Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Ask the Administrator: Moonlighting

A new correspondent writes:

I'm in my first tenure track job in my mid-40s. I just got my Ph.D. this last December. College faculty is definitely a "second career" for me. As I was having some trouble landing a job, I was arranging some "fall back" positions with some well-known-distance-learning companies.

I pursued one and not the other. Here I was, in my first gig, trying to do another job and arranging some free-lance journalism jobs from myself.

The job with well-known-distance-educator ended up falling through. I have since made contact with another well-known-distance educator to pursue some part-time employment with them as well as pursuing freelance writing and doing voice work.

Now, the voice work and journalism fall into my area as a communication professor and could make me better at those jobs.

I'm a little coy about letting anyone know about my "job" with the distance educator.

I have known several academics who have "moonlighting" gigs. How do administrative types and chairs and what not feel about that? Is it encouraged? Discouraged? Is it "don't ask, don't tell?" Is it, "as long as you do your job, it's okay?"

I'm not a greedy person, but I do feel I need a little more than my base salary to be comfortable.

I'll open with an admonition to check the faculty handbook and/or union contract at your college. Some colleges have explicit guidelines about this sort of thing, so the kind of general thoughts I'll offer here may or may not apply in any given case. For example, at my college, you couldn't hold another 'full-time' position, but writing, consulting, and short-term gigs are fine as long as you perform well at your main job. (Adjuncting elsewhere is usually okay, but only if you disclose it, and there is a theoretical veto power that I've never actually seen used.) And depending on what you do, some outside gigs could actually make you more effective at your faculty role. Applied work in your field can help you advise students realistically and keep your contacts current, both of which are actually pluses. (For example, we have music faculty who perform professionally, and art faculty who exhibit and sell their own paintings. I don't see anything sinister about either.) From my perspective, a communications professor doing some voice work on the side – how the hell do you get that gig? -- makes all kinds of sense.

In my faculty days, I even adjuncted an advanced class at a nearby university while doing my regular load, with my dean's blessing. He knew that I was chafing under an “all intro classes, all the time” regimen, and needed to stretch a little. He saw it as a sort of faculty development on someone else's dime. I saw it as a breath of fresh air, a chance to scope out another college, and a way to pick up a few bucks. It was tiring, but worthwhile.

The 'tiring' part is the part I'm concerned about. If you had already been doing the full-time faculty thing for a few years and had it down, I wouldn't worry about it. But if you're new to the full-time teaching thing, you haven't yet discovered how much time it takes, and you haven't found any shortcuts yet. In the first year on the new job, if you have the option financially, I'd advise focusing narrowly on the new job. Give it your best, and get established as someone who takes the job seriously. As you start to get the hang of it and discover the shortcuts that work for you, the extra gigs become less risky.

(I've also seen another administrator – not me – take exception to a brand-new full-timer adjuncting elsewhere, precisely on the grounds of 'lost focus.' It struck me as petty, but there it was.)

If you have a trustworthy faculty colleague, you might want to ask her about local history and personalities. Even if the official policy is permissive, you might just have a particular dean or vp who looks askance at these things. I'm embarrassed on behalf of my profession to admit that, but I'd hate to see you unknowingly run afoul of someone's unwritten rule.

Good luck!

Wise and worldly readers – what do you think? What have you seen?

Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

Read your contract.

That is not an admonition, it is a requirement. You are expected to know everything that was in (or implicitly included in) the contract you signed. It could be in college policies or even laws (if a public institution) if yours is not a union shop. In that case, asking HR what policies govern doing outside "voice work" like you did in the past is a safe way to find out what the rules are, but get any answer in writing. If you are in a union shop, your union rep can answer your question, and point to the specific items in the contract that will protect or punish you for those kinds of actions if done outside of established procedures.

I know someone who got away with moonlighting without, AFAICT, reporting it as required, but that is a risky game to play.

And under no circumstances should you use any equipment or network services supplied free by your employer as part of your job to do work for hire for someone else. That goes double if it involves something like distance learning that could very reasonably be construed as competing with your own employer. I suspect that this combination could get even a tenured prof fired faster than the story could get in the newspaper.
What ccphysicist said.

Also. Many institutions will explicitly forbid doing any work for a competing institution, so be careful about that. Some accrediting agencies (AACSB, a business school accreditor, does) have rules designed to limit outside teaching jobs.

My own institution has a "conflict of commitment" policy that, at least in theory, restricts outside employment to (an average of) 8 hours per week. It's not always enforced, but I wouldn't, personally, take the risk.
Yep, definitely check. If you are at a public institution, as I am, there may be additional conflict-of-interest laws that apply. (In my case, I can't have business dealings in an industry my agency regulates. YMMV.)

And, a strong thumbs-up on ccphysicist's advice on not using your employer's resources for side work. In my previous gig, I had explicit, written approval for outside employment, and I still made sure that I took business calls on my cell phone, while on break, and off the premises of my employer.

