Part-time University of Akron faculty members and their supporters held a rally Wednesday to protest reduced hours. Colleges are limiting hours of adjuncts to avoid paying health care costs that will come under the Affordable Care Act.
Up until a week ago, Chad Delmont had no idea many of his professors earned little money with no health or retirement benefits.
“They make jokes about getting summer jobs, but I didn’t realize they weren’t joking,” said the University of Akron art major from Warren.
Raising awareness was the goal at a rally Wednesday outside the university’s Buchtel Hall by part-time faculty and their supporters.
Co-sponsored by the Ohio Part Time Faculty Association, the group, including faculty from other Northeastern Ohio colleges, spent three hours chanting, marching, and talking to students about their jobs.
The decision to rally, said Matt Williams, vice president of the New Faculty Majority, another co-sponsor that works on behalf of part-time faculty, came after the university decided to limit part-time professors to eight credit hours per semester.
The cuts are the school’s way of dealing with the impending Affordable Care Act, more widely known as Obamacare.
Ron Fields, who teaches at both Akron and Stark State University in Jackson Township, said Stark State made a similar decision last fall, limiting its part-time faculty to 12 credit hours and requiring time sheets to log their hours to insure they stayed below 30 work hours per week.
“Someone’s math is wrong,” said the English professor, who said he works an average of 20 hours per week to teach eight credit hours at Akron.
Fields is finishing his doctorate and will have $250,000 in student loan debt when he is done. He hopes to become a tenured professor, a goal of most, but not all part-time professors.
Lisa Tobin, an English composition professor, teaches four credit hours per semester and likes it that way. She has health insurance through her spouse, but wanted to show support for her co-workers.
“I’m here because so many of them depend on this for a living and it’s not fair. It’s a tough life and they’re very dedicated,” said Tobin.
Some faculty members, she said, considered ways of hiding their identities for fear of retribution, but decided against it.
“We’re trying to put a face on it. What’s next? If we don’t open our mouths now, what’s next for us?”
Evan Chaloupka, a professor who earned his master’s degree at Akron and teaches part time at Lakeland Community, Lake Erie, and Ursuline Colleges, said he works 50 to 60 hours per week teaching 13 credit hours.
“I wanted to raise awareness about the labor structure. Students have no clue,” said Chaloupka, 24.
“If you improve the working conditions for teachers, you improve the learning environment for students.”
STUDENTS WEIGH IN
His friend Seth Pringle, an Akron student, said he is frustrated that many of his professors make what he estimates to be around $12,000 per year.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m in a class with 25 people. One (person’s tuition) pays for the professor’s salary,” he said. “We build a $125 million stadium while our professors are making slightly more than a fast food worker. These are people with master’s degrees barely making it.”
Rory Becker, a student watching the rally, said he took a history class with a part-time professor who was “easily one of the greatest professors” he had ever had.
“It’s a lot of work, for little pay. When someone’s that passionate they deserve more,” he said.
Eileen Korey, the university’s chief communications officer, said the school is adjusting schedules for the fall and has announced to full-time faculty that their course loads will increase. They plan to bring in more guest lecturers and hire more part-time staff.
The university also is accepting and sharing referrals of part-time staff with other colleges.
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University of Akron faculty as of Fall 2012:
Full-time faculty: 810
Part-time faculty: 1,014
Full-time faculty teach a majority or 55 percent of the student credit hours.
Part-time faculty – 40 percent
Graduate assistants – 5 percent