Comments Off on $46.2 million deficit will not increase planned tuition
Leaders of the University of Connecticut have said that the $46.2 million deficit will not raise tuition more than what was decided for the 4-year plan announced in December 2011. The tuition for Fall 2014 will increase by 6.5 percent.
WASHINGTON – Hoping to reach an estimated 1 million adjunct professors nationwide, Service Employees International Union on Monday officially launched its new Adjunct Action networking website. The union marked the occasion with a “national town hall” event for adjuncts at Georgetown University here.
If a million adjuncts sounds like a lofty goal, it is. But adjuncts and organizers in attendance said they’d been encouraged by the fact that SEIU’s Adjunct Action organizing campaign is on the ground in nine cities, and that more than half the adjuncts in Washington, the campaign’s original city, have now either formed or filed for elections for unions affiliated with SEIU.
That includes Georgetown adjuncts, who won their union bid last year and are now negotiating their first contract. And after working to establish unions at individual campuses, Washington-area adjuncts are now in talks with SEIU about a city-wide union. It’s a model the union and its affiliated adjuncts would like to replicate elsewhere, including Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles.
Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, called the website a “new way to organize in a changing world,” and to eschew some of the traditional problems adjuncts have had with organizing, such as lack of office space and a kind of commuter status. By connecting with adjuncts on their campuses and in other states through the new online forum, she said, there’s potential for adjuncts to “light up the entire country.”
Of the Adjunct Action organizing campaign itself, Henry said it reflects at once the brokenness of “America’s promise” – that is, that education is one’s path to a better life – and the “inability” of adjuncts to accept that brokenness.
Speakers at the town hall, including U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce who has been adjuncts’ biggest ally in Congress, said adjuncts can’t passively wait for the changes they want to see in their pay and working conditions and instead must lead the charge.
And because organizations have more sway than individuals, unionization is “the only way this can be done,” Miller said. He noted that there already was growing interest among his Democratic colleagues in the plight of adjuncts, thanks to an “accidental moment in history” with Maria Maisto in November. Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy group, had been invited to testify before the education committee about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on higher education.
But Maisto soon redirected the conversation to more general concerns about adjuncts – their relatively low pay and overall poor working conditions, and their impact on student success.
Miller said he and other legislators were “stunned” by the revelations, especially because universities seem to be “forward-thinking” employers who presumably would have sounder employment standards. “It sent us the signal that there was something very, very wrong here.”
The testimony sparked a report from Miller’s office on adjuncts, called the “Just-in-Time Professor,” based on existing research and adjuncts’ responses to an online forum about their working conditions.
Miller said the status of adjuncts raises “very serious ethics and transparency issues.”
Parents – especially those who go into debt to send their children to college – would do well to know more about the exact conditions under which the majority of professors work, he said. And as a policy maker, he’d like to know the “tradeoffs” institutions have made – that is, where tuition and public money is going if not into front-line instruction.
But Congress can do only so much, Miller said, calling organizing “critical.”
At one adjunct’s suggestion that Congress ask college and university accreditors to consider adjunct working conditions, for example, Miller said “titanic fights” ensue when legislators try to intervene in that realm.
Henry said adjuncts themselves can better demand that kind of “accountability” from accreditors. Maisto, who attended the town hall, said the New Faculty Majority and other adjunct advocates already have begun to address the issue with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Adjuncts on the panel agreed. Tiffany Kraft, an adjunct professor of English at Washington State’s Clark College, which does not yet have a union, said adjuncts were “implicit accomplices” in their own struggle if they failed to take a stand, especially given their potential for organizing power — estimated at about 75 percent of instructors across higher education.
Kerry Danner-McDonald, an adjunct professor of theology at Georgetown, acknowledged additional barriers to organizing beyond logistics.
She said that colleagues at scholarly conferences expressed that tell-tale “oh” sound upon hearing she was an adjunct, and that she “wasn’t ready to go through that yet with my students,” or “out” herself as an adjunct to them, during the union drive there.
