Teaching, Scholarship and Service at Temple University: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
—Michael Sirover, Professor of Pharmacology, School of Medicine
Professor of Pharmacology,
School of Medicine
President Obama has said that “Words have meaning.” A recent letter in the Faculty Herald by Professor Jay Sinha raised a question which this author has seen debated throughout his 32 years as a member of the Temple University faculty. What is the true value of service as part of our work here at Temple? Does it really matter? Is it a worthwhile contribution? Should we simply forget about it and have the Board of Trustees eliminate that term from the Faculty Handbook?
Temple University justifiably emphasizes with pride its “125 years of Service to the Community” as a priority mission along with teaching and with scholarship. So, how should we interpret Temple University’s slogan of “125 years of Community Service” as it relates to our service mission as its faculty?
For that discussion, it may be useful not to consider actions at the Main Campus but rather events that have occurred here at the School of Medicine. The rationale for this relates of course to the TAUP contract which defines specifically faculty time, effort and merit. As such, it places limits on university action. In contrast, the Medical School is not TAUP affiliated. The University can set its own policy and thus reveal its “true feelings” with respect to teaching, scholarship and service.
So, how are faculty evaluated in the School of Medicine? The current Dean (I think my 14th but I’m a Senior Citizen), John Daly, M.D., along with his associates Richard Kozera, M.D. and Jo-Anne Orth, Ph.D. developed a matrix to evaluate faculty performance. The matrix is a spread sheet program in which diverse activities are allotted different numbers of points., i.e. x number of points for each extramural grant which is submitted (whether it’s funded or not), y points for extramural grant support (including the percentage of your salary generated and the amount of indirect costs provided to the University), z points for numbers of hours of teaching, b points for being a course director and so on. The more points one has, the higher the merit raise. The fewer points one has, the lower the merit raise. There is a threshold below which one is considered as having no merit, i.e. worthless, and does not receive any raise whatsoever (there is no “floor” for even a 1% cost of living increase). As such, those individuals actually see their net salaries decrease as there is always an annual increase in insurance co-pays.
Why raise the issue of this matrix as it relates to the question of service? As recently explained by Dr. Orth at a Department of Pharmacology staff meeting, the current Dean and his associates decided to cap points for service at 20. To paraphrase Dr. Orth, everyone does so much service anyway. The total number of points is approximately 400. This means that no matter how much service you do, it can only comprise 5% of the total points available.
This begs the question, “Why is service capped at 20 points?” If the Faculty Handbook describes our responsibilities as Teaching, Scholarship and Service, should not a faculty member be awarded m points for serving as a Faculty Senate officer, n points for serving on the Senate Executive Board, o points for membership on the Steering Committee, p points for serving on CATA, etc. There may be similar omissions in merit for extramural service. For example, how many points should an individual receive if he/she was the President or Officer of a regional, national or international organization, the Chair of an NIH study section, a member of a study section, or an external advisor for a faculty member’s promotion at another institution?
Why does this matter? As an example, consider that, although the President of the University Faculty Senate is usually a Main Campus individual, some presidents have been from the Medical School or other schools at the Health Sciences Center. In addition, other Health Sciences Center personnel (including the author) have served as Senate officers. As anyone who has served as a Senate officer or as a member of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee knows, this involves a major commitment of time and effort.
Given that as a basis, what would be the worth of a Medical School Faculty member who, in a given year, is either the President of the All University Faculty Senate or is elected to another office? As defined by the Medical School matrix, it would appear that that person could receive a total of 20 out of 400 odd points for all of the time, effort and commitment inherent in that service position. As such, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that said individual could fall below the merit threshold and therefore be deemed lacking in merit, i.e., worthless, without even a minimal 1% cost of living increase.
That being said, the hidden agenda of the matrix may be that it is a means to reward those individuals who bring in money through research or through teaching, i.e., it is the Practice Plan of Temple Hospital adapted to the Medical School, an educational institution. With teaching, such dollars are provided through tuition while in research, such dollars are provided to pay not only for faculty salaries but also to provide indirect costs for use by both the University and by the current Dean. Service, by definition, may generate favorable publicity as well as intramural and extramural good will but it does not bring in dollars directly. As they say, “Money talks, nobody walks.” Or "In G-d we trust, all others pay cash."
This brings us back to the dueling concepts of “Actions speak louder than words” and “Words have meaning”. As such, it may be of educational interest for the faculty as a whole if the University administration could provide a rationale to reconcile the stated commitment of the University to faculty service (intramural or extramural) in relation to the apparent lack of such recognition at one of its subsidiary colleges.
The author is a Professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, a Past President of the Medical Faculty Senate, a former Secretary of the University Faculty Senate, a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Faculty Herald, and has the privilege of serving as the Chair of a National Cancer Institute Special Advisory Committee on Cancer Prevention.