A couple of months ago, someone sent me a link to an article from The Washington Post by David Levy called “Do College Professors Work Hard Enough?” It still rankles. Levy writes:
Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.
He says this may be fine for research institutions, but at teaching institutions? Nah:
Critics may argue that teaching faculty members require long hours for preparation, grading and advising. Therefore they would have us believe that despite teaching only 12 to 15 hours a week, their workloads do approximate those of other upper-middle-class professionals. While time outside of class can vary substantially by discipline and by the academic cycle (for instance, more papers and tests to grade at the end of a semester), the notion that faculty in teaching institutions work a 40-hour week is a myth.
A myth, huh?
I don’t teach for a research institution, but in one where the teaching load is “4-4,” Levy’s 12 hours per week. Nice work? Yes, I love it. However, each classroom hour requires about two hours outside for preparation, grading, and meeting with students. That’s an additional 24 hours per week. Beyond that, there’s my scholarship (a real requirement, today, even at “teaching” institutions). Also, I develop courses, work with programs aiding the transition from high school to college, and am trying to improve developmental-writing courses. Beyond that, I serve on our hiring committee and a bunch of other committees, including one developing a new major. All of that takes time. And effort. True, a lot of that eases up during “vacations,” but that’s when I have to catch up on the research and writing that has been pushed back in the face of everything else.
And the amount of work I do is not that different from my colleagues.
It’s also true that, when I returned to academia in 2004, I had something of a snotty attitude towards professors and the easy workloads they seemed to have. After all, I had spent the previous decade running a business, working seven days a week, generally twelve hours a day. I thought things would certainly get easier once I got off that treadmill.
They did not. If anything, I work as much now as I did then. More, probably. And so do many of the professors I know. We research, we write, we teach, we deal with students on all sorts of issues, we take on administrative tasks, we work with colleagues to improve teaching and research skills and assist each other with projects.
We don’t count the hours we work–and certainly don’t stop working once we are done with class and class preparation.
Levy’s article is wrong-headed in ways beyond his simplistic misrepresentation of what we professors do with our time, but I don’t have time to get into it further. A post by Laurie Essig at The Chronicle of Higher Education does a better job than I can in taking the rest of it apart.