The Austin Chronicle

ACC Adjunct Faculty Sees Progress

By Richard Whittaker, May 23, 2014, News

Austin Community College's adjunct faculty is coming closer to a deal with the board and administration, in a key change to calculating how much work it really takes to run a class.

Current ACC policy says that, including preparation and grading, it takes an adjunct five hours a week to teach a three-and-a-half-hour class. By contrast, a full-time lecturer is paid for eight hours for that same course. Moreover, while an adjunct teaching three courses is not classified as half time, a lecturer is full time with only five. David Albert, government professor and vice president of adjunct faculty for the ACC chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said, "It doesn't really pass the smell test ... They use that same ratio to underpay us." The student pays the same tuition for a credit hour, whether provided by an adjunct or a full-time lecturer, but the adjunct only gets about 70% of the salaried staffers' pay for it. While their hourly rates are the same, the adjunct is calculated to have spent less time teaching. Albert said, "If they use the ratio they're using, you can be teaching three classes and still be under 20 hours. That's absurd."

The 20-hour mark is significant, because that's the point at which adjuncts become eligible for enrollment in the Texas Retirement System, and for ACC's health care coverage. That means many current employees depend on their insured spouse, or just go without insurance.

ACC-AFT's proposal is simple: ACC has to admit how much work adjuncts do. They want ACC to follow federal guidelines that suggest a new ratio for classroom time to total workload, so that three-and-a-half hours of course credit would count as over seven hours of work. That means adjuncts would receive around 90% as much per credit hour as the permanent staff: That differential, Albert explained, reflects the extra administrative duties of full-timers.

There's still a long way to go on the proposal, but Albert expects further discussion during the board's budget meeting on June 2. At the same time, he and his colleagues see positive movement on the plan to create additional hybrid lecturer/support staff posts, known as instructional associates (see "ACC Faculty Pitches Staff Stability Plan," April 25). Outgoing Adjunct Faculty Association secretary Becky Villarreal and representatives of the ACC-AFT recently met with ACC Vice Pres­ident of Finance and Budget Neil Vick­ers. Villarreal said he told her "the college was very much interested in establishing those positions, as well as lectureship positions." There will still be some negotiation with department heads over exact positions, and the union and administration differ on the hiring process. Villarreal said the college wants to make internal appointments, while "we want the adjuncts who work for the college right now to be interviewed and have some competition with each other."

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