Friday, February 17, 2012

Differential teaching loads

At least two college deans on campus are pushing chairs to assign extra teaching to faculty who haven't produced any research over some period of time. This raises all sorts of issues re the FA contract, tenure and promotion, and merit procedures (even if we have no merit for the next few years, more teaching now will mean less research production later). But I wanted to start a thread for faculty to comment on this push on its merits. Would you like to empower your chair to assign additional teaching to faculty she or he determines are non-productive in research? 

While I see a certain attraction to this proposal--we all know of at least a few colleagues who do not appear to be carrying their fair share of the load--the more I think about it, the less I think of it. There are already external motivators to do research, both formal (tenure, promotion, merit) and informal (the respect of one's colleagues), in addition to our own internal motivations. And formally stigmatizing faculty who are regarded as under productive in research by assigning them more teaching would have all sorts of negative effects. It would set up a two-tier system in which most of us are regarded as bona fide research faculty, but a few are delegated to second-class status. Relegating those faculty to a teaching ghetto would obviously not increase our research; nor does it seem likely to me that forcing faculty to take on additional courses they will regard as punishment will produce a positive classroom experience for anyone. Any gains in efficiency by squeezing a few more classes out of each department would be more than offset by such losses to collegiality and morale.


There are better ways of doing this than the current top-down idea, but I'm not sure they are worth pursuing either. Some faculty may decide that they have come to a point in their careers when they are no longer interested in doing research, and be prepared to volunteer for more teaching; for them additional teaching could be an honorable way to ensure that they are doing their fair share of the work. But if we wish to retain our status as a research university, we don't want to encourage faculty to make this move. If we do encourage faculty to do so, we need to address all sorts of questions about how they are to be treated going forward. Does volunteering for an additional class also result your removing any lingering chance you have for promotion to full professor by further diminishing your ability to do research--and voluntarily marking yourself as a non-researcher?  Does you lose any access to merit pay you might have received by doing research during the time you must now devote to extra teaching?  And there is a slippery slope problem here, as it is not always clear when a faculty member is genuinely volunteering to teach more, as opposed to giving in to pressure to volunteer when he or she would rather have the time to do research, despite having run into something of a dry spell in research productivity.

Speaking of research productivity, enough from me in this line. I would expect this topic to generate a lively comment stream, for those who have met their research quota for the day.  


80 comments:

  1. So, should unproductive faculty be allowed to remain unproductive?

    Or should an unproductive faculty member's boss require them to be productive?

    What kind of world do we live in?

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    1. They're unionized. Would you expect it any other way?

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    2. Well, university will move forward and leave them behind. We don't need 'parasites'.

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    3. Most of non-productive people are FA members, including its leaders. Take a look their CV if you have questions. It is the time for these `parasites' to take their fair share.

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  2. This is an issue that needs to be resolved at the departmental level since every departments differs in its goals. As Dave has remarked, the major problem with this move is that it is again the "top-down", one-size-fits-all agenda pushed by an administration whose continual presence on the Faculty Senate inhibits any real discussion. The matter should be handled in a collegial manner and not by the orders of Deans and higher administration. Otherwise what is the value of a faculty contract?

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    1. But our contract, signed by the FA, is one-size-fits-all. For this issue, would be ok for my own unite to negotiate the contract with the Admin?

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    2. I don't want FA to represent myself, but the FA is again the ``to-down'', one-siz-fits-all to those faculty members who don't not want the FA representation.

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    3. Just because I am tired of hearing all these uninformed rants about our contracts, and about being forced to be represented by the FA, etc.


      Our contract says that workload is primarily determined at the departmental level. There's no one-size-fits-all model; quite the reverse actually. Just thought I would bring that to people's attention.

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    4. It is the time for FA leaders to talk about academic standards.

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    5. The sun will rise on the west side if FA is really serious about research productivity. Dave will have to switch topic very soon.

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    6. My understanding is that departments can set their workload as they see fit, within the 24 hour credit hour (per academic year) framework. By "departments", however, we (at least the FA) mean not simply "chairs" but faculty working via operating papers, which must be approved by faculty and administration alike. So if your department decides to up teaching loads, or allow chairs to assign different loads to different people based on their assessment of research productivity, I don't think the FA has grounds for an objection--so long as assignments are done fairly, and merit and tenure and promotion guidelines treat such faculty fairly.

      My own view, which I suspect is that of most (not all!) in the FA, is that differential teaching loads within a department are a bad idea. But one of the principles agreed to in this last contract is departmental autonomy. Most faculty believe their departments are fairly well run, so that's where most of the power to decide on workloads resides. (Also, of course, because different disciplines have different standards, to some extent.)

      So the claim that the FA is imposing a monolithic standard on departments strikes me as unfounded. As far as the FA is concerned, you can set your teaching load up to 12 hours per semester, or can raise your requirements for research productivity for tenure. In some colleges, at any rate, it is deans which are insisting on a uniform standard, or rather a non-uniform standard. Only productive faculty (however that is to be defined) can keep their traditional teaching loads. Others are to be punished with more teaching. How's that for support of research?

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  3. The FA suddenly thinks research productivity is important?

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    1. Because FA is not popular anymore.

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  4. I think that faculty should only be compensated on the basis of their merit. That would solve this problem immediately.

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    1. I completely agree. However, FA leaders won't like it. Democracy does not work well if someone wants to keep standards.

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    2. So you don't want to retain any democratic elements in union or university governance? Do tell.

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    3. Dave, please don't twist the comments. What I mean here is ``Democracy related to standards'', not what you said ''any democratic elements''.

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    4. This is typical FA's trick, live with it!!!

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  5. It is a joke for FA to talk about standards. I saw those nonproductive people to use FA as a shelter.

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  6. The FA contract just says that faculty workload will be the equivalent of 24 credit hours per year. The way in which that equivalence is figured is left to the departments and schools/colleges to determine.

    Certainly, there are faculty who are not research-productive who are doing masses of the kinds of service and additional indirect teaching assignments that keep our doors open. They should clearly not be required to also teach more classes, since they are at the required level of overall productivity.

