Monday, February 24, 2014

PSU faculty union labor talks hit impasse

PSU faculty union labor talks hit impasse

The union representing more than 1,250 Portland State University faculty declared an impasse Monday morning in its labor contract talks with university administrators.
“It sets us up on a timeline toward a period when we could strike,” says Mary King, an economics professor who leads the PSU local of the American Association of University Professors.
Both sides spent five full days in mediation, plus a sixth full day of one-on-one talks between the top negotiators for PSU and the union, King says. “We’re been negotiating for far too long without making progress.”
PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher says the university is disappointed in the impasse declaration because progress was being made in mediation talks.
"We are confident that a fair and equitable contract settlement can be reached," he says.
PSU administrators have declined to discuss contract specifics during negotiations, saying they’ll leave that to the bargaining table.
The faculty’s existing contract expired last August, though it has been extended by the university during negotiations.
Under state collective bargaining law, the two sides now have a week to submit their final and best offers to the state Employment Relations Board, and “cost out” those proposals, King says. Then the board has a week to publish those proposals.
That triggers a 30-day “cooling off” period. If no settlement is reached by then, PSU would have the right to impose its last contract offer, and the faculty would have the right to go on strike.
There has never been a strike by PSU faculty before, and AAUP has not yet taken a strike vote among its members, King says.
But it’s clear that looming budget cuts have soured relations between PSU administrators and faculty, and the AAUP has complained that academics are being cut at the expense of administrative and athletic spending.
The university’s best salary offer in mediation would not keep pace with inflation, King says. In addition, the faculty is strongly resisting the administration’s attempt to eliminate contract language that assures faculty remain protected by the tenure and promotion policies adopted by the PSU Faculty Senate. The union also is concerned that more and more fulltime and tenured positions are being replaced by short-term and parttime teaching posts.
Despite the impasse declaration, another one-on-one negotiating session is slated for 3 p.m. Monday, King says.
Class registration for PSU's spring term continues as planned, Gallagher says, and the spring term will begin on March 31 as scheduled.
"Our priority is to make sure that students remain on track with their courses and are not interrupted," he says.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators

Posted: Updated: 
The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures.
The disproportionate increase in the number of university staffers who neither teach nor conduct research has continued unabated in more recent years, and slowed only slightly since the start of the economic downturn, during which time colleges and universities have contended that a dearth of resources forced them to sharply raise tuition.
In all, from 1987 until 2011-12—the most recent academic year for which comparable figures are available—universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day, according to the analysis of federal figures, by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in collaboration with the nonprofit, nonpartisan social-science research group the American Institutes for Research.
“There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration,” said Andrew Gillen, a senior researcher at the institutes. “It raises a question of priorities.”
Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.
“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.”
Part-time faculty and teaching assistants now account for half of instructional staffs at colleges and universities, up from one-third in 1987, the figures show.
During the same period, the number of administrators and professional staff has more than doubled. That’s a rate of increase more than twice as fast as the growth in the number of students.
It’s not possible to tell exactly how much the rise in administrators and professional employees has contributed to the increase in the cost of tuition and fees, which has also almost doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1987 at four-year private, nonprofit universities and colleges, according to the College Board. Those costs have also nearly tripled at public four-year universities—a higher price rise than for any other sector of the economy in that period, including healthcare.
But critics say the unrelenting addition of administrators and professional staffs can’t help but to have driven this steep increase.
At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.
“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of theCenter for College Affordability and Productivity.
“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”
The figures are particularly dramatic at private, nonprofit universities, whose numbers of administrators alone have doubled, while their numbers of professional employees have more than doubled.
Rather than improving productivity as measured by the ratio of employees to students, private universities have seen their productivity decline, adding 12 employees per 1,000 full-time students since 1987, the federal figures show.
“While the rest of the economy was shrinking overhead, higher education was investing heavily in more overhead,” said Robert Martin, an economist at Centre College in Kentucky who studies university finance who said staffing per students is a valid way to judge efficiency improvements or declines.
The ratio of nonacademic employees to faculty has also doubled. There are now two nonacademic employees at public and two and a half at private universities and colleges for every one full-time, tenure-track member of the faculty.
“In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate—executives would lose their jobs,” analysts at the financial management firm Bain & Company wrote in a 2012 white paper for its clients and others about administrative spending in higher education.
Universities and university associations blame the increased hiring on such things as government regulations and demands from students and their families—including students who arrive unprepared for college-level work—for such services as remedial education, advising, and mental-health counseling.
“All of those things pile up, and contribute to this increase,” said Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators.
“I think there’s legitimate criticism” of the growth in hiring of administrators and other nonacademic employees, said King. “At the same time, you can’t lay all of the responsibility for that on the universities.”
There are “thousands” of regulations governing the distribution of financial aid alone, he said. “And probably every college or university that’s accredited, they’ve got at least one person with a major portion of their time dedicated to that, and in some cases whole office staffs. These aren’t bad things to do, but somebody’s got to do them.”
Since 1987, universities have also started or expanded departments devoted to marketing, diversity, disability, sustainability, security, environmental health, recruiting, technology, and fundraising, and added new majors and graduate and athletics programs, satellite campuses, and conference centers.
Some of these, they say—such as beefed-up fundraising and marketing offices—pay for themselves, and sustainability efforts save money through energy efficiency.
Others “often show up in student referenda, to build or add services,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “The students vote for them. Students and their families have asked for more, and are paying more to get it.”
Pressure to help students graduate more quickly—or at all—has also driven the increase in professional employees “to try to more effectively serve the students who are coming in today,” Pernsteiner said.
But naysayers point out that the doubling of administrative and professional staffs doesn’t seem to have improved universities’ performance. Since 2002, the proportion of four-year bachelor’s degree-seeking students who graduate within even six years, for instance, has barely inched up, from 55 percent to 58 percent, U.S. Department of Education figures show.
“If we have these huge spikes in student services spending or in other professional categories, we should see improvements in what they do, and I personally haven’t seen that,” Gillen said.
Martin said it’s true that adding services beyond teaching and research is fueling the growth of campus payrolls. But he said universities don’t have to provide those services themselves. “They can outsource them, the way that corporations do.”
To provide such things as security and counseling, said Martin, “You can hire outside firms, on a contract basis with competitive bidding. All these activities are a distraction from what the institution is supposed to be doing.”
Universities and colleges continued adding employees even after the beginning of the economic downturn, though at a slightly slower rate, the federal figures show.
“Institutions have said that they were hurting, so I would have thought that staffing overall would go down,” Desrochers said. “But it didn’t.”
There’s also been a massive hiring boom in central offices of public university systems and universities with more than one campus, according to the figures. The number of employees in central system offices has increased six-fold since 1987, and the number of administrators in them by a factor of more than 34.
One example, the central office of the California State University System, now has abudget bigger than those of three of the system’s 23 campuses.
“None of them have reduced campus administrative burdens at all,” said King, who said he is particularly frustrated by this trend. “They’ve added a layer of bureaucracy, and in 95 percent of the cases it’s an unnecessary bureaucracy and a counterproductive one.”
Centralization has been promoted as a way to reduce costs, but Vedder points out that it has not appeared to reduce the rate of hiring of administrators and professional staffs on campus—or of incessant spikes in tuition.
“It’s almost Orwellian,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll save money if we centralize.’ Then they hire a provost or associate provost or an assistant business manager in charge of shared services, and then that person hires an assistant, and you end up with more people than you started with.”
In higher education, “Everyone now is a chief,” he said. “And there are a lot fewer Indians.”
This story was prepared by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news center based at Boston University and WGBH Radio/TV.

IRS guidance on health care law clarifies formula for counting adjunct hours | Inside Higher Ed

IRS guidance on health care law clarifies formula for counting adjunct hours | Inside Higher Ed

