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  • Accreditation standards for academic staffing

    In recent years, regional accrediting agencies have recognized that academic staffing is a key element of educational quality. They all have included language in their guidelines concerning contingent faculty and (in some cases) graduate employees. However, many observers believe that the agencies have sat by idly as the overuse and exploitation of contingent faculty and graduate employees has become a critical problem in higher education. These observers—AFT among them—have advocated for more explicit, tightened guidelines (and institutional enforcement of these guidelines) with regard to the working conditions and compensation of contingent instructors in higher education as well as with regard to the percentage of faculty that are full-time, tenure-track.

    AFT has called upon accreditation agencies and institutions to have more rigorous standards in these areas. Over the last decade, AFT's leaders and higher education members have established a set of standards that we believe unions should advance, institutions should adopt and accreditation agencies should work to promote. These standards govern practices in compensation, employment practices, professional responsibility and support and the role of contingent faculty in their unions. Here are links to the complete standards:

    Guided by our standards, we have examined and summarized the standards held by the six regional accrediting agencies. Below are links to these summaries, which cover appropriate levels of full-time, tenure-track faculty and the working conditions and professional support for contingent faculty and graduate employees.

    Recently for-profit institutions have come under scrutiny for their academic practices and so we have also examined the standards of the main accreditor of the career colleges.

    We intend to keep building these resources here on accreditation as it relates to academic staffing and to that end your input is important. We want your feedback on:

    • how effective you think these your regional accreditor's standards are;
    • what your experience is with how well your institution has implemented these standards;
    • how the accreditation process has worked at your institution regarding these issues; and,
    • what you, your institution or organization has done to communicate your thoughts directly with the accreditation agencies.

    Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools

    Below are the standards set forth by Middle States that relate to academic staffing. All page numbers for Middle States' standards refer to Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education: Requirements of Affiliation and Standards of Accreditation

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    There should be an adequate core of faculty and other qualified professionals that is responsible to the institution, supports the programs offered, and assures the continuity and coherence of the institution's programs. (37)

    Middle States indicates that the word faculty should be "broadly construed to encompass qualified professionals such as third parties contracted by the institution, part-time or adjunct faculty, and those assigned responsibilities in academic development and delivery." (37)

    Middle States leaves it to the institution to determine what is considered to be an "adequate core of faculty" and does not give guidance as to whether or not that determination should include an assessment of the ratio of of full-time, tenure-track faculty to faculty and instructors serving in contingent positions at the institution.

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    For institutions relying on part-time, adjunct, temporary, or other faculty on time-limited contracts, employment policies and practices should be as carefully developed and communicated as those for full-time faculty. The greater the dependence on such employees, the greater is the institutional responsibility to provide orientation, oversight, evaluation, professional development, and opportunities for integration into the life of the institution. (38)

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of contingent faculty's performance.

    As mentioned previously, "for institutions relying on part-time, adjunct, temporary, or other faculty on time-limited contracts, employment policies and practices should be as carefully developed and communicated as those for full-time faculty, " (38) which provides some equity between full- and part-time faculty.

    As for evaluation, Middle States asks for evidence that:

    ...criteria for the appointment, supervision, and review of teaching effectiveness for part-time, adjunct, and other faculty [are] consistent with those for full-time faculty. (37)

    Under Optional Analysis and Evidence, Middle States would like to see:

    Analysis of institutional practices for the appointment, supervision, and review of teaching effectiveness for part-time, adjunct, and other faculty on time-limited contracts. (39)

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    Also under Optional Analysis and Evidence, Middle States would like to see "analysis of the training, role, and effectiveness of graduate students who provide undergraduate instruction;" (39)

    Do you have experience with Middle States regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

    New England Association of Schools and Colleges: Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

