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John McNamara Endorses Greater Spending for Adjunct Faculty Amidst Massive CSCU Budget Deficits

Updated: May 8, 2021

John McNamara

The Former New Britain Democratic Town Committee Chairman and Director of Institutional Advancement at Capital Community College, and occasional author of the New Britain Progressive, Jonathan McNamara, is endorsing a bill that would “require the Labor Department to consider specific circumstances when determining whether an individual who performs instructional, research, or principal administrative duties at an institution of higher education is eligible to receive unemployment compensation.”

According to Public Testimony, Mr. McNamara states that “The year-long pandemic has caused more job insecurity and uncertainty for individuals who teach part-time at our colleges and universities. Many adjunct faculty provide instruction at more than one institution as they pursue a teaching career that comes without the guarantees of benefits and tenure. As enrollments fluctuate, adjuncts may go from one semester to another without knowing where needed income will come from. During the pandemic and after the pandemic adjuncts should be entitled to unemployment compensation, a system they contribute to as wage earners.”

McNamara goes on to say, “Because of the fiscal constraints of hiring full-time faculty, adjuncts are essential to ensuring academic quality and serving students at the campus where I work and others in the CSCU system. I urge Connecticut to follow New Jersey’s lead. Our neighbors just enacted legislation that opens unemployment compensation to adjuncts. In signing the act that in all respects is similar to HB6582 here in CT, New Jersey Gov. Murphy said: “Our adjunct professors have too often been caught in limbo in terms of their eligibility for unemployment benefits. This legislation will provide adjunct instructors and other employees the clarity they need to receive full unemployment benefits so they can get back on their feet.” However, here is the problem: severe budget deficits.

Due to a drop in community college enrollment and lower occupancy of university dorms that have fueled a $69 Million deficit at Connecticut’s state colleges and universities, “The state system has been under significant budgetary pressure. In September, the Board of Regents imposed a hiring freeze on CSCU colleges. On October 7, a presentation by the board projected that the total net reserves for the community colleges would decrease from $32.1 million in June 2020 to $15.7 million in June 2021. Six of the 12 colleges projected to have negative reserves. A staff report from the board’s Finance and Infrastructure Committee also warned that further budget reductions could mean a loss of tutoring services, lab assistants, and course offerings. Yet from 2017 to 2020, the budget for the System Office, the colleges’ administrative branch, increased by 46.5 percent, according to documents from the same meeting. This year, System Office reserves are projected to reach $16.04 million. At the October meeting, Board Chair Richard Balducci suggested lowering costs at the universities by decreasing funds directed toward student work positions, part-time lecturers and graduate assistants,” according to a publication known at the CTexaminer.

With a combination of a lack of revenue and more lavish spending, one has to ask if there is any inkling of fiscal responsibility left to ensure unemployment benefits for all.

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