Thursday, August 12, 2010


Full-Timers with Overloads

This piece in IHE, and its comments, hit home with me. It’s a variation on a dilemma I face every single semester.

Broadly, it’s about the zero-sum truth that if professor X gets assigned a particular class, then it cannot also be assigned to professor Y. When there’s a limited number of sections of a given course or in a given discipline, and they both want the same one, someone has to lose. Determining who has to lose is the enviable job of administration.

Apparently, the solution at Madison Area Technical College has been to allow full-time faculty to load up on overloads first, until they hit a certain ceiling, and then to allow the adjuncts whatever is left. It’s an imperfect solution at best -- not my personal perference, certainly -- but the comments to the piece largely miss the point.

The issue is not that someone has to lose. That will happen in any system. If you increase your percentage of full-time faculty, you will jettison adjuncts to make room for them. If you increase your number of adjuncts, you probably do it by giving them fewer classes each, or as a way to decrease your full-time faculty. If you go with full-on ‘parity,’ you either hike tuition to the moon -- thereby hurting your students -- or you reduce the pay of full-time faculty to some median level, which is sure to be popular. (In the cc world, “administrative bloat” is largely chimerical, and sports just aren’t a big ticket item. We have fewer deans and fewer teams on my campus now than we did just two years ago. Financially, those wells are dry.)

Although overloads are actually quite common, I rarely see them discussed when people talk about adjunct ratios. Full-timers teaching overloads fall between categories. When determining something as basic as “the percentage of classes taught by adjuncts,” how should the overload sections be counted? I have departments in which the overload sections are as plentiful as adjunct sections; depending on how you choose to count them, you could wind up with very different pictures of what’s going on. If the argument is based on perceived quality or health insurance, I’d argue that the full-timers are full-timers. If the argument is based on salary, it’s more context-dependent.

I’ll admit some cognitive dissonance in talking to full-time faculty who manage to complain about their teaching load and then volunteer for overloads simultaneously. From a labor solidarity perspective, I could imagine a good argument for a full-timers’ union to cast a skeptical eye on overloads, since significant and sustained overloads cast some doubt on claims from workload. Folks who teach overloads also tend to be less available for committee meetings, since they’re more likely to be in class at any given time. Others have to do more unpaid labor so they have time to do more paid labor. It doesn’t smell right, and it somewhat discredits the idea that full-timers should be paid more because of their college service. If they aren’t available to do that college service, what, exactly, are we paying for?

I don’t know if there’s an elegant solution to this, but it’s nice to see the issue acknowledged.

Wise and worldly readers, when you ask about a college’s adjunct percentage, how would you could sections taught by full-timers as overloads?

Before you escape, what would happen to the median salary of your full time faculty if you implemented the plan you allude to? I've got a rough idea of what it means at my college, but I don't have access to the kind of budget data you do.

To maintain anonymity, I'd suggest quoting both before and after numbers as a percentage of either the college president or provost, as long as you say which one you use (because there can be a factor of 2 in there at some colleges).

To answer your main question:

At my college, we don't count "overtime" by faculty as if it were a part time job any more than we do for staff. I'm also pretty sure we don't put it in the "adjunct" column of the budget. I'm less clear as to whether we include it when calculating average faculty salaries, but that sometimes varies with the audience.

You didn't address the economic issue. Our full time faculty are paid a bit more for an overload than an adjunct gets, but not even close to the relevant fraction of their full-time pay. That makes f-t faculty the more expensive choice. Is that the case at your CC? However, I would assume most faculty would teach an overload in your proposed model, because health insurance is a fixed cost that inhibits hiring full time faculty.

BTW, most of our overloads are voluntary (young faculty who need to pay off loans or buy a house, older faculty who need to increase their total compensation going into retirement) but some are not. Many, if not most, of our health professions faculty are forced to take on a maximum overload because it is so hard to find qualified (meaning licensed) instructors. And I mean forced. They have a choice between taking an overload or closing down the program and losing their jobs.

That last detail never gets mentioned in your proposal to shift to a lower paid, mostly full-time faculty. Could you run a nursing program with the low salaries required under your plan?
How I'd count overload sections may of may not be interesting. My institution counts them as being taught by full-time faculty.

