BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 10/12/15
After nearly two months’ wait, many adjunct instructors at Adams State University (ASU) are receiving their first pay checks – the lucky ones, anyway. This delay in payment may violate the Colorado Wage Act, which stipulates that state employees must be paid within 10 days of their last defined 30-day pay period.
This is not an isolated incident. Rather, this seems to be a common practice at ASU. It has been going on for many years, with former President David Svaldi’s knowledge, despite repeated complaints.
“When this happened last semester, the business office offered me an emergency loan to get me through,” said one instructor. “Think how bizarre that is; they can lend me money, but they can’t yet pay me money they owe me.”
Some adjuncts have had difficulty paying rent on time. “It’s embarrassing,” says one, “though fortunately my landlord has been understanding. He’s an alumni. He knows how ASU works.”
“My first semester teaching was in the fall of 2011” recalled a former adjunct. “I didn’t receive my paycheck for this course until February 2012. I began to think ‘ASC’ stood for ‘Always Slow Checks.’ And I didn’t realize Adams State was breaking the law until much more recently.”
Why does it take so long to get paid? Alicia Harmon, Human Relations Administrative Assistant, said, “the system is complex”.
Once the administration has the completed hiring paperwork (W-4 form, I-9 form, a PERA form, photocopy of a driver’s license and Social Security card), a Personnel Contract Recommendation (PCR) form is generated, completed by the employee and submitted. This form then needs to be signed by the faculty department chair, the senior administrative officer, the budget director, the affirmative action officer, and an official in Human Resources – all located in different offices across campus. Once the form is processed, a contract for employment is generated, which then goes to the President for their signature. It is returned to HR and finally mailed out to the employee.
The process is supposed to take about two weeks. But too often, it doesn’t work that way. According to Harmon, HR has its own internal tracking system but it does not track progress through other offices. If any detail is out of order, the whole process comes to a halt. With so many officials involved and only one mistake necessary to cause a stoppage, delays happen often.
Many top administrators are paid well above that of faculty and staff (Human Resources Director Tracy Rogers will make almost $85,000 this year). Yet when their convoluted and mistake-prone process repeatedly fails, there is no internal penalty or corrective action. Only adjuncts (who earn between $1,500 and $3,000 per class, per semester) pay the price. Many adjuncts fall below the poverty line and qualify for public assistance.
“When I asked why ASU perpetuates this inefficient and wasteful process, I was told that ‘this is the way the system is’ – end of discussion,” said one long-time instructor. “If you say much more, you get a bad name. I worry about being branded as a trouble-maker, and maybe they won’t rehire me.” Absent any opportunity for tenure or collective representation at ASU, it is also unlikely that adjuncts will file a grievance with the Colorado Department of Labor. The fines for each violation ranges from $250 to $7,500 per incident.
That former-President David Svaldi allowed this illegal practice to continue for years is concerning enough, but the most recent contracts are signed by President Beverlee McClure. She is new to the job and may not be aware of her officers’ failure to comply with the law, but we are confident that once this situation is brought to her attention, she will seek a more efficient process – or perhaps more efficient administrators.