Adjunct Faculty Q & A
On September 30, 2013, AFA hosted an information session at the Center for New Media to answer some of the most pressing questions from hourly instructors. Not surprisingly, during the session, many new questions arose. Some questions we were able to address in the moment, but others required more research to answer. In this edition of AFA Update we hope to provide more information in response to these specific questions and concerns raised by adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty can also find a variety of information and resources on the Of Interest to Adjuncts page on the AFA website.
Q: How can I review my paychecks to make sure they are correct?
A: The AFA website offers a variety of information about your pay and how to locate and review your paychecks.
To access your paystub online, go to the HR section of the SRJC website, then, from the choices on the left column, select "Leave Balances/Pay Stubs." You will be prompted to log in using your Outlook username and password. Then a screen will appear listing your leave balances, and near the bottom of the page, you will find a dropdown menu you can use to select the particular pay stub you wish to view. The AFA website archive also includes a breakdown of a 2008 paystub showing the various line items, many of which are still relative.
Q: What is AFA's position on adjuncts performing extra unpaid work (SLOs, Accreditation, Curriculum, etc.)?
A: AFA's position is guided by the principle that no one works for free. If you are being asked to perform duties that fall outside of the specifics of Article 17 of the Contract, you should contact AFA. AFA acknowledges that many contract and adjunct faculty regularly do more than is contractually required, which has led to exhaustion and frustration. The District must acknowledge that SRJC must hire more contract faculty to ease the workload. AFA has published this position several times over the last few years, as the financial crisis has been used by the District as an excuse to ask us all to do more for SRJC without additional pay:
AFA Update November 11, 2011: "Not in Article 17? Just say NO!"
AFA Update, May 7, 2009: "Just Do Your Job—No More, No Less! [PDF]
In 2009, two faculty Dialogues were published on this general topic:
AFA Dialogue, April 29, 2009: "Anchors Away...Or Give them Pay" and "Faculty Work Outcomes: Building on a Legacy of Exhaustion" [PDF]
Q: When will AFA start to work on restoring adjunct pay that was cut due to the loss of categorical funding? Could it be restored from somewhere else (other than categorical funding)?
A: According to Article 26 of the Contract, the District is committed to restoring lost pay: "The District considers any faculty salary freeze or pay reduction to be a temporary, short-term concession to help the District manage a severe financial constraint; furthermore, if the pass-through of categorical adjunct pay, currently known as the 'Enhancement,' is funded fully or in part by the State, the mechanism outlined in paragraph 26.08.E will apply" (26.02.F), which means that the categorical money is automatically applied to the hourly salary schedules. Contract paragraph 26.08.E explains the current mechanisms for modifying salary schedules. The District's position—and the provision that faculty agreed to when we ratified this contract language—is that the original "raises" due to the new Categorical funds would stay in effect only as long as those Categorical funds were available. When the State reduced the Categoricals by approximately two-thirds at the beginning of the current recession, the corresponding enhancement to the hourly salaries was cut by the same amount; likewise, whatever the State restores to the Categoricals will "pass through" to hourly salaries. That is, from the District's point of view, the lost pay will never be "restored" but the "enhancement" on the hourly salary schedules will be increased as the State increases the Categoricals. Also, at the State level, where the decisions regarding Categorical funds are made, many other groups are fighting for a slice of the educational funding pie. The Faculty Association for California Community Colleges (FACCC) represents SRJC adjunct faculty in Sacramento. Representing 10,000 community college faculty, FACCC is a powerful voice for our interests in Sacramento and has a strong record of fighting for our part-time faculty. However, recognizing that more must be done to fight for adjunct pay at the State level, AFA partners with California Community College Independents (CCCI), a consortium of independent bargaining units in the CCC system. CCCI has hired a lobbyist who advocates for community college faculty and tirelessly works to educate legislators about the need for funding for the state's part-time community college faculty.
Q: Why do only adjuncts pay for medical benefits (with 2% taken out of paychecks), even if they do not participate in the medical plans offered by SRJC? Why does the contract reduce all adjunct pay by 2% to fund medical benefits, even if the individual adjunct faculty member does not participate in the medical plans offered by SRJC?
A: For background on the Adjunct Medical Benefits Program (AMBP), see the Fall 2009 Adjunct Medical Benefits Program Initiative Results.