    There are also at least a few individuals, though, who are really not doing the equivalent of 24 credit hours per year--which ought to be possible to assess through reference to workload assignments and annual reviews for merit. Why would it be such a problem to ensure that when (or if) this happens, appropriate workload in assigned in the future?

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  7. Higher education in the United States is facing challenges on every front. Faculty are asked to reform teaching and to be accountable for student learning. At the same time, they are still expected to advance research frontiers and retain
    preeminence in the creation of knowledge. They are also asked to assume new roles in K–12 education and social programs. A fiscally conservative national climate and downsizing ethic in the 1990s has cut budgets for education, especially at the college level, along with most social programs. Universities across America face staggering financial problems, forcing them to make difficult decisions about competing priorities. At the same time, there has been an erosion of public confidence in higher education and public respect for research scientists.

    Thus, higher education, and especially research universities, face both a resource problem and a problem centered on the concerns of many that we are not meeting the needs of society. University administrators are increasingly responding to their resource problems by making hard choices as to which programs will continue to receive the support necessary to pursue excellence and
    which will find their support reduced significantly. University administrators are also responding to the criticism they hear by pledging greater attention to undergraduate education and the needs of the communities which support them. FA leaders would be wise to pay attention to these trends.

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    1. And Faculty are expected to cite their sources and not plagiarize.

      www.ams.org/profession/leaders/workshops/part_1.pdf

      page 3 and page 10

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    2. Yup, anonymous 4:43's comment is indeed plagiarized, as it took our anonymous snoop a half hour to discover. It comes from the aptly labeled "Towards Excellence", a guide to leading mathematics departments published in 1999). "Excellence" is mandatory in the title of any administrative plan. This is one of those times I'm glad blogger doesn't provide me with the tools to track who's posted what--as I am curious as to what anonymous comment writer would somehow find it in their interest to post this plagiarized blather. This is a tough contest, but I think this one may take the prize for the most pathetic comment so far. Congratulations! Send me your name and street address and I'll send you your prize. This is the sort of thing that really makes blogging worthwhile.

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    3. Don't try to scare people even though you don't like the opinion. Anonymous 4:43 posts some comments either not claim credit nor for degrees. There is no personal interest to do so. This site is not for formal publication. It is a discussion forum, even though we encourage for giving the citations too.

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  8. Quite obviously, the culprit is a Poshard supporter!

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    1. Quite obviously, the culprit is a FA supporter!

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  9. Personally, I definitely would support my chair in assigning teaching duties with research productivity in mind. The most important thing is to protect untenured faculty from higher teaching loads (to facilitate the kind of productivity (publications, presentations, grantsmanship, and graduate student development) that is necessary to get tenure--in the sciences, anyway). But once those (hopefully minimal) teaching loads have been assigned, how should the rest of the (defined) teaching load by divvied up for a given department? Well, those that are research active should have a large fraction of their "official" time assigned to "research"--those that aren't would therefore have (relatively) more time on their hands that should be apportioned to teaching. It is NOT punishment--it is our job. The hard part is what to do with faculty who have not been demonstrably research-productive in some time according to the standards of their field (say, many years since they've done a G.D. thing that could be put on a CV) but either (a) have not yet been able to come to terms with the fact that it's time to hang it up; or (b) are at peace with their no-longer-productive status, but are too lazy to pull their own weight w/ respect to the other departmental duties--teaching and service. Who could blame a chair for assigning more teaching duties to such faculty? How could such faculty make a plausible argument that they are "research productive" when there's no evidence for years and years? Assignment of greater teaching (and service) duties to such faculty allows a chair to shield their younger faculty from higher teaching loads.

    I'm not so worried about Dave's concerns about either the threat of the creation of a two (or more) tiered stratification of faculty from such a policy (it's long been happening everywhere independent of this, and the recent push to further blur the lines between NTT and TT faculty contribute to this), OR the implications for merit: as far as I'm concerned, merit pay could absolutely be apportioned to faculty who are innovative in the classroom (and would have no less respect for such faculty than I would have for those whose innovation lies more in the traditional research realm).

    Having spoken with a few chairs though, it would seem that the real problem is what to do with faculty who really can't or won't do anything---faculty who (1) have not been demonstrably productive in research / creativity since forever; (2) can't teach themselves out of a paper bag; (3) have no interest in innovating in the class room, self assessment, or trying to get better in any way; and yet also (4) are so undependable and disconnected from departmental needs that they are dead weight on service assignments as well.

    I think being a chair is a thankless enough task already. They should at least have some power to effect positive change somewhere...

    P.S. I've heard tell that some faculty have developed an interesting way to avoid significant teaching loads. Although they don't do much, they sign up to teach some class of esoterica that no one wants to take. Then, when enrollment is too low, the course is cancelled -- but instead of being assigned to another course (say, an intro course that maybe they don't want), they get assigned to *nothing* -- because their chair either can't or won't re-assign them (the latter case being somewhat understandable if the chair fears having their office full of students complaining about their militantly ineffectual prof). Although such thoughts fill me with some consternation, I feel relieved when I think to myself: "But such a rumor could not possibly be true! Not here, not at SIU!" It still doesn't make me want to be chair though.

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    1. Beezer, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Looking at it from a chair's perspective is helpful, but I wonder if most chairs would like to be required by their dean to make such reassignments. That's what at least one of the deans in question is doing--demanding that chairs reassign non-productive faculty to higher teaching loads. Is this the sort of thing that makes you not want to be chair?

      SIUC has roughly 650 TT faculty. So of course some of them are going to be all but useless, as you suggest, and some will be useless and tenured. Not that many, in my experience, but some. I think that the default assumption behind arguments for differential teaching loads is that we've simply got to do something about this. So we throw out a "solution" which may, somehow, squeeze some more (low quality) work out of such folks--but without considering the consequences.

      A more rational way to look at it, I think, is to ask whether there's a solution to this (relatively small) problem that will do more good than harm.

