The New Faculty Majority and its allies at the University of Akron have a point: The top 35 administrators at the university do receive in cash compensation more than half the amount paid to 1,014 part-time faculty members — or $6.4 million v. $11.8 million. More, according to the university, the number of UA administrators has increased, from 304 in 1997 to 596 in 2011.
Worth stressing about these figures isn’t that administrators are paid too much or that there are too many of them (though the topics deserve discussion). Rather, what is striking is the poor compensation of the part-time faculty. They carry 40 percent of the teaching load at the university yet receive a much smaller fraction of the pay.
The expectation isn’t that part-time faculty somehow should be treated like full-time faculty. Their roles are much different. Yet at an average $876 per credit or $2,628 to teach a typical three-credit class, part-timers deserve better for their contribution to the operation of the university and, most important, the education of students.
What triggered the protest was the university’s recent announcement that it would limit the hours of part-time faculty to avoid providing them health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This promises to affect 400 part-timers, cutting into the livelihoods of many who string together teaching assignments across the region.
Make no mistake, the university reached a tough decision, “really assuring its own financial integrity,” as Mike Sherman, the provost, put it. The school faces the task of closing a $26.7 million deficit. In pursuit, it has launched a review of departments and operations to locate savings.
Universities should be pressed to find efficiencies. Notable, too, is that the university hardly is alone, other schools feeling the pinch, the meager pay for part-time faculty a national problem.
University officials long have argued that they have invested in campuses, from improved dorms to upgraded recreational facilities and other amenities, for the benefit of the students. Might the thinking apply to those at the front of the classroom, the pay better reflecting the crucial work? Or to the rate of tuition? Which brings things to the core problem: The state has failed to invest adequately in higher education, leaving universities to maneuver to avoid health costs and to pay part-time faculty a lousy wage.