MCC adjunct faculty worried about health care law changes

CRYSTAL LAKE – Proposed work limitations made in response to the Affordable Care Act have hundreds of adjunct faculty members at McHenry County College concerned about their futures.

Beginning in August, the college is set to limit adjunct faculty – responsible for teaching roughly 50 percent of all credit hours – to 12 credit-hour course loads per semester and to restrict them to a single department.

The limits are a response to changes resulting from the Affordable Health Care Act, which would require employees working more than 30 hours a week to receive insurance. Twelve credit hours per semester would equal a 24-hour workweek.

While the 24 credit-hour workload per school year has been in place previously, adjunct professor Peter Ponzio said it did not need to be split evenly between semesters and faculty could supplement their income with work at the Sage Learning Center, Shah Center and other tutoring services that now would be prohibited because of the single supervisor requirement.

Ponzio, president of the college’s adjunct faculty association, said some professors would have 15 credit hours per semester, which would be a 30-hour workweek, or work 10 or more hours in other departments.

“The cases where someone would be teaching 15 credit hours are pretty limited, but in those cases they should receive health insurance,” Ponzio said. “And if a student needs tutoring, what are you going to tell them? I can’t because I’m about to go over hours?”

Tony Miksa, vice president of academic and student affairs, said he did not believe the changes would be problematic and administration would continue to work with the adjunct faculty to find solutions to the single-department concerns.

He said he hoped the new contract that started with the adjunct faculty in 2011 would help offset any lost supplemental income for those who did work long hours in other areas outside of teaching courses. He said the faculty received an 8 percent raise last year and will receive a 9 percent raise this year, though the bumps still only bring the adjunct faculty closer to the state average of their peers.

“We want them to know they are valued ... but we’re not designed here, in terms of our financial institution, to offer health insurance to 300 or 400 adjunct faculty members,” Miksa said.

Ponzio said he was encouraged that the administration has listened to concerns and is willing to re-examine the multiple department issue. He said that while the college’s concern of having multiple supervisors record and track hours is legitimate, losing services from professors such as Beverly Jackson, who also works with special needs students, or Robin Deak, who also trains other adjunct professors, would hurt the students.

Even if it meant skimming back on the supplemental work, Ponzio said, most professors would want to continue their current routines and believed an agreement still could be reached with administration before August.

“I think what we always try to do is cooperate with the college whenever we can,” he said. “I think the board will want to make a decision and have us come together and reach a consensus before August.”

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