But she eventually realized she needed to fight for her professional future, a sense heightened by the realization that she has “no college savings” for her daughter, who has expressed an interest in attending Georgetown.
Audience members shared similar accounts of disconnect between their work and their economic realities. One adjunct working at a community college said she’d had to visit a food pantry to feed her children after a divorce.
And Jane Harty, a self-proclaimed “career adjunct” professor of music at Pacific Lutheran University, said she was still making $11,000 a year, at half-time, after decades at the institution. Harty and her fellow Pacific Lutheran adjuncts have held their union vote but have had their ballots impounded pending the university’s legal argument that it is outside National Labor Relations Board jurisdiction due to its religious status.
Jaimie Hoffman, an adjunct professor of communications at California State University-Channel Islands, said she risked losing eligibility for a federal loan-forgiveness program related to public service should her course load dip below the 30-hour-per-week mark at any time in the next 10 years. Given the lack of control over her schedule, that’s entirely possible, she said, noting the irony that in her former job as an administrator at the college, that wasn’t a fear.
Miller attributed part of that problem to the way individual colleges count adjuncts’ hours. That’s been a recent point of contention in relation to the Affordable Care Act. College associations pushed for months for federal guidance, which recently was issued.
Donya Coldwell, adjunct professor of world literature at Saint Joseph’s College, in Philadelphia, said the at-times difficult-to-swallow message that adjuncts must fight for the changes they want to see was “true.” At the same time, she said, “it’s really difficult to act.”
Given that they lack job security, it’s hard to persuade adjuncts to go out on a limb and organize, she said, and sometimes only small numbers of adjuncts being willing to do so can weaken the cause.
But she said she hoped the new Adjunct Action website would make it a bit easier to drum up support.
Several UConn School of Medicine students received special recognition at the recent American Medical Student Association (AMSA) convention in New Orleans.
Most notably, third-year student Deborah Hall was elected to be the national president-elect. She will serve as AMSA president during the 2015-2016 programming year. During her term, she will work full time, promoting AMSA’s missions and aspirations, and will collaborate with student leaders from all over the country.
Hall has been involved with AMSA for six years (since she was a premedical student at Wesleyan University) and has served in many national leadership positions over the years.
“AMSA has given me incredible mentors and a lot of opportunities to grow as a leader and to make an impact on health care while I am still in training,” explains Hall. “I think that it’s important to be involved in the organizations that represent our profession, because they will speak for us, whether we participate or not.”
Other UConn medical students receiving recognition at the convention include Sahar Barfchin, who was elected to the Board of Trustees as national vice president of leadership development. Fludiona Naka was elected to be regional director.
Chelsea Osterman received 1st prize ($250) in the poster contest. She won in the category of Basic Science and Translational Research for her work on platelet-rich plasma injections.
Kelsey Sokol was selected to present her poster on student feedback from UConn Health’s Clinical Skills Assessment Program over four years of medical school.
Others in attendance were Maureen Dunn, Ethan Talbot, Carolyn Kwiat and Melina Benson. Overall, there were nine students representing UConn at the convention.
“It has been wonderful to have leaders from both inside of AMSA and from other organizations notice how robust UConn’s presence is in AMSA’s national leadership,” adds Hall. “I always tell them that we are very fortunate to be studying somewhere that understands the value of having students engaged in service and leadership as part of our development into well-rounded physicians. It is truly that support that allows us to thrive.”
Also of note, this past programming year for AMSA:
Hall served as vice president for internal affairs; Melina Benson served as chair of the Wellness and Student Life Committee; Barfchin served as coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Committee; and Dunn was the UConn Chapter President.
