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Raises for City Colleges presidents, possible pay cuts for tutors, adjuncts

Donald J. Laackman | Sun-Times files

Donald J. Laackman | Sun-Times files

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Updated: September 20, 2013 6:26AM

While the City Colleges of Chicago continues wrangling with its part-time faculty over possible pay and work-hour cuts, it has awarded its college presidents salary increases ranging from 13.3 percent to 21.4 percent.

The City Colleges Board of Trustees on Aug. 1 approved pay raises that put all of the seven college presidents’ annual salaries at $170,000, a City Colleges spokeswoman confirmed this past week. The raises went into effect on Aug. 5 and are part of the colleges’ 2014 fiscal year budget.

The raises were based on recommendations in a May study by executive-compensation firm Pearl Meyer & Partners, which concluded that the City Colleges’ presidents’ salaries ranked below their peers, City Colleges spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes said. Similar colleges nationally pay their presidents a median $178,000 annually, and Chicago area community colleges pay their executive officers anywhere from $343,000 at Moraine Valley to $221,000 at Elgin Community College, other research showed.

“We have a balanced budget with no tuition or property-tax increase, and we have a healthy operating surplus of $25 million going into fiscal year 2014, so we can invest in academic affairs, student support, infrastructure improvements and the key talent who have helped us deliver an 80 percent increase, to about 4,000, in the number of associate degrees conferred in 2013 — the highest in City Colleges history,” Hayes said.

The salary increases translate into a 13.3 percent raise for Malcolm X College President Anthony Munroe, who was making $150,000, and a 21.4 percent jump for five others who were making $140,000 annually: Donald J. Laackman at Harold Washington College; Jose Aybar at Daley College; Arshele Stevens, interim president at Kennedy-King College; Craig Follins at Olive-Harvey College, and Reagan Romali at Truman College.

The president of Wright College, David Potash, was hired in at a $170,000 yearly salary in July.

The pay raises come nearly two months after City Colleges of Chicago retreated — at least for now — from an effort to force part-time and administrative employees who are both tutors and adjunct instructors to choose between the two jobs.

An employee and union representatives think that effort was meant to keep the employees’ workweek under 30 hours, which could mean they wouldn’t qualify for health-care coverage under the Obama administration’s health-care reform law.

One employee who asked not to be named told the Chicago Sun-Times that 17 people who work as both tutors and adjuncts at Harold Washington College met June 17 with Dean Armen Sarrafian about the issue.

The employee said they were told to choose by fall semester between remaining as adjunct instructors or part-time tutors because they could not continue doing both. None get benefits now.

The employee who spoke to the Sun-Times planned to be fired rather than make a decision that would cut the employee’s pay in half.

The employee gets paid $15.65 an hour for tutoring the maximum limit of 25 hours a week. Salary for adjunct instructors varies but is typically $100 to $150 a class.

“Here we are in President Obama’s hometown, where Obama’s former chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel] is mayor, and my boss, Mayor Emanuel, is cheating us and trying to skirt the Obama health-care law,” the employee said.

A spokesman for the mayor declined to respond to the criticism.

Maria de Jesus Estrada, a full-time faculty member and chair of the Harold Washington College chapter of the Cook County College Teachers’ Union, said the policy would affect adjuncts and tutors at all seven of the City Colleges.

“The part-timers are essential to serving our students,” Estrada said.

She said they do essential services, including helping with registration, working in the writing lab, sitting alongside students as in-class tutors, and teaching students seeking to qualify to take for-credit courses and to otherwise achieve — the stated purpose of City Colleges’ Reinvention initiative to ensure students graduate and earn job-ready credentials.

“Our part-time workers can barely get by working the multiple jobs they do,” Estrada said. “If they are forced to choose one job, I don’t know how they’re going to make a living. It will force them to seek employment elsewhere, and that also will hurt our students.”

Hayes said no decision has been made on a 30-hour-a-week limit. She said the colleges will abide by the Affordable Care Act. She said the administration is reviewing work rules and deciding how to better manage overtime, and union negotiations are ongoing with adjunct faculty.

On June 18, Harold Washington College President Donald J. Laackman sent an email to the 17 employees saying the existing policy regarding adjunct faculty serving as tutors “has not been changed.”

“I was misinformed when I provided direction to the Dean who called the meeting with you,” the email states. “Out of our ongoing efforts to provide the best possible stewardship of taxpayer dollars and ensure strict compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act requirements, City Colleges of Chicago is indeed carefully reviewing potential strategies to better manage overtime and to implement potential modifications of certain work rules. No decisions have been made and in fact any proposed policy change will be reviewed bearing in mind our goal to help drive student success and to continue leveraging existing staff talent for the benefit of students, while adhering to fiscal prudence and the law,” the email said. “I apologize for any misunderstanding this meeting may have caused.”

The issue is resounding with adjunct professors nationwide, as the health-insurance law known as Obamacare requires employees of large companies who work 30 hours or more a week to receive health benefits from their employers starting in January 2014.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that faculty groups are protesting and holding rallies to call attention to certain colleges’ efforts to limit adjunct professors’ hours. Adjuncts’ work weeks are often calculated by credit hours, and rules are vague about overtime.

At the same time, adjuncts make up a growing portion of the nation’s teaching faculty.

The American Association of University Professors and six other associations representing teachers, including the American Federation of Teachers and the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers, have called on the Internal Revenue Service to clarify how adjuncts’ hours are calculated so they don’t lose their jobs under the health-care law, the Chronicle has reported.


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