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February 17, 2015


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Derek Tokaz

I've been re-reading Leo Katz's Why the Law is So Perverse, which discusses loopholes in depth, and it makes me wonder if perhaps universities have developed a clever loophole to avoid fair compensation for their adjunct professors.

Many schools will cap the number of classes an adjunct can teach at around 3 or 4 per year. The idea (presumably) is to keep them as part-time employees so they don't have to provide those pesky, expensive benefits. However, an adjunct teaching 3 classes at a university is in fact working full time. That professor is picking up another 3-4 (sometimes 7) classes at 1-2 other universities.

We couldn't have University A have Professor P teaching 3/3, and University B with Professor Q also teaching 3/3, and not give them benefits. (Probably also have to pay them more than $25k a year, too.) But, the University A can hire P to teach 1/2, and Q to teach 2/1, while University B pays P to teach 2/1 and Q to teach 1/2. Neither university pays out benefits (or a real salary) because neither university has a full time employee.

This looks to exactly fit Katz's definition of a loophole, which is indirectly accomplishing what the law does not allow one to directly accomplish. It'd be interesting to see what employment law solutions there would be to solve this. One possibility might be to require employers to pay a pro-rated benefit equivalent.

That would also fix the problem in other fields of employers cutting employee hours to just below the full time level to avoid benefits since there's no longer a huge added cost once you pass the full-time threshold.

Bridget Crawford

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that of the twelve speakers at a symposium on "inequality," only three speakers are female?

Derek Tokaz

And none of the speakers appear to be racial minorities. However, since the symposium is about income stratification, neither the race nor gender makeup of the panelists would be "ironic."

What is ironic is the apparent lack of income stratification among the group. I suspect that all of the speakers are in the top 20% of incomes, and the majority are in the top 10%. I doubt any of them are using TurboTax Basic this year.


Bridget, I understand and appreciate what you are trying to do here, but think you are being uncharitable.

I have organized a number of conferences and symposia, and sadly, it is difficult to get a diverse group. Most faculties are still predominately male, especially more experienced faculty members and especially in some subject areas.

Also, for the last symposia I helped organize, in the fall, we got immediate acceptances from all of the male speakers we contacted and immediate declines from about 75% of the female speakers we contacted (even though we were planned over 6 months in advance). We were left in a bit of a bind because the next best group of professors, based on expertise and publications, were almost all male. We ended up splitting the baby by inviting some additional male professors and some female professors for the open spots. But the second group of female professors we invited were clearly less qualified and even so we still had a symposia of about 75% male professors. If we had insisted on a 50/50 split, we would have been inviting female professors who had never written a single full-length article in the area.

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