      Were I a chair, I'd see my job as doing all I could to ensure that my department's faculty and staff performed at the highest possible level--that we got all the high quality teaching, research, and service done that we possibly could. That's the main criterion I'd use to make judgements about how to handle the job--within the limits of a chair's power under a pretty robust understanding of shared governance. My guess is that singling out a faculty member or two for a punitive teaching assignment would do far more harm than good. It would produce more teaching, but likely teaching of a poor quality (as you yourself note), and it would promote ill will that could poison relations between faculty, and between faculty and chair.

      There are, after all, other ways to promote research. One can talk up research and promote research in ways that both reward faculty who do it and inspire other faculty to emulate productive faculty. And, yes, departmental, college, and university promotion of research can also produce a certain shame in faculty who don't aren't producing research. Carrots can also serve as implicit sticks of a sort, and may be more effective, at lower cost, than the blunt force trauma in assigning non-productive faculty to second class status.

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    2. Yes -- I'd expect that dealing with recalcitrant faculty would indeed be my least favorite part of being a chair. Sure, I can talk a good game, but ultimately I'm more of an espouser of the great philsopher Rodney King. I agree that the total number of across-the-board dead-weight faculty is very small. However, the idea of having to deal with someone who is holding their own inertia and ineptitude over my head so I can't assign them to anything--("stop me, before I suck again!")--hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished [apologies to the English Dept folk out there].

      The strange up side of Deans "requiring" that chairs take action is that, in a way, it lets chairs off the hook. Sometimes, it seems to me, administrative fiats from on high can be a kind of hidden (though likely unintentional) gift: The worst time to try to solve the problem of the Dead Weight Prof is when it's reached a crisis point in the department. I expect that everyone has already suffered through years of rising tensions by that point, and there's no way to keep it from getting personal / ugly when a chair is ultimately forced to act (particularly if there are no standards laid down beforehand). However, when something like this comes down, it actually provides an opportunity for departments to decide what they really want to do and believe (without a personal crisis forcing their hand). What are the minimally acceptable standards of productivity? What should we do when they aren't being met (and someone is not even trying, and hasn't in forever)?

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  10. It is reasonable to assign faculty additional teaching if they are not working on scholarship. Note I did not say because the aren't being productive. Some projects are long term and some are risky and flop. We want people to take risks. In my department one person asked to there an extra course and have their merit pay based on a 75% teaching load. There are two people 'stuck' at the assoc. level.

    In general I think is it fair for the admin to press departments to come up with procedures for (1) helping faculty re-engage with scholarship and (2) to assign workloads that insure everyone is doing their fair share. The latter might include additional teaching and service.

    Now one disadvantage we faculty have is we don't know how bad the problem is. We don't have any quantitative information on how many of our colleagues have become deadwood. Here is where an assertive senator could come in. He or she might press hard to get the admin to produce a report for the Senate on this issue. The admin might resist because this report would not be good PR (or might show the problem is small), but said senator needs to insist that we are a public institution and we have an obligation to air our dirty laundry.

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    1. This sort of thing is much less problematic if done at the department level--i.e. under guidelines worked out by departmental faculty. Not that I'd necessarily support it--but it would be less problematic. Nor do I have a problem with people volunteering for increased teaching under the circumstances you suggest.

      The senatorial inquiry you suggest strikes me as distinctly imprudent both for the PR reasons you suggest and because of the difficulty in defining "deadwood". Even if the problem is shown to be small the PR would be bad. Hey, there are 20 faculty at SIUC who haven't published anything in a decade! No one would note that that is 3% of the faculty, or that the average faculty member has published 8 things in the last decade (or whatever the figure would be--complicated by counting books, articles, exhibitions, etc. as one "thing" each?).

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    2. The admin apparently thinks deadwood is a big problem. So we need to know why they think that. Whatever critirea they are using we need to know what it is.

      And fuck PR. We are scholars. The public has every right to know about our problems be they big or small. If you don't trust the public or our ability to communicate with them, then you should not be accepting their money each month.

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    3. Mike's comments make sense. It seems to me that it wouldn't be difficult to identify those productivity issue. We simply group faculty members into three groups: above the average, average, below average. I don't believe that everyone is above the average. So those people whose performance is below the average of their own department should be considered for taking more fair share. I believe that our colleagues are smart enough to identify who is below the average within their unit.

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    4. Dave: ``Hey, there are 20 faculty at SIUC who haven't published anything in a decade! No one would note that that is 3% of the faculty,''

      Deadwood can spread if it is not controlled in a right way. This is why so many colleagues concern about it.

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    5. Deadwood can even spread faster when FA serves as a shelter, as we've seen at SIUC during recent years.

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  11. I want to share a story about my Senate days and why it is important to insist on getting the data. I was on the UEPC. The Provost (Dunn) asked to meet with us about a concern: the large number of incompletes being given and that subsequently became automatic F's after a year. We talked about issuing sternly worded memos warning faculty and about requiring dept chairs to approve each INC grade and so on. Then I asked where exactly where were the INC's being issued? Was the problem concentrated to certain units? Was it tenure track faculty, NNT faculty, or GAs who being too generous with their INC's? I argued that we should not push for draconian blanket solutions until we understood where this problem was occurring. Dunn agreed to come back with more details. The next month he did. It turned out almost all these INC's were coming from the Distance Learning program! It wasn't the faculty after all.

    I had mentioned this story here before when we were debating DL issues in the contract. But I think there is a general lessen about the importance of getting real data. Is the deadwood problem wide spread or concentrated in a few fields? Are some people who look like deadwood on paper actually engaged in service actives that aren't being counted? The only way to know is to get the numbers from the admin. And that will only happen if we have assertive senators.

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  12. Concerned HistorianFebruary 18, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    What has been most galling to me about CoLA Dean Leonard's directive to the chairs and directors is that it really does not contain much consideration for those of us in the college who primarily write single-authored books rather than articles. She tries to soft-pedal this by stating that she understands that there are "book disciplines" but she thinks it is very reasonable that we would be able to produce a chapter or two within the two-year window. This is not always a reasonable assumption, and here's why.

