Tuesday, September 21, 2010

 

Moonlighting

Should professors with full-time positions at college A be allowed to teach as adjuncts at college B?

According to this story in IHE, the administration at Texas Tech thinks not. It’s calling on some for-profit colleges at which some of its full-timers might also teach to reveal who’s teaching there, to allow for cross-referencing. The idea is to ferret out anyone who’s working at both. (Revealingly, the Texas Tech folk seem to take for granted that adjuncts will do that; it’s only focusing on full-timers.)

According to university policy as cited in the article, full-time employees are supposed to declare in writing if they work anyplace else, in order to prevent any conflicts of interest. (That’s standard in public higher education.)

Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m being obtuse, but I’m not sure why Texas Tech sees a conflict of interest here.

I’ve gone on record many times over the years saying that faculty jobs are jobs. They aren’t higher callings, they aren’t pronouncements of personal worth, and they aren’t declarations that some people are Special. They’re jobs. As such, they involve pay for the performance of certain tasks as outlined and evaluated by the employer.

Assuming that the employee performs those tasks satisfactorily, what else the employee chooses to do on her own time strikes me as her own business.

Admittedly, I can come up with a few exceptions. If a professor sleeps with a student for whom he has grading responsibility, then the fact that it happened outside of class time is no defense. But that’s a logical extension of the work relationship. Why teaching somewhere else would be a conflict of interest isn’t obvious to me. (And since they don’t seem to mind adjuncts doing it, it doesn’t seem to be obvious to them, either.)

Faculty have long moonlighted (moonlit?) as a matter of course. Sometimes it’s by writing, sometimes by teaching, sometimes by consulting, and sometimes by jobs you wouldn’t necessarily expect -- park ranger, bus driver, store owner. (I’ve seen all of those.) As long as they’re performing their full-time job satisfactorily, I’m at a loss to say why I’m entitled to object. And if they’re falling down on the full-time job, the issue isn’t moonlighting; it’s falling down on the job.

One oft-stated objection I hear to limits on overload courses for full-timers is that if they can’t teach here, they’ll just teach at the college down the street. Well, maybe they will; I can only control what I can control. From an institutional standpoint, relying too heavily on any one person is a bad idea, since it concentrates risk. Spreading the courses around a bit deepens the bench, and reduces the exposure if any one person gets sick or quits abruptly. If the professor compensates by teaching down the street, the extra risk falls on the college down the street; it’s the other college’s problem, not mine. I treat it accordingly.

I’ve heard objections from ‘quality,’ but that strikes me as a category mistake. You’ve heard the saying that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Some people can fire on all cylinders and are actually most comfortable when doing so; others can’t. Judging performance by inputs seems backwards to me -- it’s similar to a student complaining that she tried really hard and therefore deserved a better grade. Either you performed or you didn’t. If you can carry a herniating courseload and do it in style, more power to you. If you fall down on the job, I don’t much care that you were ‘faithful’ to one institution.

Lurking beneath the article, and spelled out in the comments, is an implied ‘non-compete’ clause with for-profits. The objection here seems to be that for-profits are uniquely suspect, and therefore the rule should apply especially strongly to them.

Why?

Work is work. If the issue is competition, let’s take that one to court and see how well it holds up. Can police officers work private security? If so, why can’t professors at state schools moonlight at for-profits? Another commenter objected that for-profits are parasitic on the production of knowledge; taken literally, that comment would seem to apply to any teaching-focused institution. Community colleges aren’t hotbeds of disciplinary research. And the whole ‘transparency’ argument seems premised on a falsehood, that non-profits routinely disclose their faculty rosters. We disclose our full-timers, but our part-timers change every semester, and in the schedule their sections are marked “staff,” which is industry standard.

Trying to think through Texas Tech’s position, the only arguments I can imagine in its favor are the anticompetitive one -- the one that should get thrown out of court -- and the category mistake one, which they might try to explain as a side effect of tenure. I have my own objections to tenure, as regular readers know, but this is not the way to address that. Faculty are entitled to private lives, just like everybody else; if they choose to spend some of their private time doing part-time work elsewhere, let them. I don’t see the conflict of interest here. Am I missing something?

