Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Part-time faculty want law changed

Ohio prevents them from unionizing

By Kate Macek
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Each Monday morning Terri Maue drives a half an hour to teach her first class at 8:30 a.m. Her day doesn't end until she finishes teaching her evening class at another university at 9 p.m.

        Ms. Maue, who teaches English courses at three universities in southern Ohio, is one of many part-time faculty across the country who have been dubbed “freeway flyers” and “roads scholars.”

        “My favorite term for what I am is the academic equivalent of a migrant worker. I go where the work is and when the work is,” she said.

        Part-timers earn a third to a fourth of the wages of their full-time counterparts and often teach at more than one school to make ends meet. Ms. Maue, who said she earned less than $25,000 last year, has taught at six schools in the last five years.

        “Many times I'm driving to school eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and thinking, "for this I got a doctorate?'” Ms. Maue said.

        Part-timers across Ohio are complaining to legisla tors about low wages, poor working conditions and a state law that prevents them from doing much about it. They say that substituting low-paid part-timers for full-time faculty hurts university undergraduate students the most because part-time teachers have less time to devote to them.

        Ms. Maue says she feels unprepared to assist first-year students in finding the help they need to succeed. She says she works at too many institutions to be familiar with all of their resources.

        Howard Konicov, a calculus teacher at the University of Cincinnati, said there is a link between an increase in part-time staff and decreased retention rates, especially among first-year students.

        Mr. Konicov said the University of Cincinnati's 39.7 percent graduation rate is one of the worst in the nation.

        “In the information econo my of the future, we're going to need educated people. Not graduating half your students has very real costs in terms of quality of life in Ohio,” he said.

        According to laws passed in 1984, part-time university and college faculty are the only public employees in Ohio prohibited from forming unions and negotiating union contracts.

        “Nationwide there's a lot of anger and frustration on the part of part-time faculty, but in Ohio it's an extreme case because they can't do anything about it,” said Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the National Federation of Teachers.

        Horwitz earlier this month called on Gov. Bob Taft and state legislators to examine Ohio's laws on collective bargaining. Washington, California and Illinois have passed laws in recent years increasing pay and benefits for part-time teachers and encouraging the creation of more part-time positions.

        U.S. Department of Education statistics show that part-timers made up 43 percent of the nation's higher education teachers in 1999, compared to 36 percent in 1989.

        At some colleges and universities in Ohio, the ratio of part-time to full-time faculty is as high as 4-to-1, according to Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

        The union says institutions are hiring more part-time teachers to cut costs. “As the economy heads south, as institutions invest more in technology, higher education institutions are finding a need to balance their books on the backs of part-timers,” Horwitz said.

        James Diker, a former full-time professor, says that hiring full-time faculty is an expensive and risky process. Full-time teachers must be paid benefits and, unlike part-timers, cannot be let go on short notice. UC spokesman Greg Hand said part-timers are not necessarily a cheaper work force than regular faculty, citing high turnover rates, and costs of recruiting and training new staff.

        Mr. Hand also said the school's number of part-time faculty has decreased in recent years. In October, UC had 1,719 part-timers, a significant drop from the 2,638 on the payroll in the same month of 1996.

        He said it's not true that universities are replacing full-time faculty with part-time.

        “It might be a trend in certain departments, but the type of faculty you hire, that's not a universi ty decision. That's a decision made by colleges and departments,” Mr. Hand said.

        He said that a department may hire more part-time teachers to stay flexible. “Since (part-timers) aren't tenured, if you don't have enough students, then you can (decide not to) renew part-time faculty. You can't do that with tenure-track faculty.”

        Eleanor Noe, an English teacher at the Raymond Walters College of the University of Cincinnati, said part-time colleagues often leave for full-time jobs or better-paying jobs in business.

        “I've seen very talented teachers leave because they couldn't make a living.”


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