Friday, July 18, 2008


Release Time and Double Dipping

If you're a full-time faculty member, and you get a courseload reduction in exchange for taking on some extra non-classroom assignment – be it chairing a department, working on a self-study, or whatever – are you 'double dipping' if you then teach the released course anyway for extra pay?

I've always thought not, but some folks around here are quite adamant that you are.

The argument that it's double dipping rests on a literal reading of 'course reduction.' At most cc's, the standard f-t teaching load is fifteen credits, which typically means five classes in most disciplines. (Disciplines with lots of lab or studio time work out differently.) Say you get three credits, or one class, subtracted from your load in order to make room for some extra task. So far, nothing extraordinary; the true cost to the college is what they'll have to pay the adjunct who picks up the class you aren't teaching. Since adjuncts are paid so poorly, that's not very much.

Suppose now that instead of dropping the released class, you agree to teach it yourself on top of everything else you're doing, in exchange for extra pay in the amount of what an adjunct would have made. So if an adjunct would have made $2000 for the class, you make an extra $2000. From the college's perspective, the money is the same either way, so financially it's a wash. Whether you get the two grand or the adjunct does, the bottom line for the college is the same.

(I know that's not entirely true, since retirement account contributions are usually percentages of pay, but we're talking very low numbers here.)

In effect, the college is getting full-time faculty to pick up small administrative tasks at adjunct rates. That's a pretty good deal for the college. You'd think that, from an institutional perspective, this would be a no-brainer.

Apparently not.

I've heard arguments recently that release time shouldn't count towards overloads, since that turns one benefit (time) into two (time and money). So if you get three credits of release time, you shouldn't be allowed to teach the full fifteen. Some journalists seem to hold this view, judging by the fairly cavalier use of a loaded term like 'double dipping.' The double dipping charge only makes sense if you don't include the money you would have paid someone else to pick up the class. If you're running the class anyway, someone has to teach it, and whether it's Bob or Jen who gets the adjunct rate makes no financial difference.

I must be missing something.

Wise and worldly readers – am I missing something here? How does this work on your campus?

If I had to debate the other side, one of my core arguments would be that the reduction in course hours is because otherwise you wouldn't have enough time to adequately prepare for your other responsibilities. The argument only works if the university refuses to allow professors that are actually taking the full load to take on an additional course at adjunct pay (i.e. 18 hours). Not that I agree with it. To me, it is your time, do what you want with it.
DD, you aren't missing a thing. "Double Dipping" is typically used when someone is getting paid TWICE for ONE job. For example, someone who is collecting retirement benefits, who then comes back to work at the job they just retired from. In the scenario you use, the individual is getting paid for TWO jobs (admin and the course).

You are probably running into static by the miserables who want to get by with doing the very least. They throw rocks at those of us who want to work hard, distinguish ourselves, and move up the ladder.
No, DD, THEY are missing something. In addition to the fact that they are getting the admin work done on the cheap, they're getting the added PR value of being able to scream from the rooftops that more students get the benefit of full-time faculty teaching. At Dream School, those of us who have reassigned time are encourage to work the extra classes and put ourselves into an overload situation -- just for these reasons. I've had some sort of reassigned time since my first year, and I've never been able to use it as a release. Officially, it's an option, but IRL, not so much. But the idea that this is "double dipping" in some way is just preposterous.
The ethics of taking an additional duty in exchange for a reduction in primary workload (supposedly freeing you up to perform that additional duty), and then getting paid extra to *not* perform the additional duty at the level of effort expected should be somewhat obvious.

That's one way to look at it (the ethical way).

You could, of course, rationalize it by arguing that the extra pay to do your primary job (that you should have been doing in the first place) is equivalent to moonlighting, and should fit the same criteria and policies as moonlighting.


It is substantively different from "moonlighting" in that you are essentially hiring yourself for the "outside" work, by quitting that "outside" job and then "hiring" yourself.

The entire issue begs the question of "If you have the time and effort available to do both, why are you getting the release in the first place?"

[This reminds me of my time in the Union (machinists) when we would all participate in a work slowdown- for the express purpose of backing up customer orders so that we could get overtime! That was the first time I ever suffered physical violence for speaking out against an immoral practice . . . ]
If an overload is allowed, what difference does it make if the extra load is a class or administrative duties? Would the people claiming "double dipping" complain if the admin job was the extra assignment on top of a full teaching load? That is, in effect, what is being done in this case.