    Below are the standards set forth by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that relate to academic staffing. References for New England refer to their Standards for Accreditation.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    Faculty categories (e.g., full-time, part-time, adjunct) are clearly defined by the institution as is the role of each category in fulfilling the institution's mission and purposes. Should part-time or adjunct faculty be utilized, the institution has in place polices governing their role compatible with its mission and purposes and the Standards of the Commission. (Standard 5.1)
    There are an adequate number of faculty whose time commitment to the institution is sufficient to assure the accomplishment of class and out-of-class responsibilities essential for the fulfillment of institutional mission and purposes. (Standard 5.3)
    The institution avoids undue dependence on part-time faculty, adjuncts, and graduate assistants to conduct classroom instruction. Institutions that employ a significant proportion of part-time, adjunct, clinical or temporary faculty assure their appropriate integration into the department and institution and provide opportunities for faculty development. (Standard 5.8)

    Additionally, a demand for an adequate staff of full-time faculty is clearly articulated for those institutions offering graduate degrees:

    Institutions offering graduate degrees have an adequate staff of full-time faculty in areas appropriate to the degree offered. Faculty responsible for graduate programs are sufficient by credentials, experience, number, and time commitment for the successful accomplishment of program objectives and program improvement. The scholarly expectations of faculty exceed those expected for faculty working at the undergraduate level. Research-oriented graduate programs have a preponderance of active research scholars on their faculties. Professionally-oriented programs include faculty who are experienced professionals making scholarly contributions to the development of the field. (Standard 4.22)

    New England recognizes that heavy reliance on contingent faculty is not an ideal situation for higher education, particularly when those faculty members and graduate assistants are not integrated into the life of the department and institution. However, it leaves it to the institution to determine what is considered a "significant portion" and "undue dependence" as well as what is "appropriate integration" of faculty serving in contingent positions.

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    Faculty are accorded reasonable contractual security for appropriate periods consistent with the institution's ability to fulfill its mission. (Standard 5.6)
    Faculty assignments and workloads are consistent with the institution's mission and purposes. They are equitably determined to allow faculty adequate time to provide effective instruction, advise and evaluate students, contribute to program and institutional assessment and improvement, continue professional growth, and participate in scholarship, research, creative activities and service compatible with the mission and purposes of the institution. Faculty workloads are reappraised periodically and adjusted as institutional conditions change. (Standard 5.7)
    The institution protects and fosters academic freedom of all faculty regardless of rank or term of appointment. (Standard 5.13)

    New England does not provide separate standards specific to contingent faculty for working conditions and professional development opportunities.

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of contingent faculty's performance.

    New England does not make a distinction between full-time, tenure-track faculty and contingent faculty in these areas; however, clear standards for hiring practices are outlined and ensure that all faculty have a role in the hiring process.

    The institution employs an open and orderly process for recruiting and appointing its faculty. Faculty participate in the search process for new members of the instructional staff. The institution ensures equal employment opportunity consistent with legal requirements and any other dimensions of its own choosing; compatible with its mission and purposes, it addresses its own goals for the achievement of diversity of race, gender, and ethnicity. Faculty selection reflects the effectiveness of this process and results in a variety of intellectual backgrounds and training. Each prospective faculty member is provided with a written contract that states explicitly the nature and term of the initial appointment and, when applicable, institutional considerations that might preclude or limit future appointments. (Standard 5.4)
    Salaries and benefits are set at levels that ensure the institution's continued ability to attract and maintain an appropriately qualified instructional staff whose profile is consistent with the institution's mission and purposes. (Standard 5.6)
    Faculty have a substantive voice in matters of educational programs, faculty personnel, and other aspects of institutional policy... [emphasis added] (Standard 3.10)

    On evaluation, New England recommends that "all faculty pursue scholarship designed to ensure they are current in the theory, knowledge, skills, and pedagogy of their discipline or profession." (Standard 5.19) However, there is no distinction between contingent and full-time faculty. Further, it is stated that the institution has equitable and broad-based procedures for...evaluation applying to both full- and part-time faculty, in which its expectations are stated clearly and weighted appropriately for use in the evaluative process. (Standard 2.10)

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    New England makes mention of graduate employees, but articulates no standards with regard to benefits or ceilings on the amount of instructional time for which they are responsible.

