Faculty responds to hour cuts

In response to Murray State’s limiting of the amount of hours adjunct faculty will be allowed to work per week, the Faculty Senate has passed a resolution expressing its displeasure.

In an effort to avoid providing health insurance for adjunct faculty under the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, universities across the nation, including Murray State, have capped the amount of hours adjunct faculty can work at 30 hours per week.

Kevin Binfield, president of Faculty Senate, said the adjunct faculty currently employed at Murray State have already been informed that they will have their hours cut back for the spring semester. He said the resolution they passed on the first of the month was to express their concern for both the compensation of adjunct faculty and the provision of health care benefits for them. Added to that, he said, they also wished to raise the profile of this issue in the University.

“There are two problems that come from (limiting their hours),” he said. “One problem is that the adjunct faculty are being denied health insurance that should be afforded to them under law, but in the process of structuring their workload so that the University does not have to pay health insurance, the adjunct faculty are actually having their hours cut back so it’s harder for them to afford health insurance on their own.”

Binfield said of the University’s approximately 30 adjunct faculty, faculty paid to teach per course, about half of them depend solely on money made from teaching.

He said some of them make as little as $2,000 per course and as a consequence of their hours being cut will, at most, make about $16,000 a year, putting them just above the poverty line.

Binfield said Interim President Tim Miller has been working hard to protect the adjunct faculty and prevent Murray State from putting more of a burden on them.

Miller said the University is working to identify how many adjunct faculty work at Murray State, how many hours they teach and what courses.

He said using this information, he will systematically begin reinstating adjunct faculty as full-time faculty members through the course of several years, thus providing them with health benefits.

He said the administration cannot process all the adjunct faculty as full-time all at once or they would risk bankrupting the University. It has an idea of how many adjunct faculty are in want of benefits, a plan will be instated to be carried out by the University’s new president.

“If we could generate enough revenues and add five (full-time faculty) a year over a five-year period, eventually, we’d be taking care of the majority of adjuncts,” Miller said. “That’s what I want to do.”

By not limiting the adjunct faculty member’s hours Binfield said it could actually provide a better experience for students.

“If we were keeping adjunct faculty on a better rate of pay and giving them health insurance we would have faculty who are more committed to Murray State instead of driving between Murray State and other colleges to make a living,” he said.

Complicating this issue, however, is the University’s continued search for the $3.3 million needed to balance the 2014-15 budget.

However, Binfield said he is optimistic. He said because of Miller’s concern for this issue he thinks Murray State may buck the trend many universities across the country are setting.

While the ultimate decision will rest with the Board of Regents, Binfield said both Constantine Curris, the head of the Board of Regents, and Miller have been thinking the right things and asking the right questions.

 

Story by Ben Manhanke, Assistant News Editor