    On average, historians tend to write books every 7-10 years. Of course there are historians who crank out books every 2-3 years; there are also pillars of our field who may only write one or two major works but those works are still read 60 years later. Quantity is not the standard we go by; our operating papers indeed state that tenure and promotion of rank decisions are primarily to be determined by quality not quantity.

    Historians moving onto new avenues of research projects are often at first not going to "show" much in the way of outcome. First of all, many of us have to master the extant scholarship around our topics - if those topics shift from what we last wrote about, as they often do, this can be somewhat time-intensive at first. Then we have to travel to archival sites and we then need to explore within those archives to listen to our sources and be very open-minded about what those sources say (the "risk taking" part of it). Then, and only then, comes most of the writing, and it usually comes out in torrents at the end. In my own particular case, after sputtering and going in circles, suddenly an entire book manuscript was written in less than a year.

    How is this different researching timetable, considered the disciplinary norm in my academic field, to be reconciled in Dean Leonard's window? I am not sure that it can. And that is what deeply troubles me about this latest effort to bean-count and to cajole and cudgel seemingly "unproductive" scholars based on faulty assumptions about how research is actually done in our specific disciplines.

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    1. ``On average, historians tend to write books every 7-10 years''. If this is the common case, then how one can be tenured in the six year window? One may claim that in his/her field, it may take 30 years to generate a meaning book. Thus the productivity can only be judged at the retirement time, and now any further discussion won't make sense.

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    2. Concerned Historian makes very good points. Is it possible to get a copy of this directive? We need to know what criteria the COLA dean is using and how bad she thinks the problem is. I know there is a separate COLA Council but I don't know much about what it does. Could someone on the COLA Council demand a copy of this directive? If we cannot do this via shared governance then we should call on the FA for help. Can the COLA college DRC rep meet with the COLA dean to discuss these concerns and get a copy of this directive? (Or a chair could leak the memo.)

      I do think faculty should be able to show what they are doing. But this does not have to be in the form of publications. If a historian needs three years just to do background reading he or she should be able to list their readings and convince their colleagues that this is a worthwhile pursuit.

      There is a problem administrators have raised in the past. It is that they fear dept chairs in order to get along with the dept will avoid making tough calls and rank everyone above average. It is a legitimate concern and we should not turn a deaf ear to it. But deans need to realize that they cannot really understand how so many different depts work. Musicians don't usually publish and mathematicians don't get big grants to run labs.

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    3. Concerned HistorianFebruary 18, 2012 at 5:26 PM

      To answer Anonymous 1:14's question directly: in most cases, our first books are heavily revised versions of our doctoral dissertations. The emphasis is on "heavily revised." No serious publisher - and for each of us to obtain tenure, we have to publish by the very best presses in our sub-disciplines - publishes dissertations as it; they often require very extensive revisions. In my own specific case, my first book shares very little in common with my doctoral dissertation other than the fact from beginning to end of that research project, the time span was the greater part of a decade.

      After that point, the second research project is usually back to square one although there is usually a germ of the idea leftover in the first project. The more pertinent and alarming question to ask with Dean Leonard's directive is, thus, this. How is a newly tenured associate professor ever to be able to achieve future promotion under such a directive? Since we are an R1, the history department emphasizes quality of publication in our operating papers as the chief criteria for promotion recommendations. And if you look at where we each have published our books, you will notice the very top academic presses in our fields in almost every case. It is indeed one of the reasons I chose to come here several years ago, despite having other job offers.

      But since a new research project, to be done properly and well, takes some time to get started, an associate professor starting work on his/her second book project runs the risk very soon of being labeled an "unproductive" scholar and having an increased teaching load dumped on him/her.

      The other thing I really worry about is potential favoritism and/or dislike of certain professors coming in play here. What criterion has the dean set for herself in evaluating whether x or y history professor is "research productive?" She has not been forthcoming at all about that. And until she is, frankly I am suspicious of her ability to judge my research productivity, particularly given that she shows, through this directive, little appreciation for how it is my academic field does its research.

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  13. I think a lot of the above discussion does seem to point to the best point of action being at the Departmental level (i.e., by chairs). Certainly a one-size-fits-all approach by a Dean over his/her faculty would be too broad a brush (in terms of defining productivity/creativity), but if all a dean does is insist that (a) a department devise some set of criteria for being 'minimally productive' according to a given field's national norms and (b) ask his/her chairs to enforce these minimal standards in the apportionment of duties---then what's the problem?

    One could imagine (say) 3 major contract types for a given faculty: (1) split more-or-less evenly between research and teaching (the default / entry condition); (2) more teaching than research; and (3) more research than teaching (say, for someone who has bought out their semester's teaching load, or perhaps even for a 4th-year faculty who is concentrating on pre-tenure productivity--many schools do that). The question comes to when a chair would switch someone from (1) to (2). Each department could devise their own standards---and it would be best to do it at a time when there isn't a crisis (perhaps nowish?). But as long as standards (and expectations) are laid out, then when such a switch must come to pass, it should not be perceived as capricious or punishment. If one wants to get switched back---well, then the departmental standards could account for that as well.

    Along the same lines as what Dave said, I believe a chair should work to optimize the allotment of departmental resources to best achieve the productivity of the department (in all forms, including teaching). But time (specifically non-teaching time) and (say) labspace (for sciences/engineering) are limited resources. These resources are better invested in new faculty and demonstrably productive faculty. If many years go by without demonstrable effort, these resources should be reapportioned where they could be better utilized (and the best person to do that is the chair). To me, a chair who does NOT try to do that (or worse, is apportioning such limited resources according to some mindless/misbegotten seniority system) is an absentee landlord. Notice I said "try" -- I expect that actually succeeding in such an effort can be an entirely different kettle of fish!

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    1. I agree with beezer that chair plays an important role in this issue. It would be easier if a chair is a respectful scholar. However, some chairs themselves are struggling for their own scholar activities and the things become not that easy. A department chair is an critical example of his/her department and faculty members watch it.

