On November 24, in connection with Thanksgiving, I emailed GRCC faculty about adjunct professors in poverty. It generated a lot of positive responses, so I wanted to share what you can do about ACTING on this.
- Support the request in the video with petition signatures and donations. Here is the website for this campaign: http://www.bravenewfilms.org/professorsinpoverty?utm_campaign=prof_in_pov_ot2&utm_medium=email&utm_source=bravenew
- And share this video!
- Get more information. For example, the graphic with Myth 1 at http://usuncut.com/politics/6-common-welfare-myths-we-all-need-to-stop-believing/is telling, but there’s no attribution to the source, so it might not be valid. Also, the GRCC library licenses Adjunct Nation, formerly Adjunct Advocate, in e-format at http://lib.grcc.edu/record=b180358 . On-campus users click into the title; off-campus users must log on with last name and 7-digit Raider number. Although the screen says through 2014, it is a current license and provides 2015 content.
- Publicize the information. Some of that we can do through the Faculty Association web site and Face Book, but that’s limited. For public media outlets to pick up on things takes a lot more effort. For example, the national adjunct walk out day in February 2015 (not sure of that date) generated a lot of press, including a big article in the Grand Rapids Press. Read the article from March 2015 highlighting work of one of our Adjunct instructors Mike Miller here: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/03/pressed_for_time_a_day_in_the.html
Informing students should be important. They should care and do care. For example, the Professors in Poverty video generated the most complex and passionate discussion between students in three GRCC classes for a research topic this semester. They had access to over a dozen educational related videos.
- Come up with solutions, even if they’re partial and little, and act. For example, the faculty negotiating team has consistently advocated for adjuncts with mixed results. For the administration has proposed a full-time temporary teaching position, but there hasn’t been widespread support for it. For me to mention it here doesn’t mean that I support it, either.
A solution for the “road warrior” adjuncts could be for all the higher ed institutions in West Michigan to get together and create shared, tenured full-time faculty positions. By “shared” I mean that a faculty member’s work load, pay and benefits would be distributed pro rata among the institutions that the faculty member is working for. I’ve not heard of this being done any place and I don’t even know if it’s doable. But why not talk about it? Even if it’s a bad idea, it will generate awareness and possibly some better ideas.
All in all, I think that the current adjunct system years ago worked reasonably well for students and institutions when there were few adjunct faculty. Now, I think it works poorly because colleges and universities hire so many adjuncts instead of creating tenure-track positions. For anything to change, adjuncts will have to be a lot more proactive, ideally with the support of full-time faculty and administrators. Adjuncts nationwide have become more proactive in the last few years. Locally – not so much.
Fred van Hartesveldt, Faculty Association President.
Minutes for the September 26 Faculty Council meeting are now available under the “Member Resources” tab at the top of the page – a mighty document with a lot of useful information.
- Bereavement leave for adjunct faculty
- A list of start up concerns for Fall semester – check your pay advice for accuracy!
- Concerns over the Summer 2105 calendar
- Discussion of the overload rotation process and class assignments
The Faculty Association also represents over 500 adjunct faculty. As a reminder, your department has a council representative that you can go to for questions regarding the contract. Additionally, there is a representative for each school. We are happy to welcome Kelly Keur, the School of Arts and Sciences at large Adjunct Representative. Kelly joins Marty Hillard, who is the School of Workforce Development at large Adjunct Representative. Both Kelly and Marty are available to you, in addition to Mike Miller who is heading up adjunct concerns with the help of Fred and Jeff this academic year. Feel free to contact any Council representative if you have questions or concerns.
Mike Miller – firstname.lastname@example.org
Marty Hillard – School of Workforce Development – email@example.com
Kelly Keur – School of Arts and Sciences – firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 19, 2014, Fred van Hartesveldt, GRCC Faculty Association President, addressed GRCC Board of Trustees during their meeting. Below is the transcript (not verbatim) of his address.
Good afternoon, everyone; I’d like to address you today about GRCC’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the purpose of which is to provide health care coverage to employees who work, on average, 30 clock hours per week but less than full-time. As you probably recall, last year you budgeted money so that we would comply with this new federal law. That was laudable because, even though most of us aren’t wild about having the federal government get involved in our health care, even though health care under the Act may not be affordable after all, it still is the law of the land and we’re obligated to follow it.
After we budgeted for the Affordable Care Act, though, things went downhill.
The effective date of the act was delayed and we spent the money on other things.
We created a new Meet and Confer category of Limited Benefit Contingency employees who might receive health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act. However, it’s a small number of employees – about 15? – out of all the part-time and adjunct GRCC employees who worked 30 hours or more for GRCC.
For most of our part-time and adjunct employees who would’ve qualified for health care coverage under the ACA, other than the Limited Benefit Contingency employees, we held their hours down or cut their hours to make sure they wouldn’t qualify for ACA health care coverage. So they are double losers: not only do they not receive health care coverage as intended by the law, they lose work. This is shameful.
The cap on hours is based upon a false premise, one that everyone knows is false, which is that adjunct faculty assigned 12 contact hours or less a semester work less than 30 hours a week. I won’t belabor this point; if you want to know how many hours adjunct faculty really put in, ask them to keep track of their hours. Make sure to include the mandatory trainings, the activities they’re “invited” to attend, and their “volunteer” time. This is not just dismissive and insulting to adjuncts. To say that they don’t average 30 hours a week is patently false. Because we know it’s false, yet we subscribe to it, basically we’re lying and the government regulation embraces the lie.
