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Chaparral 2013-2014: 22.4 Adjunct Junction

Adjunct Junction (March 2014)

Adjunct Junction: IRS Ruling Update

by Julie Gamberg

Guild Second Vice President-Adjunct Faculty Representative

 

Julie Gamberg

There is a very recent IRS ruling which may directly affect adjunct faculty (particularly those who work in high load areas), but which, I believe, provokes an important discussion about how teaching work is counted and valued, and about the way all faculty are viewed from outside of our institutions.

The IRS final ruling is on how adjunct hours should be calculated by employers when determining whether part-time faculty are entitled to the employer sponsored health benefits that must be offered, under the Affordable Care Act, to employees who work 30 hours or more per week. The ruling contains a small amount of ambiguity and it is unclear how the ruling will be interpreted in community colleges in California; I will continue to follow this and report back. The final ruling states that one “but not the only” (therein the ambiguity) reasonable method that colleges should use when calculating adjunct weekly work hours is to assume that for every hour in the classroom, an additional 75 minutes outside of the classroom is spent in prep and grading. This would affect those teaching more than 13.5 hours per week for one employer. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months, particularly as the IRS has said it may offer “further guidance.”

The good news is that this speaks to a larger national trend of formally acknowledging that college instructors must work more than their classroom teaching hours to ensure student success, often significantly more. Many adjunct and full-time faculty I’ve spoken to at Glendale College find the number – 75 minutes outside of the classroom for every hour in the classroom – quite low. Others have pointed out that loads vary tremendously by discipline, with some disciplines requiring almost no grading time and in this case, the number could be seen as high. We have often seen that decisions made at the federal, state, and local level regarding adjuncts rarely take load into account, as legislators and federal administrators tend to have more experience with, and knowledge of, K-12 teaching.

For those who see the IRS number as unreasonably low, it is important for us to remember that this is a reflection on all faculty. One important takeaway from this ruling is that when any of our teaching work is undervalued, all of our teaching work is undervalued. Sheri Lazare, in an online her comments to this article in “Inside Higher ED”, finds the 75-minute number to be shamefully low, and she links the fate of how part-time faculty is perceived to the fate of how full-time faculty is perceived.

Actually it is a slap in the face of all faculty (full time and adjunct), particularly at a time where lots of complicated preps are being expected to be considered an "excellent" teacher (clicker questions, flipped classrooms, PBL etc. are much more time consuming to prepare than straight lectures). This huge low balling of instructional time feeds into the narrative that professors of all stripes do not work very hard and are taking advantage of an elite system.

Another commenter highlights the danger for full-time faculty in allowing the devaluing of part-time faculty’s work. “And this idea of 1.25 hours of outside work per 1 hour of teaching will further justify administrators' decisions to increase teaching loads on the full-time faculty…”

Glendale College has a wall-to-wall union. Part-time faculty and full-time faculty are represented by the same union because we believe we have the same interests, and we do: fair pay, humane and safe working conditions, and adequate recognition of the demanding work that we do, together, to promote student success.

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