Part-time faculty at the University of Akron will hold a rally Wednesday to protest the school’s decision to restrict the number of hours they can teach.
Part-timers say the decision to cap their credit hours at eight will keep some of them from qualifying for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
UA is “manipulating its employment roster,” said Matt Williams, vice president of the New Faculty Majority, a rally co-sponsor that works on behalf of part-time faculty nationwide.
“There has been no shortage of criticism of this inequitable and unjust system. The status quo is simply indefensible,” he said.
Since the 1970s, the number of adjuncts has been growing at colleges and universities nationwide. At UA, the number of part-time faculty has grown to more than 1,000, the second-highest level in the state. Only Youngstown State employs more part-timers than UA.
But UA would spend $4 million yearly to provide health insurance to the 400 part-time faculty who typically teach more than eight credit hours each fall.
Chief Financial Officer David Cummins said it would “be reasonable to calculate the average cost of health care at $10,000 per person. It could be that expensive.”
That is money UA doesn’t have, given budgetary pressures, Provost Mike Sherman said.
Still, UA has come up with two ways to provide a “quality education,” he said.
Arts and Sciences Dean Chand Midha has proposed hiring 15 to 20 temporary visiting lecturers in his college, which has the highest numbers of adjuncts at the university.
That would cost UA up to $500,000 a year, in addition to the money the full-time lecturers would have earned as part-time adjuncts, Midha said.
Some of the cost could be allayed by retirements of senior faculty in the next year or so.
By then, the IRS might have ironed out the rules for Obamacare that now are not complete.
Hiring the lecturers “may help us in the long run,” with student success, the university’s No. 1 goal, Midha said. “We always read in the newspapers that more full-time faculty should be in the classroom. This will be the best way to do that.”
Other deans are looking at their budgets to see if they can do the same thing, Sherman said.
“We’re adjusting on the fly,” he said.
UA also is sharing the names of its best adjuncts with nearby colleges and is asking for referrals of their best part-timers, Sherman said.
Meanwhile, organizing a rally — the first for UA part-timers — is something of a feat. Adjuncts usually do not want to rock the boat because they get teaching assignments on a semester-by-semester basis.
“I know they’re going to have a lot of support,” said a longtime adjunct who asked not to be identified. “I hope something positive comes out of it.”
The rally will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. behind Buchtel Hall, east of the Student Union.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.