By Ruth Conniff
We've learned from hard experience that the moral values of corporate chieftains rarely penetrate deeper than the value of their multimillion-dollar pay packages. But shouldn't we expect more from the chieftains of colleges and universities?
After all, campuses are places of erudition and enlightenment, where we hope students will absorb a bit of our society's deeper ethical principles, including our historic commitment to fairness and egalitarian justice. Yet, community college officials in my town of Austin, Texas, recently issued an edict that could've come straight out of Walmart. The headline on a newspaper story about the college's edict reads: "Adjuncts at ACC face cut in hours/School seeks to avoid paying for health care."
Of nearly 2,000 faculty members at ACC, three-fourths are "adjunct professors" who get low pay and no health care benefits. But the new Obamacare law would've finally given them a break by requiring colleges to provide health coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more a week. But the honchos of ACC -- a school with the word "community" in its name -- have snatched this basic element of human decency out of the adjunct faculty's hands by arbitrarily decreeing that none can work more than 28 hours a week.
That's a double-whammy: Not only are the college chiefs denying needed health care for the people who carry ACC's teaching load, but the sneaky cut in hours means that these poorly-paid professors will also suffer a pay cut. It's is the Walmartization of higher education, and it's happening at all levels all across the country.
Did I mention that ACC provides full health coverage for the college's president and other well-paid administrators who're nixing coverage for the adjuncts? Now isn't that a fine ethical lesson for students to absorb?
Listen to this commentary:
Photo: Flickr user Community College of Vermont, creative commons licensed.