Marco Rubio, Adjunct Professor?

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.

2 thoughts on “Marco Rubio, Adjunct Professor?

  1. Hmmm….According to his 2003 tax return, President Obama made $64,287 as an adjunct professor (see http://taxprof.typepad.com/…/obama_2003_tax_return.pdf ). Taking into account inflation, that would be $86,027 in today’s dollars. Elizabeth Warren earned $350K a year teaching one class at Harvard Law School. By those standards, Rubio really isn’t out of line with his earnings. I suspect the fact that he is a Republican is why the FIU faculty are complaining about him but think nothing of Warren or Obama’s background.

    • Do universities sometimes hire prominent liberal Democrats at inflated salaries too? Yes, and for the record it’s often wrong. Concern, for instance, has been expressed about CUNY’s hiring of Paul Krugman even as the university denies raises to existing faculty and continues to exploit its part-time “adjuncts.” That said, you need to keep your facts straight. Here is a 2008 statement from the University of Chicago on Obama’s status:

      “The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Obama, especially about his status as ‘Senior Lecturer.’

      “From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.”

      In other words, Obama taught more classes each year than Rubio did and unlike Rubio was considered part of the regular faculty of the school in which he taught. Moreover, your adjustment for inflation is meaningless, given that faculty salaries since 2003 have not kept up with the cost of living, according to the AAUP’s annual compensation survey

      As for Warren, her salary at Harvard was indeed well into the six figures, reported as $429,981 in 2010-11. However, Warren was not an adjunct, no matter her teaching load. According to Wikipedia since 1995 she has been Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who was trained at an American public university. At Harvard, Warren became one of the most highly cited law professors in the United States. Although she had published in many fields, her expertise was in bankruptcy.” Whether the terms of her endowed chair limit her teaching to one class a term, is a different matter entirely; her appointment is definitely full-time and tenured, not adjunct.

      But, of course, neither Obama nor Warren were employed at a public institution (both Chicago and Harvard are private law schools) and certainly neither accepted highly-paid part-time employment there immediately after voting for cuts in the university’s budget that resulted in the layoff of some 38 faculty and staff.

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