Who are these employees? Some of them are all neediest employees and the ones we need the most – tutors and academic advisors. Others are underemployed adjuncts. According to one faculty member who has applied for Medicaid Insurance for his children, one of our HR employees told him “we do a lot of these” low income verifications for the Department of Human Services. We’re hurting some of the poorest among us.
Some of these employees just want the work hours, not the insurance, because they can’t afford a pay cut. They’re willing to sign affidavits that they won’t ask for GRCC health care coverage. That didn’t matter. We still took from those among us who have the least.
Cutting back hours also hurts employees with student loans because unless they work 30 hours a week they don’t qualify for federal public service loan forgiveness. As put by the adjunct faculty member who pointed that out to me, “this is so disheartening.”
What are the effects on students?
- we lose experienced employees, or at least a number of hours worked by experienced employees, with direct contact with students.
- to do the work of the hours that were cut, we have to hire, train and manage even more employees, employees who need office space, computers, support from HR, IT, administration and other resources, all at a cost we don’t even consider. This makes no sense to me at all. Alternatively, we can try to shift those hours to other employees. Either way, to put it gently, this does not improve employee commitment to GRCC.
What might you do about this? At a minimum, you could ask some questions. For example, why have we granted Affordable Care Act coverage to one small select group of contingency employees and not employees in other work groups? Why can’t we trust employees who will sign statements that they won’t take ACA coverage and just give them the hours they used to work? Is the cost of ACA coverage really more than the cost of adding more employees?
At a maximum you could comply with the intent of the law instead of using the letter of the law to avoid it! Yes, that would mean that your hard budget decisions, and I’m the first to agree with you that they are very hard budget decisions, would be to invest more in people. But isn’t that who and what we are, an institution of people?
You would not be alone if you decided to follow the intent of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Rand Corporation (a non-profit, independent organization), 8.2 million Americans have new employer health insurance since mid-2013, and 7.2 million of those never had health insurance before. This finding debunks the belief that “everyone” is cutting hours to avoid “Obamacare.”
The talk I’ve heard from administrators on this topic is always about costs and expenses, never about investment and value received. Why don’t we focus instead on the human capital we gain for our money – better morale, retention of personnel, and higher productivity and quality?
Minutes from the April 11 Faculty Council meeting are available under the Member Resources link.
- Publication of the new contract is progressing! The first draft has been sent to administration for approval and signatures. Many thanks to everyone who gave time to the proofreading process!
- Budget & dues proposals for 2014-15
- Discussion of the proposed Adjunct Representative council position
- Discussion of the intent of the administration to keep non-tenure employees under the 30 hour cap to avoid offering health coverage under the ACA
From Fred van Hartesveldt, President of the Faculty Association:
Hello, GRCC faculty colleagues:
An ongoing topic of discussion this year at Faculty Council and among Faculty Association officers and negotiating team members has been adjunct faculty representation, communication and work load. We have about 575 adjunct faculty members this semester, more than two adjunct faculty for each full-time faculty member. Adjunct faculty members contribute about a third of the Faculty Association revenue. Faculty Association resources expended for adjunct faculty have grown tremendously. This has been much of the work of only a handful of full-time faculty members – the negotiating team, grievance representatives and myself.
Your Faculty Association officers, negotiating team members and I believe that we can better share the resources and responsibilities of the Faculty Association and improve Faculty Association representation for all faculty. Long-term changes, through changes to the Faculty Constitution, should be considered and decided upon by Faculty Council and the entire Faculty Association membership. If constitutional changes are to be considered, it would take time and under our by-laws can’t be done until next year. However, an immediate option endorsed by the Faculty Association negotiating team and myself is to engage an adjunct faculty member to represent and advocate for adjunct faculty above and beyond the duties of the Faculty Council adjunct representatives. This work will include:
- responding to adjunct requests for information,
- communicating with adjunct faculty,
- representing adjuncts regarding contractual responsibilities, benefits, disciplinary matters and grievances,
- working with the Faculty Council adjunct representatives and periodically reporting to Faculty Council, and
- working with appropriate administrators, Faculty Association officers and negotiating team members regarding adjunct concerns.
This work will start next fall and pay three hours of release time to an adjunct faculty member. If it succeeds or at least shows sufficient promise, the work may continue in the Winter 2015 semester and beyond. My guess is that this work will take several hours a week; the compensation can be adjusted if the actual time is more or less than expected. If you’re an adjunct faculty member interested in doing this paid work in 2014 – 2015, please reply to this email. The pay rate will be the overload rate of the faculty member doing the work, and the work does count towards the cap on work load for adjunct faculty. You’ll be required to keep track of your time and the work you do. This work as yet has no job title; as the work evolves, so might an appropriate title.
The over-riding intent of this is to strengthen the Faculty Association as one group of all faculty by distributing Faculty Association workload, resources and representation to better include adjunct faculty. If it’s a bad idea, it can end as quickly as it begins; whether or not it works, it can inform Faculty Council’s consideration of constitutional changes in 2014 – 2015.
Faculty Council discussed this topic this past Friday, April 11, so feel free to contact your Faculty Council representative about it. This will also be on the agenda for discussion at the Faculty Association meeting on Friday, May 2.
Fred van Hartesveldt
Faculty Association President.
How exciting is that?!
- Adjuncts, take note – Grievance 213 on adjunct bereavement leave has been settled and adjunct faculty are now eligible for bereavement leave!
- GRCC employees may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program which allows some portion of student loan debt to be forgiven. For details, see http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service.
- Enrollment numbers are running low for both Summer 2014 and Fall 2014. Encourage your students to enroll early, enroll often!
Full minutes are available under the Member Resources link…go there now, you know you want to…