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The struggles of part-time faculty

April 30, 2015

The struggles of part-time faculty

April 30, 2015

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Part-time faculty at colleges and universities work under some pretty surprising conditions. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that nearly 40 percent of part-time faculty in Ohio are living at or near poverty. Often these educators are paid little and receive no benefits and have no job security. Even from one semester to the next, their work can be unpredictable.

That leads to yet another battle for part-time instructors over unemployment compensation (UC). Many part-timers – also known as adjunct professors -- do not apply for unemployment even though they may be eligible for benefits.

Part of the confusion is because special UC rules apply to school employees. Even if they meet the basic UC eligibility requirements, education employees do not qualify if they have “reasonable assurance” of returning to the same or a similar job in the next term. UC eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. Whether someone has “reasonable assurance” depends on the specific facts of the person’s employment situation. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has been clear that if an offer of work is contingent on sufficient funding or enrollment, then there is no reasonable assurance.

Colleges may make offers of continued work, but many offers are contingent on whether the course reaches a particular enrollment threshold, funding, or if full-time faculty have a full course load. Those are factors that can undermine an employment offer and reasonable assurance.

Adjuncts who find themselves without reasonable assurance or with questions about their unemployment status should contact the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service’s office of unemployment compensation. The Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association also provides guidance here.

Times are hard enough for part-time faculty. One in four rely on public assistance programs, according to new research by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. They should not be discouraged from seeking unemployment compensation they are entitled to.

-- Hannah Halbert


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