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    2. Concerned HistorianFebruary 18, 2012 at 5:37 PM

      Beezer you raise several good ideas in the abstract. I am not so sure your proposals would work best for assistant professors in my field, given that that first book is a major hurdle to get going. (Yes, our dissertations are often the first draft of the book, but we are also nobodies in the field and it is very hard to get a publisher to give us the time of day). Eventually it is a either a sink/swim moment of whether we can actually get the book contract and get the publication. The nice thing about my department, though, is that they shield junior faculty from much service and grant the same teaching load, with the understanding that we need to be focusing the lion's share of our attention the first 3-4 years on getting that book to a book contract, and then shepherding it through the publication process.

      To go along with Anonymous 3:17's point, it is also necessary for us to educate our chairs about our academic speciality. Luckily, I can say that my colleagues (including my various chairs) have always been very respectful of my particular sub-discipline, what presses are considered leading presses, and so forth. I would begin to worry if ever this were not the case, as it is liable for much abuse if it ever is not.

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    3. Our department chair put the entire department on a political football field, most people are now trying to stay away from various department issues to avoid to be an innocent target.

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  14. If a department chair is not a serious scholar, it will be very unfortunate for the whole department, since he/she has no ability or interest in appreciating solid research. Surface show will be prevalent.

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  15. This was the case in a certain department during the 80s when the Chair who became a future Dean vehemently criticized research and claimed his department as being exclusively a "teaching department." Several decades ago, the good ol'boy and good ol'girl syndrome ruled that opposed research. The person who succeeded "Derge-the Purge" attempted to promote research and high academic standards but was fired after a year. Now we have pressure to graduate more students, many of whom are intellectually incapable to be in a university so we will be graduating a generation of "qualified incompetents" thanks to the State and Sheila Simon in particular.

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  16. Mike's comments seem appropriate. Isn't it reasonable to expect some activity, not necessarily scholarly output? That is, I should be able to demonstrate to a chair that I have fielded a survey in the past year, visited a library and gathered archival records, conducted qualitative interviews, produced three chapters of a yet to be published book, written half of a play, etc. even though there is no actual product to list on a vitae. The problem, in my opinion, would be that there are some people who cannot even show this degree of effort. If you can prove you are working on scholarly activities, even if part of an incrementally as part of a large effort, maybe that is sufficient. I would, however, imagine there are some who could not even demonstrate this level of productivity. That is where the concern rests.

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    1. Recall that I said "their colleagues" not "their chair". In my dept we have an elected personnel committee that reviews faculty work. Maybe small depts leave this up to the elected chair. In units that have non-elected directors I would hope an elected personnel committee is involved.

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    2. Our department chair has the lowest number of publications in the whole department (even lower than assistant professors). He has some training grants in which he is neither a PI nor co-PI. Most his publications are in low level of journals. So he gave everyone's annual research evaluation excellent, which implies that everyone is above the average. It is hard for me to see the department will grow in terms of research. It is also challenging for him to talk about research productivity.

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    3. Usually, weak department wants a weak chair. Thus the dean must make a tough call to the department. If there are too many weak faculty members in a department, it will be challenging to do so.

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    4. Concerned HistorianFebruary 19, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      The problem with this, as I see it, is not my chair. The history department, for as long as I have been a member of it, has been extremely collegial. Our chairs have been very supportive, particularly of junior scholars of which my department has had a lot the past 5-6 years.

      No, the problem is a dean who does not seem to appreciate that what is reasonable for her academic discipline of criminology, publishing articles within a two-year period, is not in mine, history. As I previous explained yesterday, when an historian is at the beginning of a new project, there is not likely going to be a lot of output to show right away. Now, if I didn't produce something in 5 years or 10 years, then I would probably agree the university might have a right to expect why. Even then, I would hope that such a query be done in a professional manner treating the professor with the due respect that he/she has earned as a professional.

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    5. I'm sorry CH, but your department is not always supportive of its junior scholars. Standards of scholarship and service for junior professors in your department are not equally applied. I won't name names because no one deserves vilification, but the facts do not support your characterization of the department.

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  17. 08:19 AM,

    Why did you elect this person? Why did the dean approve this person as chair? Maybe someone needs to step up to the plate. If you don't feel you can do that talk to others about it. You could meet with your dean (I don't know what college you are in) about your concerns and discuss ways your dept could be organized differently.

    One has to be careful however. Be open that you are doing this and invite others to come with you. One colleague in my dept did something like this years ago and was seen by others as being a traitor.

    Of course if you have a bad dean people will adopt a 'hunker down' and 'wait him out' attitude.

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    1. I did discuss with my colleagues and my dean. But it seems to take time to change it.

      Your department sounds weird. Is there any problem to talk to the dean for a faculty member? Why we have to invite some colleagues together? I sometimes have lunch with my associate dean.

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    2. Mike: you comments seem to contradict with academic freedom. Anyone has the right to talk to the dean if necessary. One of vice chancellor just lives next to my door. We talk university issues time to time. I don't think I need to have a colleague with me when we discuss some department issues. What kind of world do we live in?

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    3. I agree people are free to talk with their dean or anyone else. Perhaps the concern I raised is unique to the personal politics in my dept. Let's hope so.

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    4. If some people don't like the dean, and thus don't want others with different opinions to talk to the dean, this indeed is politics. This will hurt the department itself, and will scare people away from department issues. A faculty member has little power and free speech is the only way to express his/her opinions to his/her colleagues and Admins. You cannot take away this basic human right from a person because you do not agree his/her opinion.

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    5. The Department of Mathematics doesn't know how to respect its own faculty members. This is why the department couldn't get respected from outside either. As several FA people attack some faculty members who do not share FA's position, the fundamental concept of FA (protecting faculty) has been forgotten and department strength is declining.

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    6. ``One colleague in my dept did something like this years ago and was seen by others as being a traitor. ''

      The word 'traitor' has already been shown an offensive discrimination against someone with different opinions. This person should document it and file a law suit after evidence is collected.

