Faculty Work and Workload

Few issues in recent years have aroused as much interest outside of the academy as the question of faculty workload. State legislators faced with shrinking resources, calls for more teaching and less research, and demands for greater accountability, responded in various ways: some sought to destroy the tenure system, others attempted to mandate the number of hours faculty must spend in the classroom.

Faculty members have been helping the AAUP compile answers to the question: What Do Faculty Do? The list should be considered a work in progress.

The AAUP’s Statement on Faculty Workload recommends preferred and maximum teaching loads for undergraduate and graduate courses. It also describes some common sources of inequity in the distribution of workloads and makes recommendations for overcoming these problems.

In 1994, the AAUP issued a comprehensive report, The Work of Faculty: Expectations, Priorities, and Rewards. Written with an eye to the academy and the general public, the report described the components of faculty work—primarily teaching, research, and service—and provided data showing how faculty typically distribute the time spent at various tasks. The information was presented by type of institution so that readers could see the connection between the mission of the institution and the balance between teaching and research. Few faculty members were surprised when the data revealed that faculty members at research institutions spend more than half their time teaching.

Despite data showing that faculty work long hours (48-52 hours per week, according to the report), many public figures remain skeptical, questioning whether faculty are allocating their time productively. This mistrust has been reflected in attempts by state legislatures to regulate terms of employment, including teaching hours, sabbaticals, tenure, and post-tenure review.

A 1996 AAUP report, The Politics of Intervention: External Regulation of Academic Activities and Workloads in Public Higher Education, found that twenty-one states in 1994 had mandates related to faculty workload. The report faulted outside attempts to regulate the manner and hours that faculty work in public institutions on several counts: 1) few states advanced standards according to type of institution, preferring a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and 2) there is little evidence that regulation by the outside community will result in “better” teaching, research, or service. (The report is available upon request from Nanette Crisologo.)

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