Comments:
I can sort of see a potential existence for the possibility of conflict of interest in such a scenario. (Was I equivocal enough?) Let's say that Dr. Smartypants, who is tenured at Institution A and adjuncts on the side for Institution B, wins a grant at Institution A. Part of this grant involves subcontracting or subawarding some work to a nearby facility for X work. Now, say that Institution B is the recipient of this subaward. The conflict of interest lies in that Dr. Smartypants works for both institutions, and might therefore have pulled some shenanigans to get his coworker at Institution B the subaward.

All that said, this is not something that needs to be generally made public. If it is reported in all relevant institutions' significant financial interest disclosure form, as it should be, then that information will be available for reference in case of a potential conflict of interest... but it would be confidential and only available to a select number of individuals. (I work in grants administration, and the above scenario, with a few minor changes, actually happened here.)
 
I think the problem for your perspective about faculty jobs is that monitoring professors' work is so difficult. Sure, you can see if a prof is falling below some minimum standard, but the individual (even isolated) nature of the job means that 95% of the day, my colleagues/bosses don't know what I'm doing. The flip side of this is that it's also hard to recognize when a prof is going above and beyond (unless you think stress and "apparent busyness" are a good guide). If you say "it's just a job, like the guys who hold stop signs at construction projects--do what you have to do to keep the job, then use your extra time to go make money somewhere else," then you'll get faculty who do the minimum. When that happens you administrators will have to spend more of your time observing and evaluating and get less out of your teachers.

The other path is to instill a sense of devotion to the job. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that when individuals cannot receive financial or status rewards/punishments for good/bad work, a sense of purpose can replace that lost motivation. This isn't just academia--Japanese companies like Toyota succeeded in part because of their strategies to instill the idea that making cars was a calling (including a reciprocal devotion to their workers).

The Provost at Texas Tech is trying to insist that his faculty be devoted to Texas Tech. Does he show commensurate devotion to his faculty? Maybe not, but that's a problem with his execution, not with the concept. Is academia really a "calling" like the priesthood or the military? I don't know. I do know, though, that after hearing you talk for years about how difficult it is to provide meaningful evaluation/rewards for tenured faculty, I'm still baffled why you reject a successful strategy for dealing with the problem.
 
Teaching takes time away from research. The busy person argument isn't really valid. It is very easy to get lost in class prep and teaching if you are avoiding research. Texas Tech is a research institution. There's also not being able to do service because of time conflicts.

At our R1, we can do 20% effort (and 100% of summer) elsewhere, that means consulting or teaching or whatever we want. And we do have to declare it. More than that would take away from research, service, and our own teaching more than our school wants.

In a CC research isn't necessarily part of the job, but at a school like Texas Tech, that is an important issue.
 
Texas Tech would like the issue considered from the employer's point of view. I think the troublesome aspect of the for-profits' employment policies as outlined in the IHE article comes when you look from the students' point of view. If the list of faculty is not public, how will a prospective student know that they are applying to a place they will get a good education? Some of these faculty are supervising theses! The students should be able to know that they are getting an education somewhere where the faculty are qualified and professionally active in the areas they are teaching.
 
I can speak to this very personally, as the institution I work for lost a very valuable professor about a year ago when he was granted a tenure-track position at another institution. Previously he had adjuncted at both my institution and this other institution - both of which are private, not-for-profits - and at the time it was never an issue for him. However, once he got a tenure-track position at the other institution and began to take on a larger role at this other institution, then his dean told him that he could no longer moonlight elsewhere. While disappointed, I understood, as I knew the other institution wanted him to be a distinguishing factor that drew students to their institution. Thankfully, once things died down a bit, the dean's stance did soften a bit, and they have allowed him to teach here as long as he limits his teaching to the Summer when his contract at his home institution does not require him to teach there.
 