The District has no interest in paying for adjunct faculty medical benefits, but has agreed to participate in the AMBP as a way to offer some form of medical benefit to our adjunct faculty. When the plan began, State categorical funding existed to reimburse the District for its share of the costs (50%). The article noted above explains what has happened in the intervening years: "The District has maintained adherence to the original negotiated agreement about the program (i.e., there would be no cost to the District other than administrative overhead costs). The Board of Trustees has refused to fund any portion of the AMBP premiums on an ongoing basis, and there has been no shift in this position over the last several years. In order to maintain the program in the face of steadily decreasing state reimbursement levels and dramatically increasing medical benefit costs, AFA has negotiated with the District each year to redirect funds from other sources (including the Adjunct Faculty District Activities Fund, the Sabbatical Leave Program, and COLA). These alternatives are now exhausted." The District portion of the AMBP is now entirely funded by the 2% across-the-board fee that all faculty with hourly assignments pay, whether or not they are participants in the AMBP. The future of the program is, of course, uncertain, due to the changes in health care coverage brought about via the Affordable Care Act. It remains to be seen how these changes will affect medical benefits for all faculty.
Q: For some adjunct faculty who also work in other sectors besides education, Social Security benefits are reduced because as teachers they participate in CalSTRS, but don't have full benefits with CalSTRS either. Why can't adjunct faculty have Social Security deducted from paychecks? What options do adjunct faculty have for retirement?
A: As a result of the incorporation of Senate Bill 1466 into law, the State Education Code has been modified to allow employers who offer the CalSTRS Cash Benefit (CB) Plan to negotiate Social Security as a retirement program in order to allow their CB participants to opt out of CB and elect Social Security coverage. However, to offer Social Security as a retirement option would probably mean some other retirement option would be eliminated. In addition, there is some confusion over how much Social Security benefits are decreased due to the "windfall elimination provision" (WEP). In the spring of 2011, AFA polled the adjunct faculty on many topics, including the option of choosing Social Security instead of other retirement plans. The results were that 52% of the respondents were in favor of having the option to choose Social Security as an SRJC retirement plan. AFA did not see these results as a clear mandate, and has not pursued the Social Security option. However, a few adjunct faculty have recently asked about Social Security, so AFA is working with FACCC to schedule an informational workshop that will include a discussion of this topic. Watch your email for an announcement.
Article 24.04 outlines the current retirement options for adjunct faculty, which is also explained on the AFA Adjunct Retirement Benefits webpage.
Q: How do instructors move up the Hourly Salary Schedule—do they automatically move up a step every 2 years they teach, or is movement based on load?
A: Hourly Salary Schedule step movement occurs by completing a certain number of semesters (depending on the step placement) at or above a certain full-time equivalent (FTE) percentage (again, depending on the step placement). Article 27 of the Contract covers salary schedule placement and movement, and section 27.03.B.2 states:
After initial placement on Step 1, step advancement from Step 1 to Step 2 is based solely on completing semester instructional loads of greater [than] 6.7 percent. After initial placement on Step 2 (effective Spring 2008), Step 3 (effective Spring 2010), or Step 4 (effective Spring 2012), step advancement is based solely on completing semester instructional loads of greater than 13 percent FTE, or on submission of documentation for additional step credit at each effective date identified in paragraph 27.03.A.2 and 3. Otherwise, each step beyond Step 2 requires completion of four (4) qualifying semesters. Step placement takes place at the start of each semester.
Again, the AFA website offers an explanation (Hourly Salary Schedule Advancement).
Q: Can adjunct faculty use sick time for professional development days/flex time requirements?
A: Professional Development is covered in Article 22 of the Contract, specifically section 22.03.C.1.c. "An adjunct faculty member who does not complete the required hours of professional development activities for the semester may file a Notice of Absence form." For more information regarding your flex obligation, see the Adjunct Faculty Flex FAQs on the District's Staff Resource Center website.
Q: How are evaluations for online classes different? Is the issue of bias/fairness being tracked by AFA?
A: The Contract does not currently make any special provisions for evaluations for online courses. AFA is aware that some faculty have specific concerns regarding bias and fairness in evaluations for online courses; many of us have seen instances of students abusing faculty in the "virtual" environment, writing things in emails that they would never say to us in person. The possibility that this incivility is creeping into evaluation of online faculty is a reasonable concern. However, because the contract ensures confidentiality in faculty evaluations, it is not possible to track and compare evaluation outcomes for online versus face-to-face classes. As our practices of teaching and evaluating online courses evolve, AFA will continue to seek ways to protect our faculty from verified biases present in online instruction. Of course, if you ever have a concern or question about your own evaluation, do not hesitate to contact the AFA Conciliation Grievance Officer for a confidential consultation.