College Professors Get What They Asked For, Don’t Like It Much

December 1, 2012

Gary Jason

There is an antique saying — no less true for its antiquity — that you need to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.  This came to mind when I read a recent report about what is happening at a Pennsylvania college.

One of President Obama’s most loyal — not to say fawning — constituencies clearly is academia.  His rate of support among collegiate faculty and administrators surely approaches near-unanimity on the typical campus.

This is why the news about the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is so richly ironic.  CCAC has just announced that because of ObamaCare, it will have to slash the hours of 400 of its employees, about half of whom are adjunct instructors.  This is because under the new law, companies and other organizations employing 50 or more employees are required to provide full health care insurance (at high cost, because of a host of new mandates the law includes) for all employees working 30 or more hours a week.  This means that employers have a tremendous incentive — indeed, virtually a gun at their heads — to either cut hours for employees to under 30 hours per week or eliminate workers outright (by outsourcing, offshoring, contracting out, and automating), or to keep the employees under 50 by simply not expanding.

This has led numerous private companies start taking precisely those actions — including Abbot Labs, Applebee’s, Boston Scientific, Covidien, Dana Holding, Darden Restaurants, Kinetic Concepts, Kroger, Lockheed-Martin, Medtronic, New Energy, Papa John’s Pizza, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, TANCOA Janitorial, and Welch Allyn.  For example, major restaurant chains such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster are already moving employees to under 30 hours a week.  Boston Scientific has said that it will lay off 1,400 workers and shift production to China.

So CCAC’s action is no surprise.  At  the end of this year, the college will cut 200 temporary part-time workers’ weekly hours to 25, and 200 adjuncts will see their courses cut from 12 down to 10 units per semester — a drop of 16%.  But by doing this, CCAC will save $6 million it would otherwise have to spend for health insurance.

As John Dziak, head of the CCAC Federation of Teachers, ruefully acknowledged about ObamaCare, “[t]his is one of those times when the best of intentions do not always end up with the best results.”  No joke there.

I suspect that adjunct professors throughout the nation are going to be losing classes throughout this next year, as ObamaCare’s requirements loom.  (In 2014, these requirements become fully in force.)  Massively more adjuncts will lose their health care and see their classes cut back, forcing yet more of them to teach at multiple institutions (to become “freeway fliers,” as the expression goes) even more than they do already.  This will be richly ironic, given their overwhelming support of the man who created the law that will bedevil them.

I don’t make that observation with spite, please note; as an adjunct myself, I both sympathize and empathize with adjunct professors.  But they helped vote Obama in for a second term, and we all will now pay the price.

Gary Jason is a philosophy instructor, a senior editor at Liberty, and the author of Dangerous Thoughts.

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