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    7. Yes, I am in the Math Dept. The incident I described was indeed unfortunate. At the time I made it clear that calling someone a traitor was over the line. In general the Math Dept is pretty collegial. Do we all love each other? No, but we can work together for the most part. There is very little friction between those who went on strike and those who did not. One person taught someone else's class and there are some hard feeling over that. I have met with both parties to try to reconcile them, but I have not been successful. (One retired colleague taught other people's classes during the strike and lied to me about it before I found out; I am not speaking to him.)

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    8. One doesn't need to agree with someone's opinion, but it is also unnecessary to throw hateful or hurtful comments out there. There always are ignorant people who spend a good chunk of their lives trying to start cyber-wars.

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  18. Which department you guys are talking about?

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    1. I think it is Department of Mathematics, which is notorious for FA tactics across our campus and College of Science.

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    2. Why is teaching being considered as a form of punishment? Why is research valued more highly than teaching and yet 95% of most research that is published is inconsequential. There are departments where some members may churn out journal articles but then for each article there is a long string of names and it is unclear exactly what each one contributed. Quality rather than quantity needs to be upheld and I believe that everyone must be given the time to conduct research as I believe that one's research also feeds into one's teaching. SIU shoudl get away from viewing these two activities as being different. They are inextricably intertwined. Dean Leonard obviously prefers to compartmentalize these two spheres but she has done do without really caring to find out about the different disciplines the so-called college of Liberal Arts that she heads encompasses. I though she and all the so-called leaders of COLA went on a day long retreat and came up with the idea of a name change that emphasizes the different modules--Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences! Yet, she would like us all to put on one size fits all Hat! it is unfortunate that Deans don't make an effort to educate themselves! I would recommend that over the course of the year she meets with each and every individual faculty and get to know about how and why they feel passionate about their teaching and research. IN really excellent universities this is what happens. Deans work from the grassroots level!

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    3. Unfortunately, this is NOT a national view. Do you think that any research university would view research and teaching the same? You live in a different world.

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  19. From admin's viewpoint, the problem is permanent associate professors. If you retire as an associate professor, then there wasn't enough research to get you to full. Deans have always complained of areas/units that had "too many "associates." Indeed, as I recall promotion or tenure (one of the two) is awarded on basis of potential for future performance. If you do your articles for six years and then nothing for 25 years (or not enough to merit full), then "Houston, we have a problem."

    The good of unions is better wages, the bad is the bending work rules to justify doing less work. Teaching is a major contribution in lieu of research so why view it as punishment. If I haven't published in 10 years, then I would have no right to complain that I had to teach more. Does any one really argue that point?

    As it stands, the FA is happy to leave it the departments - where the "administrator" is elected by those he/she is supposed to manage! That never works out well.

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    1. Alien Planet: get your facts straight. Nobody is arguing that one activity is more important than the other. The point is, when you begin to view learning/teaching/research holistically you see that they are all inextricably intertwined! Faculty need to teach and do research as each aspect of academic life feeds into the other and you cannot relegate some folks to doing only one. There are individual differences--in that some may excel more in one domain than the other--but one needs to do both and so let us not try to create two classes of society among the faculty. I think the so called administrators have also lost their bearings. Many do not teach--(yet they have 12 months appointments with one month off as vacation) and worse still many do not do a good job facilitating the research and teaching of faculty (i.e. administrating). I think all administrators should continue to teach and do research as well otherwise they do not have any business occupying leadership positions in institutions of higher learning!

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    2. Thinker Outside the BoxFebruary 22, 2012 at 12:29 AM

      The problem of course is that there is no reward incentives in place for superior teaching at this university for "permanent associate professors." Rather than presume them all to be deadwood, might perhaps a more tactful approach be to say that truly exceptional teachers might also be eligible for promotion to full? I know that my alma mater (one of the tier-one public ivies) had Distinguished Teaching Professor as a rank for truly exceptional teachers.

      Of course, such an idea might take inspired leadership that actually thinks outside the box. I'd like still to think that it is possible that such leaders exist here at SIUC.

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    3. Under your proposed framework, what is the DIFFERENCE between a research university and a community college?

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    4. Thinker Outside the BoxFebruary 22, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Well I think you need to tell our administrators THAT when we don't have that much in the way of standards of students we admit to this university!

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    5. This simply an excuse. One doesn't have productive research because of undergraduate students? You blame the wrong people.

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    6. @ Thinker: I would would agree in principle, but in practice truly innovative teaching is itself often publishable (and the subject of conferences)--at least in my field (and related fields). Certainly such "on-paper" work would back up the claim of being an innovative teacher (and worthy of recognition and to me, promotion as well--and something that could be recognized as such in operating papers to codify it). On the other hand, someone who, say, does merely a "pretty good" job (according to their student evals) teaching the same thing the same way for 20 years (and nothing else learned or to show for it)---well, I'm not sure that this should merit promotion (not that that is what you are saying). How many "permanent associates" fall into this latter category, with no research results either over a long time period? Hopefully a small number (but I admit I have no idea).

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  20. beezer, while there are venues for publication based on good pedagogy, they are not valued as much as so-called "original" research. When I came up for tenure, my dean expressed some concern for the amount of "pedagogical publications" on my CV. I can only imagine this concern will be greater when/if I go up for full.

    Let's not forget that the expectations for service and indirect teaching (e.g. graduate advising) increase at the associate level. My department is committed to protecting assistants from too much such service in order to facilitate their research agenda and likelihood to get tenure. Thanks to loss of faculty through attrition and a graduate program that does not adjust accordingly (indeed, the administration pressures us to make it larger) this indirect teaching burden has only gotten bigger. I am thankful but not hopeful that CBA mandated changes to operating papers might allow us to address indirect teaching as a more formally acknowledged part of what we do.

