Seeking to prevent double jobbing

Three years ago a case came to light which caused a fair amount of embarrassment in the higher education sector, but which also still threatens to have further repercussions. The case was that of Fergal O’Malley, who it turns out had for over eight years been working simultaneously under two full-time contracts of employment, one with Athlone Institute of Technology and the other with NUI Galway. For a while neither institution was aware of this situation, until NUI Galway started to ask why his research performance was not better. At that point his double jobbing came to light, and he was found to have been earning €146,000 per annum between the two colleges. He then resigned, and since then various contractual consequences, including his pension entitlements, have been the subject of detailed analysis. Most recently the Presidents of the two institutions and the Chief Executive of the HEA have been explaining to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee how this had happened and what steps had been taken to prevent a recurrence.

In the public discussion of this case there has been, I think, something of an undercurrent suggesting that if it was possible for the man to do an allegedly full-time job in both institutions, then something must be wrong with academic workloads. However, while he was able to keep up this particular arrangement for a while, it was clear that in NUI Galway at least he was unable to maintain his full range of duties. Furthermore, if this were really something that could be happening on a larger scale, we would know that by now. His case is, I believe, pretty unique. Also both institutions (and others not involved) have tightened their procedures to ensure this will not happen again.

According to newspaper reports HEA Chief Executive Tom Boland, when asked at the Public Accounts Committee whether there could be other such cases, said that some staff might be ‘swinging the lead’ (and I confess I am not sure what that means), but that most worked very hard. I would put it more definitely than that. At this point, with huge pressures affecting third level staff due to budget and staffing cuts, overwhelmingly staff work very long hours, often more than 60 per week, and have workloads that are hugely demanding. One of the reasons why despite the cutbacks we are still able to function as best we can is because we retain a large amount of staff goodwill. If we now impose intrusive monitoring we will lose that also, and with it the ability to provide a reasonable quality of education. There is, as Tom Boland also said, a balance to be struck between academic freedom and what he called ‘a kind of managerialism’.

It has to be admitted that the O’Malley case didn’t do us any good. But we should also bear in mind that it was discovered, and that it has turned out to be pretty unique. An overreaction would not be helpful. On the other hand, universities and institutes do have an obligation to work with staff to ensure that this kind of conduct is not allowed to happen again.

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6 Comments on “Seeking to prevent double jobbing”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Well, he wasn’t exactly lighting his fags with twenties now was he. And honestly if the fellow could put up with the marriage times two he deserves his bubble. I doubt that there is a person that wouldn’t give him a pat on the back.
    My only worry is why the institutions didn’t pick up on it.

  2. kevin denny Says:

    I know of one case of someone employed in a higher education institution in Dublin who also held a job down- in the North I think- until he was rumbled. It probably is pretty rare ‘though where it is discovered don’t expect to hear about it. I would be more concerned with people “semi-jobbing” by which I mean those who have full time academic jobs but who do not do a full time job.
    If I stopped doing research tomorrow I could probably do my job in about one day per week, over the year. There are such people, not many thankfully and certainly not as many as there used to be.
    In some cases, people use their academic job as a nice “little” cushion while making serious money from consultancy, even using university facilities to do so. The universities, UCD anyway, try to monitor it but there is probably a limit to what they can do. Depending on what your field is, there can be substantial outside earnings opportunities.

  3. Jilly Says:

    There’s also the increasingly common other version of ‘academic double-jobbing’, which takes the form of an academic doing the job of two people. Or more…

  4. ronnie munck Says:

    ‘swinging the lead’ Ferdinand is an old seafaring term: sailors had to sound the depth with a heavy lead weight let down to the bottom with markers on it which was then raised and the process repeated continuously. Less than HEA compliant sailors would swing the klead just above the sea level and pretend to do the job to save on energy expenditure. Clearly Tom Boland is a sailor!

  5. At the risk of sounding elitist or unconcerned about this case, I’m unconcerned.

    One employee out of tens of thousands ‘acted the maggot’ (another neologism for you Ferdinand), the system caught him, albeit rather slowly, and there are consequences for the individual concerned. Procedures are tightened, but mainly it’s a case of communication between employees and managers, and a bit of trust that decent people will act with probity.

    Some academics work 80+ hour weeks routinely, others do a lot less. Others, as Kevin says, use the university as a sort of back of office for their consultancy efforts. Overall though I’d say without fear of being contradicted that on average, across careers and across disciplines, academics put in huge hours, mainly because they are doing something they like. Effort certainly changes over the course of a career, at least as far as I can see. But what matters most is not the input to the system–hours worked, etc, but the output–the quality of publications, and other external signs, to show the employee is progressing in their career. Our double jobber didn’t have those signs, he ‘got rumbled’ as a result, and now he’s in trouble for it. End of.

  6. cormac Says:

    I love that story. Hilarious in a way.

    More seriously, the situation in the IoTs is quite strange; some lecturers try to keep up competitive research, whilst teaching a 14-16 hour week. This is a very heavy workload indeed (I work til 8 pm 4 days a week during termtime). Others just teach full stop – they are entitled to do this if hired before 2000, and I think conditions are quite generous if there s no research.

    Both sets of lecturers typically underestimate the workload for a university cademic – if you’re not in a competitive environment, it’s hard to imagine how publication pressure can take over

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