Adjunct instructors received an e-mail from the SC4 human resource department informing the educators they will no longer be able to teach more than ten contact hours or pyramid jobs within the college.
This e-mail represents one of employers’ many reactions to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” It is a response to institutions’ growing need to develop policies in-line with the law before the 2014 deadline.
The proposal states employers with more than 50 employees must provide health benefits for full-time workers or face fines and penalties. A full-time work week would be 30 clock hours, but doesn’t define a way for colleges to determine how contact hours tie in to regular clock hours.
“The IRS issues regulations to tell us what the statutes mean,” said Ken Lord, executive director of human resources and labor relations at SC4, “and the first one that came out said that adjunct faculty positions were to be defined by the academic year.”
The academic year at SC4 is defined by contract as the fall and winter semesters. To reach full-time status, professors must teach at least 14 contact hours per semester, which means the minimum a full-time instructor needs to work during the academic year is 28 contact hours.
Lord says the American Community College Association suggested taking three-fourths of the full load for full-time faculty, which is 10 hours maximum for adjunct instructors.
Shawn Starkey, the executive director of public relations, marketing and legislative affairs for SC4, explained out of 187 adjuncts instructors, 50 of them are currently teaching more than 10 contact hours and 19 of them have other positions in the college.
“Adjuncts are not the only ones to be affected; 14 support staff and 19 administrative staff members will feel the effects of the law.” Starkey said.
Staff opinion is mixed. Many members of the affected staff expressed frustration and concern over the cuts.
“I don’t really know what I am going to do,” one adjunct faculty member, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained, “I’m considering applying at other campuses, but I’m so involved on the SC4 campus that I’m not sure I would be able to handle that.”
Another unnamed staff member expressed her understanding in regards to the policy change: “I am deeply saddened by the effect this has had on many adjunct faculty members, but I understand the need for administration to be careful to avoid harsh fines that would ultimately hurt the entire college.”
Lord does not believe the students will notice a substantial difference, although he did mention the law may initiate the consolidation of certain classes. Also, he stated many full-time instructors will be teaching more contact hours, including department heads.
According to an article published by the American Federation of Teachers, many colleges and universities across the nation are enacting similar policies regarding adjunct and part-time staff.
“I think we’re all disappointed with the law,” Lord said, “it’s unfair to employers and it’s unfair to employees but we have to deal with what the law is and we have to do what is safe for the college.”
Erick J. Fredendall