I was under the impression that I was a salaried employee, not an hourly one. Should I stop grading when the clock hits 40 hours?

I'd say you are missing what the contract says at Texas Tech, and whether it is legally enforceable. Some places require signing a form every year, and false statements on that form can result in losing your job. But you are correct that the major shortcoming here is that the administration at Texas Tech is simply not doing its job of evaluating its employees, so it seeks to pass the blame on to others.

Does Texas Tech require that its faculty report book contracts and have them approved by the university? Does it question significant time spent as a volunteer? Do they even know if classes are meeting?

Does Texas Tech uses any tracking software to see where college owned computers are going, either from campus or from home. Is this guy serious enough to do that, or to hire a private investigator to enroll at Profit U and see who is teaching classes there?
 
Moonlighting does seem fundamentally at odds with the tenure system. In most jobs, moonlighting is allowable, but creates a clear tradeoff against advancement or job retention. In academia, where the employer has minimal recourse against the tenured employee, that employer may be entitled to some formalized dedication in exchange for the generous offer of tenure.

I am not sure academics can have it both ways--as special/tenurable and as traditional wage workers.
 
I think CCPhysicist got my point better than I did. The key distinction is probably salaried vs. wage rather than tenure vs. non-tenure
 
We have a rule like this in the CSU - that you have to declare your outside work. It was a compliance issue for us - our contract prevented us from working more than 125% so they were really more interested in other CSU employment.
 
I think part this is the common view (among faculty) that a full-time tenure-line position is a huge amount of work, close to the maximum that can reasonably be expected of anyone. Combined with the lack of daily oversight, this means moonlighting is prima facie evidence of slacking.
 
If Texas Tech and another institution compete for the same group of students, they are direct competitors. Any institution - any employer, for that matter - would be within its rights to prohibit an employee from simultaneously working for that institution and a competing institution. And any court would uphold this prohibition.

Microsoft, for example, could clearly prohibit an employee from working for Apple while working for MS at the same time, and this would not cause anyone to raise an eyebrow. Institutions of higher ed aren't any different in this regard.

Working for the park service or as a Walmart greeter, on the other hand, is not working for a competitor.
 
I have heard of (and seen documentation of) behavior that constitutes a conflcit of interest.

FT professor at institution A teaches part-time at institution B. At B, he regularly and repeatedly makes derogatory comments about the program and the students at A. (Having heard about this, we checked on Rate Your Professor, where students at B complained about his dumping on A.)

I also know of a case in which a professor working full-time at C regularly missed classes and committee meetings there in order to teach part-time at D.

In general, I am sympathetic to the idea that what I do on my own time is my business (and I used to do a fair amount of cunsulting). But, the behavior I have commented on here seems clearly inappropriate.

And, as has already been noted, the moonlighting gig can constitute working for a competitor. Now, if I have two jobs as a retail sales clerk, the nature of the conflict is vanishingly small. But as a professional, with responsibilities that (at most universities) include some quasi-managerial functions (advising students; developing curriculum and programs; working to promote those programs) the nature of the conflict is greater.

Whether it can be legally prohibited I don't know. But if I were a program administrator, I'd sure discourage it...
 
As a taxpayer this upsets me. I expect that tenured college professor will put their full time energy into teaching students, conducting research and serving the community. That’s why it’s a profession and not a per credit hour job.

The idea that they would do less than that and scoot down the road to earn extra money at another college isn’t acceptable to me as a standard practice. I can see the need to make exceptions to this under some cases. For example they want to make ‘extra’ money to buy a new car/pay off debt. In those cases I’d want the ‘boss’ to be fully aware of the situation to make sure the professor wasn’t short changing the institution. I’m not saying there is no way it could ever be ethical. But I think the risks need to be managed.

But maybe the idea of tenure has outlived it’s usefulness. Maybe a better model is to pay instructors XX/credit hour and done with it. Let researchers do research and get the instruction cost to as low as possible to make college more affordable. In a lot of areas there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of qualified college instructors.
 
