Austin Community College members, adjunct faculty scrutinize unequal pay increases

The Austin Community College Board of Trustees.

The Austin Community College Board of Trustees.

The adoption of Austin Community College's $352 million budget on Monday came with what appeared to be across-the-board 3 percent raises for all employees.

But several adjunct professors pointed out that, in fact, many of the adjunct faculty aren't getting a full 3 percent raise thanks to a 2010 board policy amendment that aimed to put adjunct professors on an equal pay scale with full-time faculty but prevents many adjunct faculty members from getting the full 3 percent raise.

"I’m concerned that adjunct faculty doesn't have a compensation plan as equal or structured as our colleagues," said Don Morris, an ACC adjunct professor, at the ACC board of trustees meeting Monday.

'[The policy] is complicated," said CEO and President Richard Rhodes following an hourlong discussion among the board of trustees Monday.

The policy he's referring to states that adjunct faculty's salary increase is proportional to how many credit hours faculty members teach. So if an adjunct professor teaches what is considered a full course load—20.625 credit hours—they receive a full increase of 1.75 percent plus however much the board votes to give in order to address the higher costs of living—in this case, 1.25 percent. This is comparable to the full-time professor's step increase, which is received yearly assuming the professor teaches full time.

If an adjunct faculty member—who, according to ACC policy, is hired on an as-needed basis for direct instruction—does not teach a full course load, the step increase is based on the pay rate per credit hour and the number of credit hours taught, according to the community college's compensation manual.

Some adjunct faculty members have expressed concerns about this for several months, pointing out that adjunct faculty is not compensated for the work it does in the week leading up to the first day of the semester or in the week following the semester's end when grades are due.
"The expectation upon hire [for adjunct faculty] is that you are prepared to teach the course, that you have done the preparations to teach the course and that you have done all your grading and turn it in on time."— Charles Cook, ACC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs

Adjunct Faculty Association President Vanessa Faz said it takes her about a week and a half to develop syllabi, upload student resources to Blackboard—a course management system ACC uses—and generally prepare for the start of the semester, all while not getting compensated.

"That’s a week and a half that I have away from my daughter, my family and my time so I can be ready to go for Day 1," she said.

Neil Vickers, ACC's executive vice president of finance and administration, said full-time faculty members are required to report to work a week before the semester starts, while adjunct faculty members are not.

David Albert, an adjunct professor, said at the board's June meeting that adjunct faculty are paid for 16 weeks of work but work 17.5 weeks a semester.

Traditionally, Rhodes said community colleges pay adjunct faculty one flat rate per credit hour, and those employees receive the full salary increase along with the full-time faculty.

"The expectation upon hire [for adjunct faculty] is that you are prepared to teach the course, that you have done the preparations to teach the course and that you have done all your grading and turn it in on time," said Charles Cook, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "This is common practice throughout higher education at both the university and the community college level."

According to Vickers, about 30 percent of ACC's adjunct faculty members will get the full 3 percent increase because they teach the equivalent of a full-time faculty course load.

He said ACC leads in the amount it pays its adjunct faculty compared to what he calls the "Metro Eight" community colleges in Texas, which include Alamo Community College and Dallas Community College.

A living wage


Part of the 3 percent wage increase was based on a cost-of-living analysis and other economic factors, Vickers said. The study determined an acceptable "living wage" in Austin is $15 an hour, up from $14.23 an hour last year.

An ACC board policy states no employee should be paid less than "the community-accepted level of a 'living wage,'" but as Albert pointed out, even with the 3 percent raise, some employees are still making under $15 an hour.

"I'm really glad that the college has decided to raise its living wage, that’s great," he said. "The problem is, I am concerned that that living wage doesn't seem to actually apply to all employees."

Food workers, for example, make $9.25 an hour, according to ACC's FY 2017 hourly rates by title.

But according to ACC's compensation information manual, living-wage employees are classified as salaried full-time employees.

The discussion raised some concerns among some of the board's newer members, including trustees Sean Hassan and Julie Ann Nitsch.

Hassan called for a more in-depth conversation about the policy, adding that it has been untouched for seven years. He said he also wanted more education around the subject, as he predicted many adjunct faculty members were unaware of the policy and thought they would be getting 3 percent raises.

He said he also wanted more education around the subject, as he predicted many adjunct faculty members were unaware of the policy and thought they would be getting 3 percent raises.

"I think this is a policy that we absolutely need to look into," Nitsch said.


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