Based on numerous conversations with faculty and the valuable feedback received in the Faculty Climate Appraisal Survey, Stark AAUP and faculty members recently sent the following letter to the SSC President, Provost, Human Resources, and Faculty Association to request official efforts to improve adjunct faculty conditions at our college. We would encourage all members of the SSC community to join us in supporting this important issue.
As you know, the recent Stark AAUP faculty survey revealed a number of areas as distinct opportunities for improvement on our campus. Most notably, the number one choice for primary focus areas among both part-time and full-time faculty respondents was improving conditions for our adjunct faculty. The undersigned faculty members and the Stark AAUP chapter would like to request that our institution address these concerns in an official capacity. An adequate working environment and supporting services are necessary for effective teaching, learning, and service consistent with the College’s mission. To that end, we ask for explicit consideration of the revision of adjunct wages, better access to resources, expansion of options for part-time benefits, creation of a sick-time donation procedure, and elimination of time card reporting.
Stark State College, like many higher education institutions, relies increasingly on part-time faculty. Currently, our own campus data indicate that more than half of our course offerings are taught by adjunct faculty. While the costs of living and of higher education continue to rise, many of those highly qualified and committed educators strive to secure adequate compensation and teaching conditions that meet reasonable expectations and the needs of students. The reality part-time faculty face includes low levels of compensation for their work, appointment on a semester basis with no job security, no access to workplace benefits, limited access to private work spaces or resources, and little representation in decisions that affect both our faculty and students. Fair and respectful treatment of adjunct instructors benefits our entire college, and these inequitable conditions cannot continue to exist for such vital and dedicated members of our community.
Undoubtedly, one of the primary concerns across academia is the low pay rates for adjunct instructors, and Stark State College is no exception. The recent compensation plan meetings included a comparison of adjunct pay rates for a handful of Ohio institutions. However, this presentation notably did not include the usual range of peer institutions used to make comparisons and it emphasized the top range of pay SSC currently offers according to years of service. It was quite disappointing to all of us as faculty to receive the implicit message that our adjuncts are comparatively well-paid thus there will be no further effort to alleviate low compensation. It is also important to note that the method for calculating years of service for compensation purposes keeps many long-time adjuncts from being credited with the length of service which might even marginally increase their wages. At an average of less than $2500 per 3-credit class, it is no surprise that so many of our adjunct faculty must teach across multiple institutions which inevitably makes them less available for students, participation in campus activities, and professional development. The additional lack of benefits places our part-time faculty in an even more precarious situation. Adjunct compensation includes no options for even partial benefits such as health insurance or earned leave time which allow for sickness or emergencies. We ask that the College explore possibilities for a more equitable wage system as well as options for offering a part-time benefits package.
We do realize that college finances are always a concern and will strongly influence decisions made about compensation and benefits. However, there are also items which could be addressed at little to no monetary cost to the college. In the past and more recently, several faculty have asked about the ability to donate earned sick time to individuals or to a “leave bank” which would be available for adjunct instructors. We do not currently have any process or policy in place which would allow for this. It was encouraging to see sick-time donation noted in the recent HR committee minutes with the mention that it would be part of salary discussions. Yet it was equally disappointing that there was no further mention of this issue in the recent compensation plan meetings associated with the results of those discussions. We request that the creation of a sick-time donation procedure remain a priority.
Additionally, in response to the Affordable Care Act, Stark State College instituted a practice of requiring adjunct faculty to submit timecards for hours worked. The College already has policies in place limiting the number of credit/contact hours that can be taught by adjunct faculty and clear contract language regarding limitation of benefits. The timecard requirement is unnecessary and insulting for faculty members, and it is reflective of treating adjunct faculty as disposable employees rather than as educated professionals. We request that the College consider eliminating this practice as soon as possible.
Most importantly, we respectfully request that genuine consideration for all of these issues not become quietly dormant and left unexplored nor limited to behind-closed-doors discussions. If these issues are being actively considered within campus governance efforts, it is not evident nor being communicated widely. We request that SSC please make those discussions more transparent to the college community and available for a broader base of meaningful faculty input.
Stark State College has a stated commitment to value all people, and we support that commitment wholeheartedly. We urge the College to recognize the contributions of all our faculty and to treat adjunct instructors with the respect they merit as valued members of our academic community. We believe that SSC can do better than this, and our adjunct faculty colleagues deserve it.
Thank you for your consideration.