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?