    I know of very little deadwood in my department, especially among those faculty who feel stuck at the associate level. I know of far too many more assistants who leave our university for other jobs, often giving up the supposed advantage of teaching in a graduate program. Their reasons are many and varied, but at the core is a real questioning of the value of tenure here when it seems to come with a high degree of service and indirect teaching obligations.

    We can proclaim ourselves an R1 institution, and some departments and programs make that claim believable. But the bulk of our issues (from performance based funding to recruitment and retention) show the lie of that claim. For too long a "Voodoo curriculum" that believes the efforts placed in research and graduate programs will "trickle down" to our undergraduate curriculum has created this problem. I do believe we need more attention and real resource given to our UG mission -- but I don't think top down "punishing" faculty with teaching because an arbitrary metric determines they are not producing enough original research is the way to go. Our budget woes made us cut recognition for excellence in teaching (although thankfully, that is coming back). We could use more recognition and support of excellent pedagogy -- more, for example, than changing the name of ISS to the Center for Teaching Excellence, but including no one with real pedagogical bona fides (beyond expertise with technology).

    In the end, though, this is not an issue about deadwood. It is an issue of squeezing every last bit of labor and revenue from a tapped organization. Our Chancellor has offered the opinion recently that we need more unfunded graduate students, that we need to reconsider tuition waivers for research and administrative graduate assistants (especially when grant funded). Should we really be surprised, then, that getting more labor out of faculty is also on the agenda? Our accountant Chancellor is very good at assessing and manipulating revenue streams, but so much less so at accounting for social and intellectual capital. The morale on this campus is testament to how much those resources are being squandered.

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    1. I still disagree – teaching isn’t punishment: and besides, this is really about resource allocation. Each department has a certain amount of "work" to be done, and has finite resources to spread over these efforts. A department, through its chair, should divvy the teaching/service load as equitably as possible across the faculty, modulated by the following constraints: 1) untenured faculty should be differentially protected; 2) not all faculty have equal amounts of available time on their hands (due to differential research loads / involvement); and 3) the assignments should, where possible, maximize efficiency (and in the view of the chair, increase the likelihood of maximal productivity in the long run). Given these desires and constrains, how should the chair allocate the resources? The main choices appear to be: 1) historically; 2 capriciously; 3) "equally"; & 4) according to some model.

      1) Easy to implement – the chair just gives everyone the same assignments as last year. Additionally, any imbalances in assigned workloads (and any rationales that might give rise to them) are somehow less painful for the put-upon. However, how to handle changes is messy, and will likely require a chair to resort to at least one of 2-4 below.

      2) Also has the advantage of being easy to implement, and in the event of a benevolent chair who is good at resource allocation, this can work great. But benevolent dictatorships don't last forever, and if the chair is NOT so good? well...

      3) Has the advantage of having the appearance of fairness, and except for the rough edges (the odd class or other assignment that results from the “packets” of work not being wholly divisible by the number of faculty), is easy to implement. Down side is that this approach is wholly agnostic to the afore-mentioned constraints...

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    2. ...4) Most difficult to implement (in that a department’s faculty will actually have to construct the model). One model would be that a department would define untenured faculty and demonstrably research-active faculty (whatever that means) as “research active” and would therefore have a lower teaching/service load. The threshold for being “demonstrably research active” may be “arbitrary”, but only in the sense that a given department’s faculty must “judge” what those productivity levels should be based on the expectations of their field (and draw the line somewhere by consensus). It certainly does *not* mean that the threshold would be unspecified, unpredictable, or capriciously implemented.
      This approach has the advantage of providing more research time to those who will be more likely to make the best use of it (also increasing departmental productivity), while allowing faculty who are less research productive to shoulder their share of the load in other important ways. Another advantage is that by actually specifying what it means to be “research active”, a department provides written justification for the traditional 50/50 research/teaching contract. On the other hand, if a department just says that everyone is equally research active, not only will this not stand close scrutiny, it misses an opportunity to put a hard base on time-allocation calculations that (1) we are now required to write into our operating papers; and (2) can numerically “force the issue” with respect to the fact that some faculty may need to either (a) get overload pay; (b) have reduced load; (c) get help (in the form of new hires); or (d) suffer cancelled classes.

      The good news is this: we don’t need to agree. If your department is happy to allocate teaching/service loads “equally” across the faculty – regardless of their actual productivity – then more power to you. Happily, I would be highly surprised if my department decided to do this. But given that we must all look to our respective operating papers anyway, this is the perfect time for departments to decide how they *actually* want to “operate” with respect to the allocation of resources and the corresponding assignment of teaching and service loads.

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    3. Your last paragraph, beezer, is the most comforting, but not when a dean (or higher) mandates a differential teaching load based on research productivity alone, including a predetermined (and artificially narrow) historical window for calculating that productivity. I found it odd that this directive (admittedly softened recently) should come down at exactly the same time departments are addressing the issue via CBA required revisions of operating papers.

      I note too that you dodged the way pedagogical publications are treated differently than "real" research or the way in which that differential treatment played out (in my case) outside of the department. Nor is it lost on me that "your department can do what it wants" often comes with an unstated "if you want to be an unproductive and research-weak department." Despite our best efforts to recognize disciplinary differences, there are many instances (with administrators, college and university level committees, blogs like this) where we unreflexively judge other discipline by the norms of our own. So, in the end, the "good news" you tout is pretty cold comfort.

      I am not against an equitable allocation of a department's work across its faculty, but I believe that allocation needs to be based on all of the work required of the department. If research and direct teaching load are all that are assessed in this allocation, a significant proportion of the work of the department is not being included in the equation. In comments above, some have dismissed the value of attending to teaching because this is an R1 university, reducing the varieties of higher education institutions to a binary between community colleges and R1 (i.e. "real") universities. Perhaps, but attention to teaching is increasingly a concern of R1 universities. I also have to seriously doubt our status as an R1 when we have allowed faculty attrition and decreasing standards turn too many of our programs into diploma mills.