    Where graduate teaching assistants are employed, the institution carefully selects, trains, supervises, and evaluates them. (Standard 5.5)

    Do you have experience with the New England Association of Schools and College regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

    North Central Association of College and Schools: The Higher Learning Commission

    Below are the standards set forth by North Central that relate to academic staffing. References for North Central's' standards refer to their Handbook of Accreditation.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    North Central requires that a list of all full-time and part-time faculty [should be] available to the review team and asks institutions how they "use" part-time faculty in the Reaffirmation of Accreditation process, which takes place every seven years. There is no further mention of what percentage of the faculty should be full-time vs. part-time; in fact, nothing in North Central's standards precludes an institution from hiring exclusively contingent faculty.

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    North Central requires professional development opportunities be available for faculty in general without any differentiation by faculty type.

    The organization supports professional development opportunities and makes them available to all of its administrators, faculty, and staff. (3.1-4)

    North Central's standards for faculty on these topics do not make a distinction between those who are full-time tenured and tenure-track versus those who are serving in contingent positions.

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of contingent faculty.

    North Central requires that "policies related to the employment, orientation, supervision, and evaluation of full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate teaching assistants" (9.4-2) should be available to the evaluation team.

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    Again, North Central states that "policies related to the employment, orientation, supervision, and evaluation of full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate teaching assistants" (9.4-2; emphasis added) should be available to the evaluation team.

    Do you have experience with North Central regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

    Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

    Below are the standards set forth by Northwest that relate to academic staffing. Standards and Policies references for Northwest refer to their Standards of Accreditation.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    Northwest does not set a specific standard for the number of percent or full-time faculty at an institution. However, Northwest does advise an institution to demonstrate "that it periodically assesses institutional policies concerning the use of part-time and adjunct faculty in light of the mission and goals of the institution." (Standard 4.A) Further, Northwest calls for institutions to employ "professionally qualified faculty with primary commitment to the institution and representative of each field or program in which it offers major work" (emphasis added), implying a certain level of full-time faculty. Its glossary defines part-time faculty as those "whose major responsibility is not related to the institution in question."

    The above standard is buttressed by standards under Standard 2, Educational Program and its Effectiveness.

    The institution's faculty is adequate for the educational levels offered, including full-time faculty representing each field in which it offers major work. (Standard 2.C.7, The Undergraduate Program)

    Institutions offering graduate degrees have appropriate full-time faculty in areas appropriate to the degree offered and whose main activity lies with the institution. Such faculty are related by training and research to the disciplines in which they teach and supervise research. (Standard 2.E.3, Graduate Faculty and Related Resources)

    Faculty are adequate in number and sufficiently diversified within disciplines so as to provide effective teaching, advising, scholarly and/or creative activity, as well as to participate appropriately in curriculum development, policy development, evaluation, institutional planning, and development. Small graduate programs ordinarily require the participation of several full-time faculty whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education. (Standard 2.E.4, Graduate Faculty and Related Resources)

    In the delivery of off-campus programs, full-time faculty whose whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education provide physical presence and participation in the planning, delivery, and assessment of the programs. (Standard 2.E.5, Graduate Faculty and Related Resources)

    The institution that offers the doctoral degree has a core of full-time faculty active in graduate education at its main campus and at each off-campus location where doctoral programs are offered. (Standard 2.E.6, Graduate Faculty and Related Resources)

    Northwest also requires that "statistics [should be] available concerning faculty and administration characteristics, such as numbers of males and females, minorities, full-time and part-time faculty" (Policy 4.1) and that an institution's "catalogs and other official publications should be readily available and accurately depict...faculty (full-time and part-time listed separately) with degrees held and the conferring institution." (Policy 3.1)

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    Northwest articulates very clear expectations with regard to the working conditions and professional development of faculty in general.

