Part-time faculty at the University of Akron are among those launching a statewide association to help boost adjunct pay and benefits.
The Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association is lobbying for broader bargaining rights for part-timers, who make up about two-thirds of faculty at public universities statewide.
The number is especially high at UA, which has more than 1,000 part-time faculty. Youngstown State leads the state in the number of part-timers.
“Many of the administration don’t understand the burden that part-time faculty labor under,” said Yvonne Bruce, an OPTFA member and senior lecturer in English. “The brunt of the teaching is on part-time faculty.”
Part-time faculty teach anywhere from one course to several, at one campus or more, for a flat fee; do not receive university-paid health care; and don’t help govern the campus, which is coveted in faculty circles.
They are cheap to employ, making about $3,000 for a three-credit course compared to an $83,400 salary for all ranks of full-time faculty at UA, according to a new report by the American Association of University Professors.
One way to equalize that imbalance would be to bargain collectively. So OPTFA supports legislation introduced in the Ohio General Assembly in March that would allow part-time faculty and graduate students to bargain collectively. Current Ohio law does not recognize them as public employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.
Still part-timers often are afraid of speaking up, OPTFA says, out of fear of losing their jobs or not getting as many courses to teach.
That’s what is happening to about 230 UA part-timers. Their workload will be reduced this fall to no more than eight credit hours to ensure they don’t qualify for university-paid health care when the Affordable Care Act begins in January.
When they do lose their jobs, some complain that they’re not eligible for unemployment compensation. So OPTFA is trying to “create [a] critical mass of filings for unemployment compensation,” according to the website.
The group had Kent attorney Nancy Grim lead a webinar on how to apply for unemployment benefits and will hold a “party” at its office in Copley to help others do the same, Bruce said.
UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said the university would not appeal claims for unemployment by part-timers who have an expectation of employment from term to term and whose jobs have been eliminated.
The co-chairs of the organizing committee are April Freely, an assistant lecturer in English at UA, and David Wilder, an art history lecturer at John Carroll University. OPTFA says it has about 50 members statewide.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.