That's not to say you shouldn't do side work. You should--it is valuable. Just make sure you don't foul your own nest while you're doing it.
When I took a year off from grad school, I had three jobs: adjuncting 2 classes at my alma mater, adjuncting another class at a local cc, and a roughly 3/4 time job as an educational technologist at my alma mater. I had to tell each one because I knew I'd have some weird hours because of it. They were all cool with it, just as long as I didn't try to do work from one job while at the other job. That is, if a student came to see me while I was at my ed tech job, I'd have to count it as a "break." My ed tech boss also knew that I'd have to shuffle my hours on some days because I was giving an exam or something.

I think it's understood that adjuncts are stringing together a few jobs to make ends meet. But I would keep someone informed about the issue.
Everybody's advice about making yourself aware of policies, contractual obligations, etc. is exactly right, so I won't repeat it.

Instead, I want to chime in to emphasize the end of DD's post, where he talks about making the right impression especially in your first year on the tenure track. You want to appear to be committed to your new institution. If you appear to lack commitment, you will make enemies (or at the very least you won't make very many friends) and you need people to think you're great who will be evaluating you for tenure (which includes not only administrators but people within your department and across the university). You do not want colleagues having conversations about you in which they wonder, "I don't even know what service he *does*" or, "Do you notice how she seems to have time for her[insert outside activity here] but not for her students?"

That sort of reaction may or may not be rooted in the reality of your performance. But if people don't know you *before* they know (or suspect) that you're moonlighting, those could well be the conclusions to which they jump about you. I have had tenured colleagues (I am as yet untenured) complain about colleagues who are also untenured in this way in conversations with me, with the implication being that I'm a shoe-in and other people should be a bit more careful. Yes, this is petty and unprofessional behavior on the part of the senior colleagues, but that really doesn't matter, ultimately, in the grand scheme of things. What matters if you're untenured is getting tenure, and if you've got to make nice with petty and unprofessional people to do that, well, that's part of the job.

Academia is political. It is not a meritocracy. It makes sense that you were casting around for back-up gigs before you got hired on the T-T, but now that you are? I'd say that you should spend a little time doing the best possible job you can on the T-T first. Volunteer for service stuff. Do your research (if applicable, depending on tenure requirements). Be an innovative teacher. Get to now your colleagues. Save the moonlighting for when you've solidified all of the above.
As a communication person myself, I get the voice work and freelance writing. It adds cred to what you do and you can bring that into the classroom. We strongly support those things at my school. with the teaching though, I'd check the handbook.
1. Like Everyone else here, read that darned contract and all the rules and regulations concerning free-lancing.

2. And like everyone else, keep your professional lines very, very clean. Don't use any university equipment, materials, etc. for your free-lancing gig. Who needs to be accused of misappropriation of university materials and services?

3. If you're on tenure track at a research institution, you're going to sink your chances at P&T. At my shop, free-lancing is the kiss of death. It would be seen as "you don't take your research career seriously at all," particularly since you're free-lancing right out of the box. You'd have a hard-time surviving reappointment.

4. If money is a serious problem, talk with your chair. Lord knows there might be some additional duties, etc., that you can pick up, that would give you some extra cash AND put some shine on your institutional apple.
I guess I'm going to have to disagree with DD here a bit and say that I don't think it's petty at all for an administrator (or colleagues, for that matter) to look a bit askance at a new FT who wants to continue adjuncting elsewhere. Later on, maybe, but why in the first couple of years? It would make me wonder if the faculty member is trying to maintain a presence at the other institution, perhaps in hopes of a FT job there down the road. I do think teaching at another school often hurts focus, and that's not what I would hope for in a newly hired member of the FT faculty.

Now, I'm saying this assuming that if it's a money issue, the faculty member would be able to pick up additional classes at her new campus. If not, and it's purely a financial need, I'd follow all the good advice about keeping things separate, disclosure, etc.
1. Voice work and freelance writing--would be fine at my public institution with a few caveats. It would have to be reported as outside employment, and it has to meet the limitations of our handbook--generally, it has to be fewer than 8 hours per week, and you either cannot interfere with your current duties and/or show how you have arranged to cover your duties. Of course, on the TT you wouldn't want to have this interfere with your duties, and you certainly wouldn't want to have someone else cover your duties.

Adjuncting elsewhere: At my institution it would be specifically frowned upon from a person on the TT. I personally think its a bad move. The TT position is a full-time position, and the expectation would be that you are putting in full time work on our position.

As an aside, I would also be concerned about whether teaching for a distance ed company would be viewed in a negative light by others. Without getting into the various opinions about whether distance ed is legit, or whether the major distance ed players are legit or not, people in your dept will have opinions. I just recommend against it, myself.

Hope this helps. I second all the others about reading your faculty handbook, contract, etc.
I've worked with "full time" colleagues with second part-time jobs. Some were able to keep them totally separate, but some didn't. Having to cover someone's course (or help their students) when they were "off sick" didn't endear them to me.

In at least one case, after moving to a new school, I was asked my opinion of one of these folks. It wasn't high, and they didn't get the job. Maybe it was petty of me, but OTOH I didn't want to end up doing part of their job again.
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