volume 42, number 4
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Workload in a Time of Scarcity: the Micro and the Macro Picture

By Joseph Schwartz, Professor of Political Science

   It is time to face the music: I would hypothesize that any further shifting of material rewards for tenured and tenure-track away from teaching and service and towards research may contribute to a crisis in tenured/tenure-track faculty involvement in under-graduate teaching, undergraduate curriculum development and control, and, most crucially, in faculty governance of the university.
    Temple is not a rich research university with a surfeit of tenure-track/tenured faculty and scads of well-funded graduate students who teach a modest load of, mostly, discussion sections for lecture courses taught by faculty on the tenure-track. (I wish this was the case...anyone willing to drop a billion dollar endowment on Temple -- versus our puny $280 million -- should contact me and anyone with the political acumen to reverse thirty years of neo-liberal defunding of public institutions, please change the budgetary policies of our state and federal government.) Given these realities, Temple has (mostly) hired research-oriented faculty who also take teaching and service seriously. Perhaps we can afford some very research-oriented faculty if they are externally funded, but even in the hard sciences, if tenure-track faculty opt out of being concerned with undergrad teaching and with service, those departments will suffer, as will our students.

   What worries me is that central administration and some of our College merit committees have sent the signal that merit should not be given to tenured or tenure-track faculty (or only very little) for well-above-average teaching and service. As somebody who has a fairly good publication record, I'd be the last to argue against giving greatest weight to merit for research for faculty on the tenure-track. But as someone who comes out of a "materialist" tradition, I believe that in order to run this university well, we need to insure that there are sufficient monetary rewards for high-quality teaching and service for tenure-track/tenured faculty. Otherwise the university will be completely governed by professional administrators, who no matter how great they be, have little connection to non-market values of a university education -- teaching young adults to think critically and to think beyond their received, everyday understandings.

   As I see it, there is a crisis of faculty involvement in the fundamental governance of university undergraduate and graduate education (e.g., faculty have almost no voice in university graduate education policy). I think over the next few years, if the trends above are not redressed, we will see even less tenured faculty involvement in undergrad curriculum development and teaching and an increasing tendency of faculty on the tenure-track to free ride on those "foolish" enough to devote time to managing our common affairs.

   In addition, while financial constraints may lead the university to proliferate the hiring of NTTs and adjuncts, if we subject them (and our graduate students) to inordinately huge teaching loads, then they will not be able to provide our students with the labor-intensive type of teaching and advising that our undergraduates need (who mostly do not come from highly 'culturally capitalized' affluent suburban and private high schools...our student body need more close contact with faculty than do Penn kids!). That is, with NTTs teaching and grading-on-their-own 200-or more students/term in the humanities and social sciences, they are unlikely to be able to give them (and provide feedback on) the type of assignments that will develop our students analytic reading, writing, computational, and oral presentation skills.

   Many of us note in our upper-level courses too many students have difficulty reading (relatively accessible) scholarly articles or monographs, yet alone primary texts with complex arguments or narratives. Many of our up-per-level undergraduates still expect college courses to be focused on a textbook and in-class exams (at best). Not only have they rarely been taught how to do a research paper; they often have never been asked to write an analytic essay comparing and contrasting two texts!

   So even if tenured/tenure-track faculty mostly teach upper-level under-graduate courses, they should take a profound interest in what is taught at the Gen Ed and intro major level. As NTTs do the bulk of such teaching, even narrowly self-interested tenured faculty have an interest in insuring that NTTs teaching loads (and adjuncts and TAs) are not so backbreaking that they can't teach our students the skills they need to succeed not only in the classroom, but as productive future citizens. And as NTTs do lots of service, particularly in regards to running our undergraduate programs, they should be eligible for appropriate service reductions (and for merit for research they often do despite a back-breaking 4-4 load). If many of us tenured folks had written the exact same dissertation but in a tighter job market or during a severe recession, we could well be NTTs! The current report of the presidential committee on Faculty Workload rather reflects too much the administration's contractually accurate but operationally flawed black-and-white division between tenured/tenure-track and "mere teaching faculty."

   Finally, let me appeal to the collective self-interest of my fellow colleagues on the tenure-track. Nearly two-thirds of Temple's revenue is generated by student tuition dollars. So it's our students who primarily finance the university which funds (particularly in non-externally funded fields) the time to do our research. If these students and/or their parents discover that it's not only cheaper to do their first two years of Gen Ed and intro courses at a community college or state college -- and then, perhaps, transfer to Temple (or that it is worth paying more for a private liberal arts college because students get to interact more with permanent faculty who are dedicated undergraduate teachers), well, there goes the goose (our students) that lay the golden egg (the funds for research).

   If you think I'm slinging something, let me remind some (and inform others) of the dark days of the mid-90s when Temple's undergraduate enrollments were one-third lower than they are today. What happened? We stopped hiring (even hiring NTTs) and the teaching loads of even the most active researchers went up. So tenured faculty should fight like hell to reverse the political climate that leads the federal and state government to de-fund public and higher education. And we should realize that we have an enlightened self-interest in improving the quality of life for our fellow teachers -- NTTs, adjuncts, and teaching assistants. •