Faculty, staff and students come together to discuss faculty workload

all charts courtesy of Faculty Appointments and Status Committee and the Provost’s office

A group of 40 faculty members, staff and students came together on Tues., Apr. 10 to discuss faculty workload and its effect on the New College community. The Faculty Appointments and Status Committee (FASC), composed of Professor of Anthropology Uzi Baram, Professor of French Jocelyn van Tuyl and Professor of Physics George Ruppeiner, led the discussion and answered the questions of those in attendance.

The main point of interest for the discussion was the issue of faculty contact hours, a system that dictates just how many hours a professor is teaching in front of students and communicating with students. Currently, full-time professors within the Florida University System are required to attain 12 contact hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. According to the draft proposal created by the FASC, each full-semester length regular course — including lectures, discussions and seminars — typically counts toward three contact hours. This means that the average full time New College professor would earn, and in fact is required to earn, six of the 12 required contact hours from their regular courses.

The time earned from teaching regular courses was not the main point of contention during the discussion, however. There were three issues of equal concern for professors. The first was that a tutorial, regardless of the number of students enrolled, only counts toward one contact hour. Professor of Anthropology Maria Vesperi, who sponsors the Catalyst as a Newspaper Writing and Production tutorial, voiced the concern that tutorials that are consistently offered, have a full syllabus and have the same average amount of students as a normal class are not being appropriately accounted for. For tutorials such as Newspaper Writing and Production and Anatomy and Physiology — a requirement for medical-school-bound students, and a course which is not offered except in tutorial form — the total one contact hour does not reflect that the courses typically meet for three hours per week and have several assignments to be graded.

The second concern is that student advising collectively counts as one contact hour — sponsoring one student’s contract and sponsoring 12 students’ contracts would both earn one contact hour. According to the contact hour information charts provided by the FASC, full-time faculty members had an average of 11 advisees during the spring semester in 2011. The tables show that during the same semester professors had up to 29 advisees. “Perhaps it would be a better measure of advising contact hours to make a proportional system,” Professor of Sociology Sarah Hernandez commented. “Maybe faculty could earn one contact hour per 10 advisees.”

The third contested point is that attending baccalaureate exams collectively counts toward one contact hour whether a professor serves on one thesis committee or on several. According to the same FASC information charts cited above, 35 percent of the 63 full-time faculty members sponsor between four and six theses and six percent of full time faculty members sponsor between 16 and 18 theses. Professor of Literature Miriam Wallace voiced concern that “[the baccalaureate exams I have sat for] have always been longer than an hour and quite frequently last closer to three hours.”

Those attending the meeting agreed that what is needed is equity in the distribution of work and responsibilities among faculty members. A concern for many was that first-year faculty members and other junior faculty are not always being clearly told how many hours they have to meet and in what types of work those hours should be achieved. As Hernandez pointed out, “if some people are assigned upwards of 12 hours, and others are struggling to meet that 12-hour mark, there is a problem. We need to find a way to balance out the work and achieve equity.” The more general issue of faculty workload — not the required contact hours that are a part of total workload, but the combined total work that professors do — was not discussed at this meeting and will be the focus of future discussions.

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