    However, the working conditions and professional development for contingent faculty in particular are minimally addressed in Standard 4.A, "employment practices for part-time and adjunct faculty include dissemination of information regarding the institution, the work assignment, rights and responsibilities, and conditions of employment."

    Northwest does have a recommended practice in Policy A-8:

    Provide salaries and benefits which enable faculty to live with dignity and which are reasonably competitive with similar institutions. (Policy A-8, Recommended Practices)

    Standards for the hiring process and evaluation of contingent faculty.

    Northwest outlines clear and lengthy expectations for the recruitment and hiring of full-time faculty, but makes little mention of contingent faculty in its standards.

    Part-time and adjunct faculty are qualified by academic background, degree(s), and/or professional experience to carry out their teaching assignment and/or other prescribed duties and responsibilities in accord with the mission and goals of the institution. (Standard 4.A)

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    Northwest does not have accreditation standards for graduate employees.

    Do you have experience with Northwest regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

    Below are the standards set forth by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that relate to academic staffing. References for Southern's standards refer to their Principles of Accreditation.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    The number of full-time faculty members is adequate to support the mission of the institution and to ensure the quality and integrity of its academic programs. (Standard 2.8)

    Southern leaves it to the institution to determine what is considered to be an "adequate" corps of full time faculty. However, it does set a minimum percentage of courses taught in a discipline by faculty members with terminal degrees.

    At least 25 percent of the discipline course hours in each major at the baccalaureate level are taught by faculty members holding the terminal degree--usually the earned doctorate--in the discipline, or the equivalent of the terminal degree. (Standard 3.7.1)

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    The institution publishes policies on the responsibility and authority of faculty in academic and governance matters. (Standard 3.7.5)
    There is a clear and appropriate distinction, in writing and practice, between the policy-making functions of the governing board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy. (Standard 3.2.6)
    The institution places primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of the curriculum with its faculty. (Standard 3.4.12)
    The institution provides ongoing professional development of faculty as teachers, scholars, and practitioners. (Standard 3.7.3)

    Southern's standards for faculty on these topics do not make a distinction between those who are full-time tenured and tenure-track versus those who are serving in contingent positions.

    Standards for the hiring process and evaluation of contingent faculty.

    The institution defines and publishes policies regarding appointment and employment of faculty and staff. (Standard 3.2.9)

    The institution regularly evaluates the effectiveness of each faculty member in accord with published criteria, regardless of contractual or tenured status. (Standard 3.7.2)

    Southern makes no distinction between the types of faculty to which it refers about hiring and evaluation.

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    Graduate teaching assistants: master's in the teaching discipline or 18 graduate semester hours in the teaching discipline, direct supervision by a faculty member experienced in the teaching discipline, regular in-service training, and planned and periodic evaluations. (Standard 3.7.1)

    Do you have experience with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

     

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges: ACSCU & ACCJC

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges: The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (ACSCU)

    Below are the standards set forth by ACSCU that relate to academic staffing. Page numbers refer to ACSCU's Handbook of Accreditation 2008.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    The institution has an instructional staffing plan that includes a sufficient number of full-time faculty with appropriate backgrounds, by discipline and degree levels. (18)

    ACSCU leaves it to the institution to determine what is considered to be a "sufficient number" of full time faculty.

    As for graduate-level programs, ACSCU asks that "institutions offering graduate-level programs employ at least one full-time faculty member for each graduate degree program offered, and demonstrate sufficient resources and structures to sustain these programs and create a graduate-level academic culture." (15)

    ACSCU does mandate full disclosure of the demographics of the faculty to the public. It requires that "publications make clear the status (e.g., full-time, part-time, adjunct) of each faculty member." (52)

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for part-time faculty.