Different accreditations lead to different outcomes. AACSB, which accredits business schools, does not like overloads, and treats any sustained pattern of using f-t faculty in that was as a problem. So in the business school we do very little of that. And since AACSB also has requirements about the percentage of credit hours taught by f-t, we wind up using a relatively small number of (mostly long-term) adjuncts.

A&S programs face neither restriction. So, absent an institutional drive to reduce overloads, A&S has both al large number of overloads and a large percentage of sections taught by adjuncts. Of late, there's been an institutional move to consolidate some of those overload/adjunct sections into f-t lecturer (i.e., non-tenure-track) jobs (we've added about a dozen of them over the past 5 years).
Incidentally, we count sections taught by f-t staff without faculty appointments as adjunct sections.
I think you must be talking about *paid* overloads. What an interesting concept. Other than summer classes, I was not aware such an animal existed.
Unionization of adjunct is a bit of a tricky subject. What most of them want, particularly the most likely to unionize, is Fulltime Faculty status.

And reorganization won't change enrollment substantially, so there simply won't be enough work to promote them all, even if the money weren't a problem. So it's a virtual guarantee that giving adjunct "what they want" results in half of them losing their job.

About the only way I can see out of this if there are enough adjunct teaching at multiple institutions as adjunct who would consolidate credit hours taught to a single institution. But organizing negotiations between such adjuncts and their employers would make the Six Party Talks look like a cakewalk.
At our CC, full-time faculty indeed have first priority for teaching overload sections, but those sections must be taught outside of regular working hours. This has always made sense to me, as a full-time faculty member is being paid for a full-time job and should not have time to teach another course for extra pay during those job hours. So, many of our full-time faculty teach a course (or two) in the late afternoon or evening.

All overloads are compensated at the same rate as for Adjunct faculty.
At my R-1, full-time faculty/staff on a 9-month salary are compensated for overloads in the regular academic year with reduced loads in other academic years. Flex time, basically, often used to extend a sabbatical by doing an overload in the preceding year. Full-time faculty/staff on a 12-month salary who teach an overload in any semester (including summer) also get a reduced load at another time, plus the "instructor fee" that would be paid to an adjunct goes to their department's general fund. Some 12-month faculty/staff fund TAs this way.

Incidentally, I know a bit about the MATC situation. A core problem there is that adjunct pay is so poor that the college can't even attract grad students from nearby universities (there are at least four in the area, making this an obvious potential pool for gen ed instructors, at least) unless they offer at least a halftime appointment. Waiting tables pays better. So preceding the faculty overload issue is a longstanding complaint about serious underpayment. Giving the extra assignments to faculty first, along with snotty comments about the quality of adjuncts from the college president, were salt in an old, festering wound.
They're counted in their own category as "faculty overloads" and paid at the same rate as an adjunct would get. And there's a maximum number of overloads a faculty member can teach in each academic year.

Maybe a little tangential to your main question, but we also have a substantial number of FT faculty who teach as adjuncts at other institutions. And many of our own adjuncts are also FT faculty at other institutions. FT faculty who teach elsewhere are supposed to notify their dean, and the dean has some contractual ability to request they not teach elsewhere if they are e.g. not doing admin/service work here because of teaching commitments outside, or if they are asking for schedule accommodations here to teach elsewhere. As you can imagine, almost all of this external work goes unreported.
Here, full-time overload is way cheaper than adjunct rate, which has the effect of discouraging faculty from requesting it while simultaneously encouraging deans to pressure faculty to accept it. Funny world, ain't it?
Our required load is 14-16 hours. Any overloads are reimbursed at the same rate as adjuncts. However, we cannot exceed a total of 21 hours per semester. Personally, I teach all available overloads because the base pay is not that great and I really need the money.
My husband is a professor in a University and I have been the shock absorber of his entire very hectic schedule and all. Well teaching is his passion but too bad he is not being paid for that overload. If only he has a choice but their school is really lacking of faculties. Good for those who have enough budget for hiring new faculties.
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