BTW, our faculty get paid more for an extra class than an adjunct does, so the college loses money on that deal - but gains it back by getting to point to a f-t prof in that class when marketing the college.

I'm pretty sure that one of our chairs has done this and I see nothing in our policies that expressly forbid it. (I'd ask "the folks around here" to point to the college policy that forbids it, just as I'd ask you to point to the one that tacitly or explicitly allows it. If you college doesn't have any policies, you have a different problem than simple faculty ignorance of college policies.)

Our policy is extremely clear that every person given release time for any reason is expected to accomplish the specific objectives assigned to that time and provide an annual written report on same. It is also clear that you must provide a work schedule that accounts for the extra time required beyond that needed for your teaching duties.

Every case where I have thought a person didn't do very much while on release time for professional development was a case where that person also had a relatively light teaching workload (few preps, familiar course, m.c. exams drawn from a massive pool of old exams). For every one of those there are many other cases where the person excels in the classroom and in the extra duties, practically living on campus.

Yacp writes: The ethics of taking an additional duty in exchange for a reduction in primary workload (supposedly freeing you up to perform that additional duty), and then getting paid extra to *not* perform the additional duty at the level of effort expected should be somewhat obvious.

It is also somewhat obvious that an administrator who tolerated a department chair who did not do the assigned job at the level expected was getting paid a *lot* extra while underperforming in his/her assigned duties.
"The entire issue begs the question of "If you have the time and effort available to do both, why are you getting the release in the first place?""

I think this misses some of the point, though. We're all theoretically working the same number of hours -- let us say 50 hours. Now, a lot of the folks I work with have young children at home, so they finish, and they want to head HOME. Be with their kids. Go to T-ball. Fulfill parental obligations that are a full time job in and of themselves.

I, otoh, not only don't have kids, but my husband's a litigator who typically works 60-hour weeks in slow times and 80-hour weeks in busy times. I have ALL KINDS of free time that many people in my department don't have. (Which I fill with volunteer work, but still ....) And moreover, because he does complex corporate litigation, I'm typically able to predict if this particular SEMESTER he'll be working a light or heavy schedule, because a busy phase on one of his cases easily lasts four solid months.

Why shouldn't I take on "moonlighting" or "release time" assignments and work a 60-hour week when I have that time? Should I work 60 or 80 hours for the same pay as my 50-hour colleagues just because I have more time available? That seems ridiculous. But if I have the time to take on extra work, why shouldn't I do so and get paid for it?

If someone takes on extra work and their work suffers, that's a problem. But if someone has the time and energy to do the extra work at the same quality level, what's the problem?
Confused Professor,

Your logic seems a little confused to me as well. The release time in this scenario is being offered for extra duties, i.e., duties above and beyond what the faculty member is being paid for. If no release time is taken (which is essentially what's going on if the faculty member takes the released course back), why shouldn't the faculty member be paid extra? You say, "If you have the time and effort available to do both, why are you getting the release in the first place?", which implies that any extra duties that an employee is physically able to complete should be piled on by administration with no extra compensation. If a faculty member with a 5-5 load agrees to pick up an extra class, is it appropriate then for administration to say "Well, if you have the time and effort available to teach six classes, why should we pay you extra for doing it?"

This reasoning reminds me of a conversation I had once with an academic VP concerning class sizes. I was arguing that 25 or fewer students was an appropriate size for an English Composition course. "But," she countered, "you can teach thirty, right?"

Not, obviously, quite the same thing, but what if this were the situation:

I get reassigned time (we don't call it "released time: at my institution; that sounds bad)) and so teach one less course. And then I pick up a course at a neighboring institution for extra pay.

In terms of work load, it's the say. And let's assume that in terms of compensation it's the same.