February 11, 2014
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Monday released its long-awaited final guidance on how colleges should calculate the hours of adjunct instructors and student workers for purposes of the new federal mandate that employers provide health insurance to those who work more than 30 hours a week.
The upshot of the complicated regulation from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service:
  • On adjuncts, colleges will be considered on solid ground if they credit instructors for 1 ¼ hours of preparation time for each hour they spend in the classroom, and instructors should be credited for any time they spend in office hours or other required meeting time.
  • On student workers, the IRS opted to exclude work-study employment from any count of work hours, but the administration declined to provide an exemption for student workers over all. As a result, colleges and universities will be required to provide health insurance to teaching and research assistants who work more than 30 hours a week.
Adjunct Hours
The issues of how to count the hours of part-time instructors and student workers have consumed college officials and faculty groups for much of the last 18 months, ever since it became clear that the Affordable Care Act definition of a full-time employee as working 30 hours or more a week was leading some colleges to limit the hours of adjunct faculty members, so they fell short of the 30-hour mark.
All that the government said in its initial January 2013 guidance about the employer mandate under the health care law was that colleges needed to use "reasonable" methods to count adjuncts' hours.
In federal testimony and at conferences, college administrators and faculty advocates have debated the appropriate definition of "reasonable," with a focus on calculating the time that instructors spend on their jobs beyond their actual hours in the classroom. The American Council on Education, higher education's umbrella association and main lobbying group, proposed a ratio of one hour of outside time for each classroom hour, while many faculty advocates have pushed for a ratio of 2:1 or more.
In its new regulation, published as part of a complex 227-page final rule in today's Federal Register, the government said that it would be too complex to count actual hours, and it rejected proposals to treat instructors as full time only if they were assigned course loads equivalent or close to those of full-time instructors at their institutions.
The administration continued to say that given the "wide variation of work patterns, duties, and circumstances" at different colleges, institutions should continue to have a good deal of flexibility in defining what counts as "reasonable."
But in the "interest of predictability and ease of administration in crediting hours of service for purposes" of the health care law, the agencies said, the regulation establishes as "one (but not the only)" reasonable definition a count of 2.25 hours of work for each classroom hour taught. "[I]n addition to crediting an hour of service for each hour teaching in the classroom, this method would credit an additional 1 ¼ hours service" for "related tasks such as class preparation and grading of examinations or papers."
Separately, instructors should also be credited with an hour of service for each additional hour they spend outside of the classroom on duties they are "required to perform (such as required office hours or required attendance at faculty meetings," the regulation states.
The guidance states that the ratio -- which would essentially serve as a "safe harbor" under which institutions can qualify under the law -- "may be relied upon at least through the end of 2015."
By choosing a ratio of 1 ¼ hours of additional service for each classroom hour, the government comes slightly higher than the 1:1 ratio that the higher education associations sought, and quite a bit lower than the ratio of 2:1 or higher promoted by many faculty advocates.
David S. Baime, vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges, praised administration officials for paying "very close attention to the institutional and financial realities that our colleges are facing." He said community colleges appreciated both the continued flexibility and the setting of a safe harbor under which, in the association's initial analysis, "the vast majority of our adjunct faculty, under currernt teaching loads, would not be qualifying" for health insurance, Baime said.
Maria Maisto, president and executive director of New Faculty Majority, said she, too, appreciated that the administration had left lots of room for flexibility, which she hoped would "force a lot of really interesting conversations" on campuses. "I think most people would agree that it is reasonable for employers to actually talk to and involve employees in thinking about how those workers can, and do, perform their work most effectively, and not to simply mandate from above how that work is understood and performed," she added.
Maisto said she was also pleased that the administration appeared to have set the floor for a "reasonable" ratio above the lower 1:1 ratio that the college associations were suggesting.
She envisioned a good deal of confusion on the provision granting an hour of time for all required non-teaching activities, however, noting that her own contract at Cuyahoga Community College requires her to participate in professional development and to respond to students' questions and requests on an "as-needed basis." "How does this regulation account for requirements like that?" she wondered.
Student Workers
The adjunct issue has received most of the higher education-related attention about the employer mandate, but the final regulations have significant implications for campuses that employ significant numbers of undergraduate and graduate students, too.
Higher education groups had urged the administration to exempt student workers altogether from the employer mandate, given that many of them would be covered under the health care law's policies governing student health plans and coverage for those up to age 26 on their parents' policies. The groups also requested an exemption for students involved in work study programs.
The updated guidance grants the latter exemption for hours of work study, given, it states, that "the federal work study program, as a federally subsidized financial aid program, is distinct from traditional employment in that its primary purpose is to advance education."
But all other student work for an educational organization must be counted as hours of service for purposes of the health care mandate, Treasury and IRS said.
Steven Bloom, director of federal relations at the American Council on Education, said higher ed groups thought it made sense to exempt graduate student workers, given that their work as teaching assistants and lab workers is generally treated as part of their education under the Fair Labor Standards Act. He said the new guidance is likely to force institutions that employ graduate students as TAs or research assistants -- and don't currently offer them health insurance as part of their graduate student packages -- to start counting their hours.
The guidance also includes a potentially confounding approach to students who work as interns. The new regulation exempts work conducted by interns as hours of service under the health care employer mandate -- but only "to the extent that the student does not receive, and is not entitled to, payment in connection with those hours."
So in other words, at a time when there is a push to encourage employers to provide paid as opposed to unpaid internships, the new health care guidance appears to let employers off the hook from offering health insurance to interns if they are unpaid -- but not if they are paid.


Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/11/irs-guidance-health-care-law-clarifies-formula-counting-adjunct-hours#ixzz2t2MFICC0
Inside Higher Ed 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Major Steps Forward for Rutgers Non-Tenure Track Faculty | Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Major Steps Forward for Rutgers Non-Tenure Track Faculty | Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Submitted by Rutgers AAUP-AFT on Fri, 01/31/2014 - 17:38
Rutgers faculty today approved a tentative Agreement for full-time non-tenure track (NTT) faculty that includes multi-year contracts, paths to promotion, and titles with greater respect. This Agreement allows Rutgers University’s employment policies to be competitive with its peer institutions in research and will improve the quality of instruction because great teachers will be recruited, recognized and retained.
Rank-and-file members of the union expressed their pleasure that this special round of negotiations has finally come to a successful conclusion. Leon Fraser, Instructor in the Rutgers Business School on the Rutgers-Newark campus for the past seven years, said, “I am pleased that this agreement recognizes NTT faculty for their contributions to students and research at Rutgers as well as their status as true professionals.”
One of the major gains in the new agreement is that “non-renewable” contracts have been abolished. Lecturer Shaheen Ayubi remarked that she is pleased that “NTT faculty will no longer be perennial ‘annuals’ and the administration is no longer allowed to impose a non-renewable contract suddenly without rhyme or reason.” Dr. Ayubi, who has been employed in the Department of Political Science in the Rutgers-Camden campus for five years, added that, “we NTT faculty can look forward to much brighter futures being recognized as major contributors in our departments!”
New title series have been negotiated that create career paths with proper evaluations and promotion potential for state-funded teaching and grant-funded research faculty who are hired off the tenure track. This means that Teaching, Professional Practice, and Librarian faculty will now enjoy career paths alongside those in the existing Clinical and Research title series.
Hundreds of faculty will no longer have to tolerate the title Assistant Instructor—an unused title at peer research universities. This will move Rutgers up in reputation as a quality workplace and a stable learning environment for students.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Free-Speech Rights for Professors

Court Implicitly Rejects WSU’s Argument that “Professional Speech” Does Not Deserve Protection

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals this week denied a second appeal from four Washington State University administrators who wanted the authority to discipline professors who offer alternative plans for restructuring an academic program.

In November, WSU asked the full court to rehear the case after a three-judge panel, led by William A. Fletcher, ruled Sept. 4, 2013, that a 7-Step Plan for improving the Edward R. Murrow School (now a College) of Communication, created in 2007 by then-tenured-associate professor David Demers, deserved First Amendment protection.

In its brief for an en banc rehearing, WSU argued that Demers’ plan was “professional speech” — not speech related to scholarship or teaching — and, therefore, did not deserve constitutional protection.

However, a three-judge panel of the appeals court, in its revised opinion issued Jan. 29, ignored the “professional speech” argument and reiterated that First Amendment protection should be extended to speech that is “related to scholarship and teaching” and deals with “matters of public concern.”

“It may in some cases be difficult to distinguish between what qualifies as speech ‘related to scholarship or teaching,’” lead judge Fletcher wrote in the revised opinion. “ ... But this is not such a case. ... The 7-Step Plan ... was a proposal to implement a change at the Murrow School that, if implemented, would have substantially altered the nature of what was taught at the school, as well as the composition of the faculty that would teach it.”

The plan, which Demers submitted in January 2007, recommended, among other things, that the Murrow School remove one of its non-professional academic programs, give more power to untenured professional faculty, and seek accreditation for the remaining programs in journalism, public relations and advertising. Demers was serving on a School restructure committee when he developed the 7-Step Plan.

Demers filed a free-speech lawsuit in 2010 against then-Murrow Director Erica Austin and three other upper-level administrators, claiming he was punished in annual reviews for proposing the plan and for writing a controversial book.

“‘Related’ appears to be the operative word in the appeals court decision,” Demers said. “It doesn’t matter what role you are playing at a university — teacher, scholar, faculty senator, committee member, or pain-in-the-ass gadfly — if you, as a professor, are speaking on a matter of public concern that is related to teaching and/or research, you are protected from retaliation, according to the court.”

Demers added that “the decision helps preserve the century-old principle of shared governance, which distinguishes academia from virtually every other form of organization in modern society. Shared governance enhances the search for truth and knowledge.”

Since 2006, federal courts have denied free-speech protection seven out of eight times to faculty who, like Demers, spoke in their service-related roles.

The Demers v. Austin et al. case is the sole exception to the rule.

“I hope other federal courts will realize that truth in scholarship and teaching depends not just upon ideas, but on how universities are structured and maintained and how power is distributed.”

WSU has the right to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s not clear whether it will do that.

A copy of the appeal court’s revised opinion is posted here 

Adjuncts Gain Traction With Congressional Attention - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Adjuncts Gain Traction With Congressional Attention - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education