(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) ― also known as the Affordable CareAct or ACA ― is the health reform legislation passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. The so-called employer responsibility provision of ACA (ACA § 1511 et seq.) must be implemented by all large employers, including Penn State, in 2014. The employer responsibility provisions primarily affect part-time faculty and staff. Employer penalties will be assessed if Penn State does not offer affordable health care to 95% of its employee population who meet the "full time" employee criteria of ACA.
The issue of calculating hours for part time employees, and the determinaiton of the provision (or no provisions) of benefits for part time employees remains very much a work in progress at Penn State, as it does for most large educational institutions across the nation. Penn State, in concert with its sister universities have chosen to adopt similar approaches for the determination of part time status, and for the benefits no longer available to that class of employee.
In the spirit of shared governance, university administrators determined that it would be useful and appropriate to solicit the input of faculty and others affected by the policy determinations that Penn State would be making with respect to these ACA requirements. The Penn State University faculty Senate obliged with a forensic discussion at its January, 2014 meeting (Implementing the Affordable Care Act at Penn State--Employer Responsibility Provisions and the Part Time Employee).
Here is a link to last month's Senate Record of the forensic discussion, conducted by Profs Larry Backer (previous Chair of the Senate) and Ira Ropson (Chair of Faculty Benefits Committee). The session may be accessed here: http://senate.psu.edu/record/13-14/012814/012814record1.pdf
At session's end, all interested stakeholder were urged to contact our Human Resources personnel and the Senate Faculty Benefits Committee to provide necessary inpiut to help guide the administraiton in choosing the approach it would take, within the limits of its discretion under the ACA, with respect to Part Time Employees.
Among those important stakeholders who have sought to contribute to the discussion has been the Penn State Chapter of the AAUP. This post includes the letter sent by Brian A. Curran, Professor fo Art History at the University Park campus, and president of the new AAUP chapter to Lori Miraldi, Lecturer in Communication Arts and Sciences, and forwarded to Dr. Ropson.
It also includes the gist of the new Treasury Regulations that permit much harsher treatment of part time faculty employees.
If the University chooses the easy path, it might wrap itself in the protections of the Treasury regulations and create a substantial class of exploitable academics who would contribute to better operating margins for the benefits of students being outfitted for maximizing their value to wage labor markets. But it might be possible for the University to protect its financial position and deliver quality sustainable instruction without the need for the sort of exploitation the state now would permit. It is to be hoped that Ms. Susan Basso, Penn State Vice President for Human Resources, and her colleagues at other large public institutions, would take the higher road. But that remains to be seen.
Michelle kindly forward your e-mail to me regarding the ACA and its implications for part-time and fixed term faculty.
This is my personal response to your inquiry, based on my own reading of the AAUP position, which can be accessed here: http://www.aaup.org/news/affordable-care-act-and-part-time-faculty
After reading your note, what stands out for me is this statement:
"The current ratio being discussed is that each credit hour = 3 hours worked. So, someone teaching 9 credits in a semester would be thought to work 27 hours/week."
Before proceeding to measure this calculation against the AAUP Statement on the subject, I would first like to ask for clarification as to where this ratio is coming from in the first place?
I ask because it is hard for me to imagine that any faculty member, in any division, would agree with this formulation.
First, a a general rule, there is the fact that many professors on the tenure-track here at Penn Sate hold a per semester teaching load of six credits (2 classes) per semester.
To this are added any number of other instructional or educational activities, including course prep, grading, independent studies, advising, directed thesis research for undergrads, Masters, and PhD students, writing letters of recommendation, ad infinitum.
This does not even include required professional service and scholarship.
In my college, for at least the past decade, adjunct/fixed term and visiting instructors/professors generally end up with a 2/3 or 3/3 load.
One example from last semester was a visiting assistant professor teaching 3 classes, two of them with hundreds of students, involving two teams of multiple TAS, ending up with at least ten graduate teaching assistants working with this one professor.
Work on these kinds of classes necessarily requires weekly TA meetings (at last one hour a week per curse, times three in this case) in addition to the three hours plus hours of actual class time, making it four a piece for the three classes. When you add course prep and grading, this calculates, by my estimate, to at least 40 hours a week.
And this is how the time spent, to which we would, of course, add the amount of time devoted to to departmental, college, and university service, scholarship and research, professional activities, mentoring individual students, thesis advising , etc.
Indeed, every semester, by dictate of the PA State Legislature, faulty are required to fill out the FACULTY ACTIVITY REPORT, accounting for hours spent in these very activities. Mine always exceed the 40-hour mark, and I am sure I am not alone.
Given all of that, it seems to me that the estimate of 9 hours or so for each class per week falls a bit short of the mark.