Anyone (a) not have trouble with Dean Dan's scenario and (b) have trouble with this one? If so, in 50 words or less, why?
I have seen a few instances in which faculty who have release time and then teach overloads end up slacking on their administrative duties. And others work really hard. After reading these comments it seems to me that at my institution the problem is less with the release time/overload combination, and more with the fact that we don't really audit the time spent on administrative or service duties. We count committees and titles, but we lack a system for evaluating the quality and quantity of service work (e.g., one senior faculty member was outraged when told he could actually be dinged on his annual evaluation for not attending committee meetings). I was initially suspicious of the release time/overload combination, but after reading these comments I wonder, why should someone who wants to invest extra (i.e., personal) time in work not get paid for that time/work, just because someone else is lazy?
Oh, this makes me angry. As a department chair (two departments, actually), I've found myself in the position of having to take extra classes because I can't find adjuncts willing to teach them, and yet I've been told they must run. These are often night or weekend courses for programs that the cc wants to grow, like the weekend college or military programs. And good for them, but as a working mother with two small children at home, I'm hardly benefiting from the system. I'm working my ass off for one of the lowest adjunct rates in the country (hence the adjunct scarcity).
I don't see anything wrong with the get release/pick up an overload situation. More work done, more pay deserved. There's nothing unethical about that and I can't see how that would be "double dipping." (Now, I would argue that it gets to a point where someone has such a heavy workload--say, 18 units of class plus release time--that it's reasonable to think their teaching suffers, but that's a completely different argument.) DD, could you give more of a sense of where you've heard the argument against? I've never really run across it and I'm curious.
Dang it, pronoun agreement error in my post above and no way to correct. Anal-retentive personality requires I post again to point out my mistake!
Prof. de Breeze: The next time you're asked that kind of question by an administrator, ask how many employees he or she supervises. "Thirty? But you could supervise fifty...."
It's called overtime. It's not rocket science to understand. Even an administrator should be able to grok it :-)
I'm pretty sure that around here this situation is handled by basically allowing the faculty member (or staff; doesn't have to be faculty doing this) bank the course leave, rather than by paying them extra. In other words, they trade, for example, a 1-course release today for a full course release tomorrow. But other arrangements can be made, such as paying the extra money as summer salary, depending on the person's appointment (9-month versus 12-month) etc. In the one instance in which I did this, because of the complications of my appointment, the extra pay went directly from the college to my department, rather than to me. Then I used that money to hire a TA, which both relieved me of some of the work and supported a grad student.
I teach high school and we handle it a little differently since we run our lives by period by period rather than having some non-explicitly-scheduled time for research/meetings/using the restroom/etc when we're not teaching or holding office hours. (Probably exact methods of handling release time vary by district, but this is how it works where I am.)

If you have an extra duty (I'll use the example of "State Testing Coordinator" since I've been stuck with that in various forms several times) beyond your normal teaching load, they either give you a "duty period" (a period when you don't teach during the day beyond your usual prep time) or they pay you using an "extra duty contract" since you're presumably going to have to spend your own time after school dealing with the extra responsibility.

It seems like the "duty period" is analogous to the "release time" scenario and the "extra duty contract" is analogous to the "picking up an extra class during your release time" scenario. Either seems reasonable to me as long as the work gets done. One just means that you have less free time, which it does make sense to get paid more for.

Perhaps our system is clearer since we're scheduling the "extra" work outside of the teaching day if we're paying extra for it, but that's a philosophical difference at best in a college situation in which classes run at a wider variety of times so there is less of a fixed teaching day.

(As an aside, I wish they'd EVER let me choose which I wanted, the time or the money, but it's always been predetermined by admin for me.)
Legally in a state institution this may not be allowed. The point is that the teacher is hired as a professional not for a specified workload (union contracts may be different, in which case they would regulate this issue).

To give a concrete and similar example. If you get a federal grant you cannot pay yourself additional money above your institutional base salary, but you can buy out part of your course load to free up time to do the project.
Like the shop steward said:

"It isn't cheating the employer to not do work during the day in order to build up overtime at night. We get teh same work done either way, right?"

Ummm- no.

Just like it is cheating your employer to *not teach a class* in order to get paid esxtra *to teach the class.*

Yeah, right- the extra time you are supposed to be spending *administrating* (instead of *prepping/delivering*) ends up being time spent *prepping and delivering* (instead of administrating.*

Unless you have some kind of Perpetual Effort Machine at yoiur disposal.

