Response to the Administration’s Call to Examine Faculty Workload
By now most of our academic community has heard the administration’s call for faculty and staff to examine work habits and to do better, but it is really more than that. They seem to be convinced that we are not doing all we can to save the university from the dire fiscal situation in which it finds itself. What they’ve told us: we are short unexplained millions of dollars for FY 2012-2013 - $20 million? $30 million?
… what we know and what we don’t …
We know we’ve hired a lot of non-academic employees, and we use a significant number of poorly paid part time faculty to deliver our curriculum. We know that until this coming semester tuition and fees have increased every year to the maximum allowed by state law. And we know that until this semester enrollment had been increasing – up 6000 students since 1997.
What we don’t know, and the university isn’t telling us, are details about the source of our newfound “poverty”, and how circumstances could become so dire in the course of just a couple of semesters.
We know that the Administration appears to want us to help fill the financial hole by having full time faculty teach more (for the same salary) while recruiting new students in a variety of ways. Teaching more classes does not magically increase revenues (existing students are not going to spend more just because more classes are offered). The only savings possible would be in the elimination of part time teachers.
… so let’s do the arithmetic...
There are 684 full time faculty in the bargaining unit. If each of us taught a course that was otherwise taught by a part-timer there would be 684 fewer part-timer courses taught. Assuming average part-time pay is $1,500/credit (a very liberal average), the savings would be $1,500 x 3 credits x 684 bargaining unit faculty = $3,078,000. This is only 15% of a $20 million fiscal hole, 10% of a $30 million hole, and thus not much more than a drop in the bucket.
… the real reason for being asked to teach more ...
Could the REAL reason we are being told to increase our teaching loads be --and it almost certainly is-- because the Administration needs to show a reduced reliance on part-timers? How ironic is that? For several decades, departments that have been starved for full time faculty have had little choice but to resort to the use of part time colleagues simply to deliver their curriculum. The Administration has been able to use revenue savings generated by this dubious educational strategy for dubiously valuable, and non-educational, missions. Now these same departments are being told that they need to “work to capacity” to “fix” the over-reliance on part-timers, the same over-reliance that they’ve been unsuccessfully resisting all these years! At best, this is enormously disrespectful of the work we do - our teaching and research. Over time, we will begin to lose the positive effect that research has for our teaching, and the positive effect our teaching has for our research.
… we need to reorient ourselves to our core mission of effective knowledge creation and delivery...
What we really need - what we want to assist the administration in accomplishing - is a refocusing of the University on its core mission to deliver specialized and contextualized knowledge to students with exceptionally qualified faculty, and to generate that knowledge via faculty research. If the University is hamstrung by a state governor and legislature that binds our tuition increases while starving us of financial support, then “accessory” endeavors need to be sloughed off first in the name of cost cutting (i.e., reducing administrative costs and abandoning quixotic quests for some kind of football “dream team.”). If and when the state increases funding then “accessory” functions can be added back into the mix. At the very least those functions ought to carry the same standard of profitability that academic departments are now made to face.
… an administration that focuses only on information delivery is missing the other side of our role: discovery and knowledge creation through research...
Focusing on the core mission is exactly what happens at K-12 institutions when levies fail or funding is cut. This is what we need to do at The University of Akron. We have a dual mission here and an administration that focuses only on information delivery is missing the other side of our role: knowledge creation. It is well understood that professionals who directly engage in the discovery of knowledge are in the best position to provide the highest quality education. Additionally, directly involving students in this creative process is the best way to spark student interest in a subject and a career path. Knowledge creation is the integral part of any high-quality university experience and cannot reasonably be neglected in a university’s mission.
The Akron-AAUP calls on the administration to work with us and our governance bodies (Faculty Senate and University Council) to help solve the problems we face now and in the future. Stating an undefined or ill-defined problem and demanding that we simply accept the administation's premise is not the best way forward.
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