    The institution systematically engages full-time non-tenure track, adjunct, and part-time faculty in such processes as assessment, program review, and faculty development. (18)

    ACSCU also requires that institutions implement "policies designed to integrate part-time faculty appropriately into the life of the institution, including orientation and training in assessment of student learning." (52)

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of contingent faculty's performance.

    Faculty and staff recruitment, orientation, workload, incentive, and evaluation practices are aligned with institutional purposes and educational objectives. Evaluation processes are systematic, include appropriate peer review, and, for instructional faculty and other teaching staff, involve consideration of evidence of teaching effectiveness, including student evaluations of instruction. (18)

    ACSCU's standards for faculty on these topics do not make a distinction between those who are full-time tenured and tenure-track versus those who are serving in contingent positions.

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    ACSCU does not have standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges: The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)

    Below are the standards set forth by ACCJC that relate to academic staffing. Page numbers refer to ACCJC's Accreditation Reference Handbook.

    Standards for percentage of full-time faculty an institution should employ.

    The institution maintains a sufficient number of qualified faculty with full-time responsibility to the institution. (26)

    Like ACSCU, ACCJC leaves it to the institution to determine what is considered to be a "sufficient number" of full time faculty.

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    While there is a mention of the treatment of faculty, "The institution subscribes to, advocates, and demonstrates integrity in the treatment of its administration, faculty, staff and students," (27) ACCJC has no standards for working conditions and professional development with regard to contingent faculty.

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of contingent faculty.

    3. The institution systematically develops personnel policies and procedures that are available for information and review. Such policies and procedures are equitably and consistently administered.

    a. The institution establishes and adheres to written policies ensuring fairness in all employment procedures.

    b. The institution makes provision for the security and confidentiality of personnel records. Each employee has access to his/her personnel records in accordance with law. (26)

    ACCJC has no standards that specifically address the hiring practices and the evaluation of contingent faculty.

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    ACCJC has no standards regarding the employment of graduate employees, as this agency only accredits two-year institutions.

    Do you have experience with ACSCU and/or ACCJC regarding the implementation of these standards? We would like to hear about your experience.

    The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

    Below are the standards set forth by the the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges that relate to academic staffing. References for ACCSC's standards refer to their Standards of Accreditation.

    Standards for ratios of full-time vs. contingent faculty on campus

    ACCSC does not have any language about the employment ratios of full-time faculty vs. contingent faculty; the only language that vaguely references this subject is:

    A school must ensure that its faculty are appropriate, suitable and sufficient in number for the instructional programs offered by the school. (Admin and Faculty Qualifications, 74)

    Standards for working conditions and professional development opportunities for contingent faculty.

    ACCSC does not have any language pertaining to the working conditions or professional development of contingent faculty specifically, but their standards do include language about these issues for the faculty as a whole.

    The school must demonstrate that it engages in ongoing faculty assessment and professional development activities that: are appropriate to the size and scope of the school's educational programs; support the quality of education provided; and enhance student learning and achievement. These professional development activities should include elements such as continuing education in the subject area(s) taught; teaching skill development; instructional methodology development; membership in trade and professional organizations as appropriate; and other elements appropriate for the ongoing professional development of faculty. The school is required to document the implementation of these professional development activities for its faculty (Admin and Faculty Qualifications, 74)

    Faculty members must be trained in instructional methods and teaching skills. The school should hire faculty members who have received training in instructional methods and teaching skills or who are experienced teachers. Should a school hire a faculty member without prior training or experience, the school must provide training before the faculty member assumes primary instructional responsibilities in any classroom, curriculum, laboratory, or program related training. A school's faculty must engage in ongoing development of teaching skills as part of its plan for faculty improvement.