Now, let's take a look at the AAUP Statement on the matter:
"The AAUP supports guidelines under development by the IRS that explicitly address part-time faculty members, a category of individuals who are often ignored and treated as if they were invisible despite comprising more than half of U.S. faculty positions. Proposed rules issued by the IRS in January don’t provide an exact formula, but they say that employers “must use a reasonable method for crediting hours of service.” They continue:
A method of crediting hours would not be reasonable if it took into account only some of an employee's hours of service with the effect of recharacterizing, as non-fulltime, an employee in a position that traditionally involves more than 30 hours of service per week. For example, it would not be a reasonable method ... [in crediting hours for] ... an instructor, such as an adjunct faculty member, to take into account only classroom or other instruction time and not other hours that are necessary to perform the employee's duties, such as class preparation time.
In addition to class preparation time, the AAUP recommends that institutions consider the following activities when calculating hours of service for part-time faculty members. The list is not comprehensive, but includes activities commonly engaged in by part-time faculty members:
Grading (taking into account class size)
Participating in orientation sessions
Participating in and preparing for departmental or other college meetings
Keeping current in the field (for example, by attending relevant conferences)
Meeting with students or responding to student inquiries
Mentoring students or advising extra-curricular activities or clubs
Participating in accreditation reviews
Colleges and universities should realize the importance of providing health insurance to employees; we call on them to comply with the law and devise fair methods of calculating adjunct faculty hours, methods that fully take into account the many activities in which such faculty members engage. We have been dismayed by news reports of a handful of colleges and universities that have threatened to cut the courseloads of part-time faculty members specifically in order to evade this provision of the law. Such actions are reprehensible, penalizing part-time faculty members both by depriving them access to affordable health care as intended by law and by reducing their income."
Please note some of the details here.
"Keeping current, for example, means not sitting on your laurels, but following the latest, ever-expanding research in your field. Doing this takes time.
Has this requirement (and it is both an expectation and a requirement for any member of the faculty, at any level) been taken into account?
Same goes for the other ones. Indeed, it seems that specific course load, while significant, to be sure, should not be the sole means of determining the work hours REQUIRED of faculty.
Another issue to pay attention to is the threat of cutting hours for fixed-term or so-called part-time faculty in order to evade the health benefit requirements of the new law.
The AAUP statement on this policy is unequivocal: "Such actions are reprehensible," and are in obvious conflict with the intent of the law.
To conclude, I have raised two major points in response to your question:
1. According to the AAUP statement: Class hours alone should not be the determining factor in calculating part-time status.
2. Also according to the AAUP, the cutting of faculty members' hours to avoid provided the benefits called for in the ACA should be considered "reprehensible."
. . . . .
Here are the just released Treasury Department Regulations. Professor Curran rightly notes that by these standards, a fixed-term instructor with a 12-credit hour teaching load would still not be credited with working 30 ours, which is the point where the ACA requires Health Benefits to be provided.
Writing for Inside Higher Education, Clarity on Adjunct Hours, Feb. 11, 2014, Doug Lederman notes:
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Monday released its long-awaited final guidance on how colleges should calculate the hours of adjunct instructors and student workers for purposes of the new federal mandate that employers provide health insurance to those who work more than 30 hours a week.
The upshot of the complicated regulation from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service:
On adjuncts, colleges will be considered on solid ground if they credit instructors for 1 ¼ hours of preparation time for each hour they spend in the classroom, and instructors should be credited for any time they spend in office hours or other required meeting time.
On student workers, the IRS opted to exclude work-study employment from any count of work hours, but the administration declined to provide an exemption for student workers over all. As a result, colleges and universities will be required to provide health insurance to teaching and research assistants who work more than 30 hours a week.
The issues of how to count the hours of part-time instructors and student workers have consumed college officials and faculty groups for much of the last 18 months, ever since it became clear that the Affordable Care Act definition of a full-time employee as working 30 hours or more a week was leading some colleges to limit the hours of adjunct faculty members, so they fell short of the 30-hour mark.
All that the government said in its initial January 2013 guidance about the employer mandate under the health care law was that colleges needed to use "reasonable" methods to count adjuncts' hours.
In federal testimony and at conferences, college administrators and faculty advocates have debated the appropriate definition of "reasonable," with a focus on calculating the time that instructors spend on their jobs beyond their actual hours in the classroom. The American Council on Education, higher education's umbrella association and main lobbying group, proposed a ratio of one hour of outside time for each classroom hour, while many faculty advocates have pushed for a ratio of 2:1 or more.
In its new regulation, published as part of a complex 227-page final rule in today's Federal Register, the government said that it would be too complex to count actual hours, and it rejected proposals to treat instructors as full time only if they were assigned course loads equivalent or close to those of full-time instructors at their institutions.