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C. Montgomery Burns

Yesterday’s edition of Inside Higher Ed brought a story out of Pennsylvania that is both disheartening and a bit embarrassing.

It seems that the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has announced that it will reduce the teaching load of 200 adjunct faculty – the term we use in our CBA is “temporary faculty” – so it could avoid paying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).

There are so many arguments against doing this – from the minimalism of the financial to the general notion of an academic institution as a humane workplace (it’s not like it’s the literal salt mine or coal mine or smelting plant) to the disrespect shown to a highly educated workforce – that it would fill this blog. Most readers don’t need those to be enumerated and analyzed here.

But, once more, CCAC has highlighted the working conditions of temporary faculty; at APSCUF, these same concerns have been front-and-center in our current, two-year-long struggle for a contract. First, PASSHE management wanted to increase temporary work hours without additional compensation (they already only pay partial premiums on health care for those between 6 and 12 hours of workload per semester). Then, after much discussion at the table and with various outside groups, the State System decided in early October to switch their proposal from increased workload to a pay cut of 35 percent! The outcry at this has moved the Chancellor’s team to a new tact: part-time temporaries get no pay increases at all over the course of this contract; the cynical among us suspect many full-timers will, like the CCAC adjuncts, be shifted to part-time to save money.

These days temporary faculty make up about one-third of APSCUF’s faculty bargaining unit. Nationally, contingent, adjunct, or temporary faculty (by whatever name smells as sweet) are now the faculty majority.

It is outrageous for management to treat such a huge portion of our colleagues as itinerant workers, like administrators are C. Montgomery Burns and the highly educated, highly skilled faculty are expendable like Homer Simpson in the nuclear power plant. Our temporary faculty colleagues deserve better.