Comments Off on A Complicated Struggle But The Right Thing To Do
Recent press reports have created some confusion about the impact of the newly created Hybrid Plan — and particularly of employees who exercise their right to move from the ARP to the Hybrid Plan– on the finances of the State Colleges and Universities and the State. In fact, some un-informed reporters have even suggested that employees moving from the ARP to the Hybrid Plan cost the State money. This is absolutely incorrect. Here are the facts:
In SEBAC 2011, the parties created a new Hybrid Plan which provided what is for many employees a more rational and cost-effective retirement choice, while saving money for the State. Employees who move from the ARP to the Hybrid Plan pay the full actuarial cost of moving with respect to their past service — every penny. If they move and don’t immediately retire, their future service costs in the Hybrid Plan are less expensive than they are in ARP — for newer employees much less expensive. Thus members who move from the ARP to the Hybrid Plan, or new members who choose the Hybrid Plan over the ARP or even over SERS, save the State money.
However, there are complex accounting rules governing which charges for employees are paid by the State’s General Fund, and which are paid by the specific employing agency. Because our higher education institutions are paid by block grant, these rules can be particularly important.
Some of these rules are set by the federal government, not the State. Of particular importance here is that for employees whose salaries are partially funded by federal reimbursement, the federal government will reimburse based on the employee’s salary, plus fringe benefits. There are many hundreds of millions of dollars which come back to the State government based upon these reimbursements.
The federal government will reimburse for fringe benefits for current employees at rates that include payments towards the unfunded liability of the pension plan to which the employee belongs, even if the particular employee had nothing to do with the unfunded liability of the plan. But the federal government will do so, only if the State applies the same rules for accounting for fringe benefits internally that it does for the federal government.
The State’s normal protocol is to attach to each SERS participating employee a pro-rata share of the State’s unfunded liability for all of the SERS plans. This means that even though the majority of the unfunded liability for SERS plans is for Tier 1, all SERS participants are attributed with the same pro-rata share of overall SERS unfunded liability, regardless of the Tier in which they participate. Under this protocol, the federal government contributes hundreds of millions of dollars towards the unfunded liability of pension plans selected by state employees whose salary is partially reimbursed by the federal government.
The State’s normal protocol does not attach any unfunded pension liability to ARP participants, since the ARP does not promise any particular benefit and therefore does not have any unfunded liability. This protocol makes SERS appear to be much more expensive than the ARP even though the State’s normal contributions towards the ARP are higher — and for new employees much higher – than they are for SERS.
The State also has unfunded liability for retiree health care. Due to an even more complex set ofrules, the State attributes unfunded liability for retiree health care in a way which makes retiree health care for SERS participating employees appear to be over 7 times more expensive than it is for ARP participants, even though the benefits and ongoing costs per participant are identical.
These protocols are also applied when adjuncts, tuition-funded, or other non-general funded employees are employed by higher education institutions to determine the amount that those institutions will reimburse the General Fund for benefits provided to those employees. The result is that higher education institutions are charged substantially higher fringe benefit rates for employees choosing SERS pension coverage than ARP coverage, even though the SERS coverage is actually costing the State less money.
For determining the fringe benefit rate for the Hybrid Plan, the State treats the Hybrid Plan as though it were a SERS plan, and thus as though it has inherited all the unfunded liability which SERS plans have.
This means, for purposes of fringe benefit protocols, the State attributes to each Hybrid Plan participant a pro-rata share of the unfunded liability of all of the SERS plans. For adjuncts, tuition-funded, and other non-general funded employees, this means that the higher education institutions reimburse the General Fund for their fringe benefits at a much higher rate than they do for ARP participants, even though the actual cost for those employees to the State is less expensive than it would be if they elected to participate in, or remain in, the ARP.While these facts are complex and perhaps confusing, there is no confusion about the right result. The parties created the Hybrid Plan to provide an important new option for higher education employees and to provide a more efficient retirement choice that saves the State money. It was not created, and must not be allowed, to create a windfall for the General Fund at the expense of our Higher Education institutions.The higher education unions are working with SEBAC and the administration to undo this unintended consequence of the creation of the Hybrid Plan, and to achieve a more rational structure for charging higher education institutions for the fringe benefits provided to adjuncts, tuition-funded, and other non- general funded employees. The solution is not simple, and may take a little time. But there’s no doubt that it’s the right thing to do, and together, we must and we will make it happen.
