Equity and Fairness in Higher Education

Is it time for Ohio to revisit the part-time faculty issue in higher education?

higher-ed-crisisIn Ohio part-time faculty at public institutions are excluded by state law from the definition of employees eligible to bargain collectively. These adjunct or contingency faculties are teaching as much as 70 to 80 percent of the courses offered by some institutions. Until the passage of the Affordable Care Act many of these part-time faculty members did not have good access to health care.

Two bills were introduced in the 128th General Assembly to allow part-time faculty to participate in collective bargaining, House Bill 365 and Senate Bill 129, though they did not pass.

Over the last couple of years a national organization entitled the New Faculty Majority (NFM) has been established to promote quality in higher education and advocate for the rights of part-time higher education faculty. NFM is dedicated to improving the quality of higher education by advancing professional equity and securing academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent faculty.

NFM is committed to creating stable, equitable, sustainable, non-exploitative academic environments that promote more effective teaching, learning, and research. Adjuncts and contingent faculty deserve to be treated with respect, professionalism, and fairness. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.

Overworked, underpaid adjuncts are also bad for students: Professors who don’t have their own offices, often must work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and sometimes find out whether they’re teaching shortly before the semester starts simply cannot devote as much energy and time to their students as they would like. … We should expect universities to pay adjuncts a living wage, give them benefits and some job security, and provide them with the resources they need to do their jobs well.” — L.V. Anderson

Collective bargaining is the way toward this goal.

The Mid-Biennium Review calls for Higher Education funding to be tied to student completion of programs and degrees. Is this fair to our higher institutions, including community colleges?

Over the last few years the administration and legislature has been pushing for a state aid formula that is based more on program completion than upon student enrollment.

Around the nation, many states have reduced or flat-lined state aid to higher education. As a result tuition at public institutions have increased steadily. This has only contributed to the national student debt crisis.

The need to find new affordable methods to finance a college education and provide stable funding to our colleges and universities should be among our top priorities.

One national organization has put forth some suggestions. The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) has called for a nationwide discussion of new ideas to solve the funding crisis in America’s public higher education systems.

The authors of three CFHE working papers have presented their ideas in three papers that suggest

  1. reallocating current governmental expenditures for higher education and eliminating regressive tax breaks in order to provide free higher education to all;
  2. vastly improving funding for higher education through a miniscule tax on financial transactions, and/or
  3. “re-setting” higher education funding to more adequate past levels by making very small adjustments in the median income tax return.

They urge you to review these proposals, all of which rebut institutional claims that there is “no money” available to compensate all faculty equitably, and to help circulate them in communities inside and outside colleges and universities in order to generate discussion of practical solutions to the higher education funding crisis.

Weigh in with your comments below.

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