Now if you were being paid a piece rate (or at least hourly) I could see how this could make sense. Pay for work and all that (as long as you were putting in a good faith effort, not like the classical union gig.)

But for salaried employees, it just doesn't.
Easy way to solve this problem:

Do you have any folks working a full load who take on an adjunct class in addition to it?

If so, then yes -- it is apparently possible that some people just like to work the 60 hour weeks. If (as I suspect) no, then the folks doing this aren't "double-dipping," they're ghost working. They're taking on the responsibility of administrative tasks without the intention of executing them fully.

The reason I think it's "no" is because I can't see very many faculty valuing their time as low as the hourly wage adjuncts are offered. Outside the odd situation described by the (terrifying) dept. chair above, I doubt very much that you're seeing commitment to "above and beyond." What you are seeing is a tacit statement that release time isn't.
We don't allow it. Usually people (here anyway) ask for release time for a reason, so if they are taking on the extra class for extra pay, then to us that says "I lied, I do have enough time to do the work I am doing and teach these classes"

you can take on extra courses, I do all the time, but you can't if you already asked and got accepted for course release. It works well enough here.
Maybe I'm just missing something here, Yet Another, but what I think you're saying is that the person with release time who teaches an extra class will simply not do the job he or she is supposed to be using release time for. At my place, release time isn't given for some vague reason of "administrating"--it comes with a clear set of expectations and reporting obligations. You're getting out of a class to do a specific set of other duties and you dang well better do them. I just can't see how then picking up another class--"overtime," so so speak--is problematic. I never wanted to do it because I value my free time, but others make a different choice.
Let's say it is "cheating" the university (I think that's a strong word, but...). I can think of any number of examples of good colleagues who do all sorts of things--even exaggerate (knowingly) what they think they will accomplish with their release--to get out of teaching. Or use their technology $, start-up $, other $ for personal use (mostly).

In other words, some of us (many of us) will do what it takes to get a little edge. God knows, the administrators don't feel an ethical twinge when they stock our classes or give us crappy raises that don't keep up with the cost of living.

I say: get what you can--within limits, of course.

On the other hand, I don't see anything wrong with getting paid to do extra work. No one is suffering in this scenario. Now the professor/administrator can pick up an extra couple of bottles of booze for the weekend.
The question came from a CC, so interpreting it as if it was from a university with a 1/1 or 2/2 assignment is quite a stretch. I'll agree 100% that I have not seen "release" time at an R1 university used to do anything but replace a teaching load with something else, and that an overload is not used in those cases. But the only time I have seen an "overload" is when someone taught an extra class one semester in exchange for 100% research in another semester. I have also seen cases where drone researchers teach more than young hotshots.

But they get paid twice what we do at a CC, so hard to complain about the lack of any overtime pay.

At our CC, which is *NOT* governed by a union contract, we have a well-defined workload. A typical load might be defined as 5 classes (3 semester hours each) of 30 students. [Bazillions of rules deal with labs, art classes, trading 1 large lecture for 2 small ones, etc.] Anything more requires additional compensation, and there is a clear policy that sets expectations that you will not shortchange your other 5 classes just to pick up a 6th. Admin duties (beyond a certain level that might be considered normal service) are not a "release" from your teaching duties, they "replace" them. You are expected to do work equivalent to teaching 1 class (or more) of 30 students, each week. If you don't, the Dean carries the burden of identifying and fixing the problem.

I think Yacp is confused by terms that do not mean what the words themselves literally mean.
Plus this seems to involve the structure of how one is paid.

If one is non-exempt, then once a certain point is reached, more work = more time = more money.

If one is exempt, then it breaks down based on the character of the workplace.

If you work somewhere that you can negotiate raises and promotions from your boss by demonstrating that you've taken on more and more responsibility and handled it well, then you would take on extra duties in hopes of getting a raise in the future.

If you work somewhere that raises and promotions are very uncommon and are only loosely tied to your day-to-day job performance, then you're more likely to demand money up front for taking on extra duties.
To non-faculty this is incredibly confusing, however I can see their position. If a faculty member gets release time to complete other duties, theortically they won't have the time to teach another course. If they get extra money (in addition to the time to do those release duties), then decide to take on overloadss it is even worse. I have heard it compared to taking a day off during the week then asking for time and a half to work Saturday.
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