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HEP Compliance — What Happens Next?
While the Health Enhancement Program has already begun showing positive results in terms of improving health and lowering costs, there have been many glitches and imperfections in its beginning years of implementation. Some of these imperfections have caused members who are fully compliant with the program needless stress as they waited for data to be updated for lagging claims, CMS to update portals or answer phones, etc. For the many thousands of state employees now shown as compliant the 2013 compliance year has been frustrating, but the process is now over, and we can look forward to a hopefully greatly improved and less glitch 2014.
But many other employees are still listed as non-compliant, and still struggling with the frustrations caused by startup glitches, and we want to be clear about how the process moves forward for those employees. Here are the key things to remember;
It is not the vendor (CMS) who ultimately determines if you are compliant and can continue receiving the financial benefits of being in compliance with the HEP. It is the joint Health Care Cost Containment Committee (the “HCCCC”), which is a labor management committee made up of equal numbers of union and management representatives, and if necessary a neutral arbitrator. Nobody can be removed from participation with the HCCCC’s affirmative vote.
If you really are non-compliant, it is in your interest to become compliant as soon as you can. This could prevent your removal altogether, or at very least get you reinstated quickly, depending upon how soon you act. The agreement requires you to be placed back in good standing in the program on the first of the month following your removal.
If you are receiving information from CMS that indicates you are non-compliant, but you believe you are compliant, remember this:
The HCCCC will not remove people who are compliant. If CMS is wrong, they are wrong. It is not their decision.
You will shortly receive a letter which will allow you to respond and directly indicate to the HCCCC that you believe you are compliant and why. Your response will either clear up the issue, or if it doesn’t will cause you to be contacted directly so that the issue can be resolved. Removal happens because a member or his/her covered dependent genuinely refuses to keep a commitment required under the program, not because the portal is inaccurate or incomplete, or claims information is imperfect.
We are proud to be part of a program that saves money by keeping members healthier, rather than by cutting benefits or raising premium shares. We hope that the glitches and frustrations that have characterized this year will at some point truly be behind us. But in the meantime, we appreciate the patience of all the HEP participants, and reiterate our commitment that no one gets removed from the financial benefits of the program unless it is shown to the HCCCC that they genuinely refused to comply.
Comments Off on 2014 AAUP Officer and Council Members Elections
On March 3, 2014, ballots for the 2014 National AAUP Officer and Council elections were mailed to members’ home address. These ballots are due back to the AAUP by April 15, 2014. There are two candidates standing for the Connecticut District 9 Council seat and their candidate statements can be found here. More information about the election can be found here. Please remember to vote.
2014 Nominees for AAUP Council
Rudy Fichtenbaum (Wright State University)Jane Buck (Delaware State University)
Hank Reichman (California State University, East Bay)Brian Turner (Randolph Macon College)
Susan Michalczyk (Boston College)Cary Nelson (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Michele Ganon (Western Connecticut State University)Saranna Thornton (Hampdem-Sydney College)
Ivan Evans (University of California, San Diego)Chris Nagel (California State University, Stanislaus)
Comments Off on Health Enhancement Program Compliance
From the Office of the Comptroller: This is an important reminder for State of Connecticut Health Enhancement Program (HEP) members that by February 28, 2014, you and any enrolled dependents must complete the HEP preventive and chronic condition(s) requirements (if applicable).
We urge all HEP members to immediately visit www.cthep.com to verify that you and any enrolled dependents have met the HEP requirements.
Please remember that you must be compliant with preventive requirements and any chronic condition requirements (if applicable) in order to continue enjoying the financial advantages of HEP. Please follow the link to the unions response.