BY HANK REICHMAN
Faculty members at Florida International University (FIU) are asking some tough questions about the university’s employment of GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio. At a Faculty Senate meeting last month senators fired question after question about Rubio’s teaching position to University Provost Ken Furton. David Park, associate professor in Advertising and Public Relations, asked about the hiring process and whether it included a search committee or was an appointment.
Rubio began his teaching at the school as a Visiting Distinguished Service Professor at the Metropolitan Center, the school’s urban think tank, soon after Rubio left the legislature in 2008 because of term limits. That unadvertised position entailed co-teaching two classes with longtime friend and pollster Dario Moreno, as well as “conducting research, assisting with recommendations and developing a proposal for a demonstration project on affordable housing,” according to a release announcing his hire at the time.
For that, he would earn $69,000 — a salary that Moreno told the Miami Herald at the time was considerably more than the $52,000 another part-time visiting professor at the center was making. FIU trustees had voted a month earlier to raise tuition by 15 percent, the maximum increase allowed under state law, blaming rising costs and $14 million in state funding cuts supported by Rubio when he was in the legislature. The public university also cut 23 degree programs and 200 jobs. Thirty-eight faculty members and staff were laid off, and the remaining positions were eliminated through staggered layoffs and attrition.
Biology Professor Bradley Bennett, who had to shut down the Center for Ethnobiology and Neutral Products, which did research on medicinal plants, called Rubio’s hiring “ironic.”
”The state is always underfunded in education,” Bennett said back in 2008 when the hiring was revealed. “I would say that Marco Rubio has not shown commitment to higher education in general and he has not shown a commitment to FIU. Why the university would hire someone like that is a mystery.”
”I think it’s absolutely disgusting,” said Amada Mena, an alumna whose two sons attend the school. “You know how many good professors are out of jobs.”
“How do we justify paying him as much as we do to teach one course?” asked Amy Paul-Ward, an associate professor in the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, at last month’s Senate meeting. “I know there are qualified adjuncts in our school who we have trouble paying $3,000 to teach a course.”
According to AAUP’s 2014-15 annual faculty compensation survey, the average full-time salary for faculty members at FIU is $87,700 (including higher paid faculty in law, nursing, engineering, and business). The website glassdoor.com reports that the average annual compensation for a full-time equivalent adjunct appointment at FIU is $44,351. The university’s own overload pay policy for arts and sciences faculty mandates payment of just $4,000 for any 3- or 4-credit course with fewer than 210 students and just $2,700 for a 2-credit course.
“Adjuncts have miserable salaries; they make about $2,500 to $3,000 per course,” Teresa Lucas, president of the FIU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, the union representing the University’s faculty, told the student newspaper in 2013. Apparently, she wasn’t speaking about adjunct Rubio.
In a 2012 deposition obtained by NBC News, Moreno wondered whether Rubio “would devote the necessary time for it.” Apparently not, for in that same deposition, Moreno acknowledged that Rubio put in less than 10 hours per week of work on the course. Asked to estimate how many hours over the course of the semester Rubio spent “actually teaching and as well as planning the course,” Moreno replied, “there was planning ahead of the course — maybe 10, 15 hours of planning.”
“Then there was probably you know, teaching, it’s 3 hours a week. And then he probably put in another 6 hours in preparation,” Moreno added. The deposition was part of an ethics investigation in response to a complaint concerning his credit card use, FIU employment and consulting work that was ultimately dismissed.
Moreno also stated in the deposition that Rubio attended just 70 percent of the classes they taught together that first semester, though he could only recount the reason for his absences for four of 28 classes. And though Rubio helped prepare the tests for the class, Moreno said during the deposition, “I didn’t let him do any of the grading,” joking that, “he’s still a politician, and I was afraid he was going to give everyone A’s!”
After he won his U.S. Senate race, Rubio moved to a part-time teaching position at FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs and a further reduced salary of $24,000. In that position, Rubio co-taught a class that met for two hours and 40 minutes each week; pay stubs from 2011-2013 show him working anywhere from 40 to 15 hours per week — a sizeable chunk of time for anyone juggling Senate, family and campaign demands — though his biweekly pay remained consistent as did his limited time in class. Rubio continued teaching Mondays and Fridays until last April, earning $23,448 last year in addition to his $174,000 salary as a U.S. senator.
Records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times indicate Rubio was expected to do considerably more work than he actually performed.
“The requirements of this position include, but are not limited to the following: prepare and present lectures, develop reading lists, assign and grade homework, prepare, give and grade tests, meet with students, and provide grades to students in accordance with the academic standards of Florida International University,” stated letters signed by Rubio and his supervisors in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
But Rubio never developed reading lists or graded papers or tests, according his colleagues.
Documents also reveal that in his initial $69,000 appointment Rubio was supposed to “develop policy recommendations for an affordable housing summit; arrange a followup conference with local and state leaders; take the lead on Metropolitan Center breakfast forums on the 2008 presidential election and on hurricane mitigation; and develop research projects for the center.” But the Metropolitan Center never held a followup affordable housing conference or a breakfast focused on hurricane mitigation. FIU records make no mention of Rubio’s participation in the policy recommendations for the first affordable housing summit, or any research projects developed by Rubio.
FIU hired Rubio with the understanding that he would privately raise most of the money for his salary. The school has declined to identify donors in that effort. But the New York Times in June revealed that Norman Braman, a Miami billionaire who is helping bankroll Rubio’s presidential campaign and also employs his wife, Jeanette Rubio, gave $100,000 to FIU to cover Rubio’s position.
In short, that Marco Rubio has been a most unusual adjunct instructor is an understatement of the highest order.