ACC Faculty Pitches Staff Stability Plan
Two-part plan proposes creating 100 new full-time positions
At a time when most higher education establishments are cutting full-time staff, faculty at Austin Community College are proposing that the administration reverse the trend by accepting that part-time staff often work a full schedule.
At the ACC board's April 21 meeting, the Adjunct Faculty Association presented a two-part plan to increase staff stability. It proposes creating 100 new full-time positions by promoting qualified internal candidates. First, the college would hire 50 new instructional associates, splitting their time equally between lecturing and support work in resources like the Learning Labs; second, hire 50 full-time lecturers, teaching four courses a semester and providing a course-worth of service work at either the departmental or college level. All employees would receive health care benefits.
The issue of benefits for adjuncts came to the fore in December, after ACC senior administrators were forced to backpedal from a plan to cut adjunct staff hours to avoid providing them medical coverage as full-time staff (see "ACC Admits Fumbling Obamacare Memo," Jan. 10.) However, that debate simply revealed a more serious underlying employment issue of how teaching in higher ed has become a part-time profession – or rather, that hours worked are calculated in such a parsimonious way that many full-time workers are classified as part-time.
The AFA argues that this is about reclassifying full-time staff inaccurately labeled as part-time. The lectureships would be a completely new position. By contrast, ACC has hired instructional associates since 1999: There were originally 80 such employees, but that number reduced through attrition. Neil Vickers, ACC vice president of finance and budget, said that the administration has not had time to fully assess the plan, but said that it is broadly in line with administration thinking on health care and employee classification. He added that the board has been discussing these issues and while "they're not at the point where there are any recommendations," he expects movement in May or June, to allow any policy revisions to be folded into the 2014-15 budget.
ACC Trustee Tim Mahoney described the discussion as part of a systematic overhaul of how ACC cares for its employees. He said, "In the past, the board review of the budget has been pro forma, but I think that, with this whole discussion of adjunct health care and adjunct definitions, we've become a little more dynamic."
ACCAFT Local 6249 president and adjunct assistant professor C. Marshall Bennett said he was "generally supportive" of the plan for decreasing "the part-time-ification of the work force and the practice of contingent labor." However, he said it still needed work, and he would like to collaborate with staff to create a plan that's acceptable to employees and fits into the college's budget. The union has a May 5 meeting scheduled with ACC President Richard Rhodes, and Marshall said he expects the issue to be raised then.