      I would add to your options that, if we must have differential teaching loads to address the continued demand to do more with less, a significant and appropriate historical window be applied to the calculus for determining that load. Others have argued the difference between "book disciplines" and "article disciplines" -- a distinction that I don't think is particularly firm but is nonetheless meaningful. I would also note that something more than publications and successful grants needs to be used to assess research productivity. If not, the "punishment" of additional teaching (added to ever increasing service and indirect teaching not counted in the evaluation) potentially hampers one's ability to get back to a productive researcher status. Yes, of course, if you choose teaching over research/creative activity, it is not a punishment -- but we are not really talking about choice here.

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    4. I'm glad to have peeked at this thread again and read the more substantive conversation going on. Beezer has made a far more persuasive case for differential teaching than any I've seen. It's a legitimate part of the job of the administration to get as much work out of faculty as possible, I think; put in other terms, administrators are supposed to be promoting and facilitating research, teaching, and service. The problem is of course when "getting more work" means simply getting more credit hour production (vel sim.) while making it impossible for faculty to do the research they'd otherwise be doing. Given the political and fiscal pressures the university is under, it would hardly be surprising if administrators were pushing not to make more efficient use of faculty but to change the nature of our work from its current mix of research and teaching to one in which teaching was dominant.

      Beezer is right, I think, both on the merits and in terms of both the contract and the FA's positions, that individual departments (i.e., departmental faculty) can indeed set up differential teaching loads. There are some hitches he doesn't mention (not a flaw in his already detailed proposal, just something to add) that we'd have to establish fair merit and T & P procedures to fit differential loads. This is a complex procedure, of course, and would require us to set up something of a separate track for faculty doing more teaching, who could in the future not be expected to do as much research. For while, if all have equal loads, it's fair to deny faculty merit points for research if they haven't done enough research, and to turn them down for promotion and tenure, one has to adopt at least two sets of standards once one dumps a standard teaching load. That is, if Associate Professor X is given a higher teaching load after not publishing anything for a few years after tenure, we'd need to have some way to make it possible for X to be eventually promoted to full professor, and get as much merit pay, while doing less research than Professor Y, who retains the 2/2 load.

      Differential teaching loads, if they are not to be regarded simply as punitive (and a form a punishment that keeps on punishing by denying equal access to raises and promotion), would thus set up separate tracks for faculty. While this could result in more productivity by some measures (a good thing), it would also fundamentally change the nature of the faculty here at SIUC. We would not all be research faculty in the same sense; research would be optional. I'm not so sure this is a wise thing to do.

      There are already incentives in place to promote research, of course, in merit pay (should it ever return) and promotion & tenure. Differential teaching loads would--if enacted fairly rather than punitively--allow faculty to opt out of research without penalty. I suppose some are already doing this, without any penalty, simply by failing to pursue research actively. The question is whether squeezing a few more classes out of them is worth the cost.

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  21. Anon 7.18 wrote: "I note too that you dodged the way pedagogical publications are treated differently than "real" research or the way in which that differential treatment played out (in my case) outside of the department."

    Sorry, no intentional dodge--a deletion from an already overlong post (I spent an hour cutting it down, only to have to split it anyway!)

    I think in my field the discussion is not too relevant -- without getting too specific as to what field I'm in (say, an 'ology') ology education is an accepted subfield of inquiry and research, one with its own journals, conferences, and grant programs. There's certainly no stigma in pursuing research in this area (not in my department anyway). It's something that students (undergraduates and graduates) pursue. I myself have not published in these journals, but I'm considering it based on some things we've done, and I've certainly used them in my course development. So again, ology education is just an applied subfield of my field, so why would it be treated any different? The expectation of demonstrable productivity (and correspondingly, innovation / creativity) is still there, however.

    Re: Timing (of the directive from on high to do this, versus the CBA) -- no, I don't think it is an accident. In fact, I've got to hand it to the FA here -- I admit that I didn't think much of any consequence came out of the CBA after the strike, but in going through the process of assisting with the re-draft of the operating paper, it would seem that this overload policy stuff was a major coup of the FA and in hindsight I'm surprised that 1) the administration agreed to it, and 2) that more has not been made of it on the part of the FA (either (a) because they are secretly geniuses for pulling it off and keeping it quiet, or (b) even they did not fully realize the ramifications of the administration's concessions here). Just as one example, say that a department contrived a mathematical model for their workloads (particularly their non-research workloads). Further, let's say that model--justified or not--showed that all faculty have 100% workloads (or even higher), right now. Then, any process (say, a retirement) that causes the faculty availability to drop in the department will default the department into overload assignments (forcing the dean/provost to either grant the overload assignments for more pay, provide resources to hire more faculty, or cancel classes). All the department has to do is get the administration to sign off on the operating paper changes. If the changes are sufficiently complex and inscrutable (and if an administrator is sufficiently swamped by these operating paper changes), who's to say what a department couldn't get by with? And then, once the OP changes are canonized and official -- then the administration will be forced -- as if by their own hand -- to act to mitigate an official overload! Very sneaky sis! Well done.

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    1. Beezer praising the FA!--if with tongue somewhat in cheek. I've waffled on this issue myself, to be frank. If deans push differential teaching and departments don't resist, or if departments otherwise fail to take the initiative, it is possible that the talk about workload will backfire on the FA. But beezer outlines what I think is the primary intent of the FA. I don't think we really expect to come up with workload figures that will allow us to do less in the future--i.e., that we will win numerous course releases by suddenly starting to count dissertation advising and the like (though something like this may be justified for a few units and for a few overworked faculty in other units). I think, rather, that faculty will make their best effort to codify past practice, and that workload provisions will thus work as a protection against future encroachment on workloads should faculty lines continue to disappear.

      Of course any action begets a reaction. If department X loses a faculty member and can make the case, thanks to new OP language, that that that line must be refilled, or faculty must be paid overtime to allow their program to continue, the administration might be all the more inclined to ask whether that program is to be continued at all. This despite the fact that paying faculty members overload pay is cheaper than hiring another faculty member (though of course it is also pernicious, as a faculty member doing overload teaching is simply going to be unable to do as much research).

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I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.