- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — The University of Maryland system is reviewing an employment practice that keeps as many as 300 full-time and long-term lecturers at five campuses from having the same benefits that most regular, full-time state employees receive, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Throughout the university system, lecturers make up about a third of the full-time instructional work force, the newspaper reported. They are semipermanent, contractual employees who are neither part-time adjuncts nor traditional professors.

“We have a virtually unique situation … a significant and increasing number of full-time faculty who do not receive the same employment benefits, which are provided to the staff who clean the blackboards at the end of the day,” David Parker, chairman of the Council of University System Faculty, recently said before the state’s Board of Regents.

Regent Chairman Clifford M. Kendall, who was surprised by the claim, has asked system staffers to investigate the issue.

An internal investigation was started just days before the release last week of a report by the American Association of University Professors. The report criticized a nationwide trend in which campuses are moving away from hiring traditional professors, whose academic freedoms and work conditions are protected by tenure.

National higher education specialists said they were unaware of other public university systems denying regular employment benefits to their full-time college teachers.

“It is exceptionally rare that a system does not embrace this cohort with a full panoply of benefits that other full-time academic workers receive,” said Richard J. Boris, a political science professor at the City University of New York who studies labor relations in higher education.

Maryland University System Chancellor William Kirwan told the Sun that he was unaware that long-term contractual lecturers were not receiving retirement benefits.

“I think that it would not be appropriate to have people who are for all intents and purposes permanent employees … to be unable to receive some kind of retirement benefit,” he said.

Provosts at Towson and Salisbury, which have employed the highest number of full-time lecturers, said they have been concerned for years about the increased use of such professors.

Tom Jones, Salisbury’s interim provost, said increasing enrollment and tighter budgets in the late 1990s increased the university’s reliance on them.

“We never really expected that a lot of these folks would stay around or stay in these positions,” he said. “But a lot of these folks we hired liked Salisbury, and we liked them, and they stayed on.”

Mr. Jones acknowledged that lecturers’ lower salaries have made them attractive to Salisbury.

Mr. Kirwan said he wouldn’t speculate about what actions might be needed after the system’s review is done. But he indicated that difficult decisions might be necessary.

“There is only so much money, and retirement benefits are not inexpensive,” he said. “So as we address this, it may mean that we can employ fewer people in this category. There can be consequences of doing something good that also means some people won’t have positions. All of this has to be balanced.”

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