I can't say what the college can or cannot do, but full-time faculty should strive to avoid moonlighting. There are exceptions for work that contributes to their development in their discipline (which much writing does), or for extraordinary financial circumstances (e.g., disabled spouse). For the most part, though, they should recognize that they owe loyalty to the institution that provides them extraordinary autonomy, resources for scholarship and, often, permanent employment. Teaching adjunct at another college just doesn't seem right to me.
 
For our university the issue is not professor overload - it's competitiveness of the institution. So no one much cares if a prof picks up say a Math 101 down the road. But if a business prof wanted to teach an upper level course at one of our direct b-school competitors (which include for profits) the university is going to say no.
 
Joe: as a taxpayer, consider voting to fund your institutions such that a full-time faculty member would think it a foolish waste of their time to moonlight.
 
I think the key point dean dad is making is that we should judge professors by outputs and not inputs. If someone has enough talent and energy to do a good job and also moonlight, then more power to them.

I think one of the great draws of the profession is that one's work is minimally micromanaged. As long as good papers are coming out and/or students are being taught well (and whatever administrative or service work work gets done) then how you got from A to B is your business.

Not to mention of course that punishing the talented and energetic by raising the bar for them (by telling them they must devote every productive hour of the day to their job) is just plain unfair.
 
Let me reinforce Punditus Maximus: suppose there have been no salary increases at Tech for some years (there are more than a few state institutions where that's true). Perhaps the rational response of a tenured faculty member is to do less writing or committee work (for which no reward is forthcoming) and pick up a class or two elsewhere, where the reward is forthcoming.
 
PunditusMaximus/Stephen Karlson.

I’ll agree that college professors are underpaid when I hear there’s a shortage of qualified applicants.

The idea that a professor would cut back on committee work, research and service in order to teach elsewhere is exactly why I think outside consulting should be managed and require pre-approval.

I like the idea of independent professionals free to pursue research with impunity. I think in many cases it’s in society’s best interests. But, with the freedom to do that, to be lightly managed, is the expectation that they will be self motivated to work on things that aren’t easily measured. If they’re not going to do that than let’s scrap this model and pay by the credit hour. I think that’s the wrong way to go. But you two appear to disagree with me.


Broadly I agree with the idea that a side job in your free time is OK. But the thing is that someone needs to keep an eye on the situation to make sure the freedom isn’t abused.
 
Joe, the shortage or not of qualified applicants varies by discipline and perhaps by region. I know from having participated in five searches over the past seven years that the pay package and job description my department's college authorizes is not competitive with the departments we recruit against.

I agree that outside consulting is a privilege that ought not be abused.

I also recall the joke from the old USSR: they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. I would not be surprised to see some faculty members supplement their income in unorthodox ways when the university's paymaster stiffs the tenured faculty by freezing pay.
 
One of my nieces took some courses from a place where the teacher was picking up extra money by working a part-time teaching gig outside. The teacher was virtually unavailable outside class, unlike other instructors, because they "had to keep up with the other course".

Not a terribly good situation to be in, as a student, but she didn't dare complain until after the course (instructor had a wicked temper—sounded stressed and sleep-deprived to me).
 
A second comment.

I have moonlighted.

I spent 4 years as an economic development planner in a fairly major city; I also taught part-time (usually 2 courses per semester) at what has since become sort of an R1 university.

No one had a problem with that. My boss in the planning operation encoouraged my teaching gig, because it helped make contacts with people at the university (whom we then drew upon when we needed help). The university was happy to get someone with a PhD and real-world experience.

BUT. If my part-time gig had been working in the planning shop in a smaller city down the road, I suspect it would have been seriously frowned upon (i.e., I would have been fired).

So what's acceptable and what's a hanging offense depends, no?
 
" also recall the joke from the old USSR: they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. I would not be surprised to see some faculty members supplement their income in unorthodox ways when the university's paymaster stiffs the tenured faculty by freezing pay."