    The school may provide its own faculty training using in-house resources or utilize resources outside the institution. In either case, teacher training shall include such elements as: formal education; workshops/seminars presented by an appropriate individual focusing on areas related to instructional methods and teaching skill development; or formal in-house mentoring programs with appropriately qualified and experienced faculty. (Admin and Faculty Qualifications, 75)

    The school must develop policies addressing teaching load (inclusive of residential and distance education), class size, time needed for course development, and the sharing of instructional responsibilities that allow for effective teaching in a distance education environment. (Distance Education, 93-94)

    The school must provide orientation and training for faculty in accordance with Section III (B)(4), Substantive Standards, Standards of Accreditation, which specifically addresses teaching skills and instructional methods in a distance education environment. (Distance Education, 93-94)

    Standards for hiring practices and evaluation of part-time faculty's performance.

    ACCSC has quite a bit of language about the credentials that faculty must hold in order to be employed by an accredited institution. However, ACCSC only has vague language of how faculty should expect to be evaluated or promoted, and only within the context of distance education.

    The purpose of this section is to require schools to retain a strong and experienced faculty that is continually attentive to the needs of the students, interested in strengthening the curricula, and obligated to continued self-improvement. A school must ensure that its faculty are appropriate, suitable and sufficient in number for the instructional programs offered by the school. By hiring and retaining qualified faculty, a school is able to strengthen the quality of its training program.

    The school must verify prior work experience and maintain documentation of academic credentials of all faculty members and administrators, as required, to demonstrate compliance with applicable Standards of Accreditation.

    Faculty members must be certified or licensed where required by law.

    Faculty members must have appropriate qualifications and be able to teach in a manner that permits announced educational objectives to be achieved. All faculty must be able to demonstrate a command of theory and practice, contemporary knowledge, and continuing study in their field.

    Faculty teaching technical and occupationally related courses in either nondegree or occupational associate degree programs must have a minimum of three years of related practical work experience in the subject area(s) taught.

    Faculty teaching applied general education courses in an occupational associate degree program must have a baccalaureate degree with appropriate coursework in the subject area(s) taught or three years related practical work experience and college level coursework in the subject area(s) taught.

    Faculty teaching technical and occupationally related courses in an academic associate or baccalaureate degree program must have a minimum of four years of related practical work experience in the subject area(s) taught and possess a related degree at least at the same level of the course the faculty member is teaching. In exceptional cases, outstanding professional experience and contributions to the occupational field of study may be substituted for a formal degree. In such instances, the faculty member must possess a minimum of eight years of related practical work experience and the school must justify and document on an individual basis the outstanding professional experience and contributions to the occupational field.

    Faculty teaching general education courses in an academic degree program must have, at a minimum, a master's degree with appropriate academic coursework and preparation in the subject area(s) taught.3

    Graduate Degree Faculty Requirements

     

    a. At a minimum, at least 50% of graduate level courses included in a master's degree program must be taught by faculty members who possess a minimum of fours years of related practical work experience, an earned doctorate degree or other terminal degree in a related field of study, and appropriate preparation in the subject area taught. The remaining 50% of the courses may be taught by faculty who possess a minimum of four years of related practical work experience and a master's degree in a related field of study with appropriate preparation in the subject area taught or a master's degree in an unrelated field of study with 18 semester credit hours or 27 quarter credit hours of graduate level education in the subject area taught.

    b. In exceptional cases, outstanding professional experience and contributions to the occupational field of study may be substituted for a formal degree. In such instances, the faculty member must possess a minimum of eight years of related practical work experience and the school must justify and document, on an individual basis, the outstanding professional experience and contributions to the occupational field.

    c. Graduate faculty and other appropriate school personnel participate in the development, ongoing review, and improvement of graduate level curriculum.

    Faculty teaching ESL courses must have appropriate experience and educational background including state or equivalent credentials in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) (Admin and Faculty Qualifications, 74-76)

    The institution must have clear, consistent policies, measures, and procedures to evaluate the performance and needs of faculty members, and to assess faculty effectiveness in distance education programs or courses of study. (Distance Edu, 93-94)

    Standards for the employment of graduate employees.

    ACCSC does not have any language about graduate employees.