how many letters. … ), and the process has become so extended as to exhaust the energies and dampen the ambitions of those caught up in it. … All I know is that, up until just a few years ago, I used … to tell students and younger colleagues … that they should stay loose, take risks, resist the cleared path, avoid careerism, go their own way, and that if they did so, if they kept at it and remained alert, optimistic, and loyal to the truth, my experience was that they could … have a valuable life, and nonetheless prosper. I don’t do that anymore.”

The struggle to reform the new academic labor system is a struggle about freedom. It is fundamentally a political issue and an invitation to citizenship that none of us can afford to refuse. As the number of administrators grows and that of full-time tenure-track faculty members declines, the balance of power in the university shifts away from educators. Participation in governance has been based on the idea that dissenting opinion can be exercised without fear of reprisals. But without the protections of tenure, is the non-tenure-track faculty really free to engage in discussion or comment critically on administrative policy?

I am most deeply concerned about the example that the university itself is setting in regard to intellectual activity, citizenship, and democracy. What lessons are being taught to aspiring young academics when they realize that all of their foundational courses are being delivered by people who earn what they did at their summer jobs? What values are being learned when those who teach and research—who esteem the intellect and hold high the values of citizenship—are apparently held in low regard by society and by the university community itself?

The lessons are all too clear: Teaching and learning—the pursuit of the truth—are unworthy activities. We learn that it is acceptable to exploit someone if you can get away with it. We learn that it is acceptable to discriminate against someone based on the fact that they belong to a certain class of employees. We learn to pay lip service to art or science or history or literature, but that money is what really matters. Exploiting cheap labor to teach is teaching of the worst sort.

What to do about it? The primary obstacle is, as usual, in our own minds. Too many of us believe that these developments are the inevitable outcome of some juggernaut, usually the free market. Indeed, that is how corporatization is presented by its advocates.

In this context, the free market is primarily a cultural and political artifact; it is a rationale, a managerial tool, and a means to blunt resistance. Rather than apply our professional standards, or understand our history, we are supposed to shrug because the new standards of the market reign supreme. Market ideology now functions to foreclose other alternatives. But history has its uses. History helps us to broaden our view with alternative understandings and suggests that our personal struggles have political meanings.

I look at higher education, and I do not despair. Everywhere I see a growing consciousness about the new academic labor system and corporatization, and an increasing willingness to take action to defend higher education. Academic citizenship is on the rise, unionization continues, and the engaged citizen-scholar is emerging as a new model for academic life.

There is, after all, no professional activity more important than the exercise of academic citizenship. Only activism, organizing, and effective shared governance can create and advance the conditions on which all of our teaching and research depend.

Richard Moser, a former professor at East Tennessee State University, was most recently a senior staff representative at the Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters. This essay is adapted from Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System, edited by Keith Hoeller (Vanderbilt University Press, February 2014).