I know that happens in private sector as well as public sector jobs. However, if tenured faculty are unhappy with their salary, they should seek alternate employment. If they violate their employment agreement, they should be disciplined.

The idea that tenured faculty are somehow morally entitled to do less work because they don't get a pay raise they believe that they deserve would be offensive if it weren't so ludicrous.
 
If there's one thing an American can now rely on, it's that any discussion at any time can rest firmly on the belief that people should not be paid for the work they do.

That it is, in fact, morally wrong for people to earn a comfortable living for providing skilled services.

I have no idea why the ideals of the poorest and most wretched parts of this country and the world were adopted by the whole, but I can't understand why their proponents would think that people who want to live lives with dignity in them would find them persuasive.
 
@Punditus

"f there's one thing an American can now rely on, it's that any discussion at any time can rest firmly on the belief that people should not be paid for the work they do.

That it is, in fact, morally wrong for people to earn a comfortable living for providing skilled services."

1. No one has made this argument. (On this board...it is a common argument in other places, I agree).

2. Some posters have suggested, however, that people hired to provide skilled services have the right to not perform the services for which they were hired while being entitled to keep the paycheck for which they provided in exchange for performing the aforementioned skilled services, if, in the opinion of the skilled services provider, that paycheck is not sufficient for the provider's needs. There just isn't a right to defraud your employer, nor should there be such a right.
 
It's really not that simple -- the pay change could have come as a result of a slow one-way alteration of the contract, and the decision to withhold work could be part of an ongoing negotiation (or coping) strategy.

Fundamentally, if you don't pay people, you don't get good work. The idea that the labor contract system is equally powerful in both directions, and that there are no transactions costs to changing jobs, is absurd.

Finally, Joe was pretty clear in his opinion regarding how Americans should be paid for their labor.
 
The rules are pretty clear and fairly uniform

1. You can spend up to the equivalent of one day per week consulting. You have to declare the source.

2. Your time during the summer (three months or one quarter) is your own

3. There are strict rules with regard to charging grants for summer research and for released time, mostly it amounts to that you cannot charge for more than 100% time, you cannot take a vacation when being paid from grants and that you cannot write grants while being paid by grants.

Eli supposes that you could teach elsewhere for the equivalent of one day per week but you would have to declare it.
 
Oh, he has to declare it. It's just so pathetic that he views adjuncting as a good use of his time.

This is a warning sign, not yet another opportunity to punch working people.
 
I'm a full time, non-tenure faculty member. My contract also requires me to report outside work. Because we are typically paid 1/2 to 1/3 of what our tenure-track colleagues make, and because the costs of daily life are not pro-rated to our salaries, and because I live in a major university corridor where there are people with lots of money driving up the cost of housing, etc., most of my fellow non-tenure colleagues moonlight one way or another. So do I. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to afford my rent, simple as that. Further, moonlighting is a precautionary strategy to maintain ties in the job market, in the event that we are suddenly let go from our primary (non-tenure) jobs. Simply put, it is a survival strategy.

From time to time, a department chair will try to prohibit one of us from moonlighting, on the theory that it lessens our devotion to the institution. Contract issues aside, I must point out that if any full time employee in any job must moonlight in order to make ends meet or in fear that they're likely to lose their job with no advance warning, there's already a strong possibility that they aren't feeling a lot of love toward their employer. Or at least, that they have seriously mixed emotions. In my case, I would truly LOVE to be able to commit my every working moment to my "home" institution, but since they have not seen fit to show me that same level of devotion (either with a decent salary or with more stable employment horizons), that isn't a realistic option.

I know this is a slightly different perspective than the tenure-track person who moonlights, but let's not forget that there are increasing numbers of full time, non-tenure people teaching in higher ed, too. And these sorts of policies also affect us, often in unintended ways.
 
I agree with the individual who originally posted this blog... the fact of the matter is professors would not moonlight if they did not have to...let's be honest we are all overworked and underpaid. If faculty got paid what we should get paid... perhaps we would not need to Moonlight.
 
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