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Adjunct Professors Try to Cobble Together a Full Workload

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM

The University of Akron.

Evan Chaloupka is an adjunct professor of English at Lakeland Community College.

And Lake Erie Community College.

And Ursuline University.

Like many adjunct professors, Chaloupka has to cobble together a "full time position" between several colleges.

He says he makes a grand total of less than $20,000 annually.

Chaloupka was on WCPN 90.3's The Sound of Ideas this morning to talk about his life as an adjunct professor.

It's a "life of minimalism, really, in any sort of emergency," Chaloupka says. He pointed to a recent car crisis that had him in need of $900, money that in the end his parents supplied.

"Having done the adjunct work cycle now I can’t erase the colleagues that I’ve seen that are cobbling work together and are just struggling in the most basic sense of the word," he says.

Chaloupka will be a full time Ph.D student at Case Western Reserve University next year, and hopes eventually to become a tenured professor.

More than 40 percent of the professors nationwide are part-time, according to the American Association of University Professors.

[audio href="" title="The Sound of Ideas: Adjunct Faculty"]Part-Time Employees Dominate Today's Colleges.[/audio]

As the Akron-Beacon Journal recently reported, the concerns of part-time faculty are further enhanced by an impending ruling about who should receive healthcare benefits:

An Internal Revenue Service ruling is pending that would determine the workload when a part-time instructor would be eligible for health insurance. Some schools estimate that threshold would be at more than nine credit hours a semester. UA is guessing that point would be eight credit hours.

That means about 400 of the school’s 1,014 part-time faculty would see their hours cut in the fall so the university would not be obligated to give them health care, an expense estimated to cost $4 million.

The university already faces a $26.7 million deficit and that figure could reach $30 million without cutting the part-timers’ hours.

The University of Akron declined to participate as a guest on the Sound of Ideas, but they did provide the show with a statement.

In the statement, Media Relations Director Laura Martinez Massie says univeristies, inlcuding the University of Akron, "are struggling to meet the increased demands of the new health care regulations."

"At the same time, public universities are under increased financial pressures for a variety of reasons, including reductions in state funding and the desire to limit tuition increases. We can’t afford to provide millions of dollars in health care coverage for our part-time employees without a significant increase in revenues along with a significant decrease in expenses."

Massie argues that the problem is ultimately one of supply-and-demand.

The University of Akron has a long history of hiring full-time employees from our internal pool of part-time employees.  Part-time faculty have the opportunity to apply and compete for full-time faculty positions—the current faculty chooses the most qualified candidates for the open jobs.  There simply are not enough full-time open positions in academia—so it’s a very competitive market in which supply outstrips demand.


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