Laws Affecting Part-Time Faculty Surveyed

Article excerpt

"State legislators are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee-in the commuter mugs gripped by part-time faculty zooming from class to class across town," says Ruth Flower, director of AAUP government relations. Flower staffs the Association's Committee on Government Relations, which has set up a subcommittee to study new laws and proposals affecting part-time professors. So far, the subcommittee has compiled a list of about two dozen recent laws and initiatives from more than fifteen states. They show that "legislators are starting to understand the plight of part-time professors," Flower says.

The laws and initiatives identified to date fall into five general categories: pay and benefits, due process, limitations on employment, collective bargaining, and studies.

Pay and Benefits

In California the legislature approved (but didn't fund) an incentive program that encourages counties to provide health-care benefits for part-time faculty members who work at least a 40 percent workload in community colleges. The Vermont legislature, as part of a "living wage" bill, has decided to study a purchasing-pool arrangement for adjunct faculty, employees of nonprofits, and others. A purchasing pool allows employees to buy into a group plan, which purchases health-care services at a reduced rate. A New Jersey bill would permit part-time faculty to buy into the state's health-care system (but without subsidy). And in both Arizona and Connecticut, faculty campaigned several years ago for healthcare coverage for part-time faculty.

Regarding retirement benefits, New Jersey law permits part-time and adjunct faculty who have been renewed for a second-year contract to participate in the state retirement plan, provided that they meet other requirements that apply to all participants. Maine law, on the other hand, permits its state retirement board to deny membership in the state retirement plan to adjuncts and part-time faculty.

Being treated as a professional is just as important to part-time faculty as it is to full-time professors. New California legislation allows counties to apply for state funds to pay for a specified number of office hours for part-time faculty. And an Arkansas statute specifically includes full-time, temporary instructors in a state-funded professional development program, and includes part-time faculty in a modified peer-review process. …