We Are Just Not Working Hard Enough

Earlier this month, the Ohio Conference Communication Committee (although I formally chair the committee, our Executive Director, Sara Kilpatrick, now drafts most of the regular communications with our members) distributed the following item.

Rosenberger Releases Report from Higher Education Study Committee

As we reported to you in September, the Ohio House of Representatives had formed a “Higher Education Reform Study Committee” that traveled around the state seeking input on various aspects of higher education in Ohio.

OCAAUP President John McNay testified at one of the hearings, setting the record straight about faculty workload and administrative bloat.

Earlier this week, the Chair of the Committee, Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), held a press conference at which he unveiled a 59-page report that outlined findings and recommendations of the committee (although 21 pages of the report is summary of testimony given at the hearings).

Among other things, the report emphasizes reductions in remediation, the benefits of dual enrollment, more closely tying in workforce development, and addressing student debt and financial literacy.

Additionally, the report recommends “establish[ing] higher education benchmarks for operational efficiency,” as well as financially rewarding institutions that reduce expenditures.

We can briefly rejoice that there was no mention of state mandates for faculty workload; although we will closely monitor how the legislature and universities might interpret the best ways for universities to cut down on spending.

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Today, the following communication is being distributed to our members statewide.

Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review Calls for Increasing Faculty Workload

On Tuesday, March 11, Gov. John Kasich unveiled House Bill 472, the mid-biennium review (MBR) bill.

The MBR is meant to tweak the state operating budget passed the year before, but Kasich’s HB 472 contains major changes and policy initiatives, such as another income tax (revenue) cut and a tax hike on cigarettes.

Pertaining to Ohio’s public institutions of higher education, the Governor included language calling for universities to evaluate their workload policies by the end of this calendar year, and to increase aggregate faculty workload by 10 percent by the end of Fiscal Year 2017.

Specifically, the bill states:  Section 733.40. Not later than December 31, 2014, each state university, as defined in section 3345.011 of the Revised Code, and the Northeast Ohio Medical University shall report to the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents on the institution’s faculty workload policy and procedures. The report shall include both of the following:

(A) An evaluation of the institution’s current faculty workload policy and procedures;

(B) The institution’s recommendations to modify its faculty workload policy, by June 30, 2017, to increase the institution’s aggregate faculty workload by ten per cent in the combined areas of instruction, advising, and research.

Both of Kasich’s previous state budget bills included faculty workload language, but each time, the legislature removed the provisions before passing the final bills.

As we did during budget bill deliberations, the Ohio Conference will monitor this legislation and provide testimony to the General Assembly about faculty workload issues.

It has long been our position that workload issues should be decided at the institutional level, and that a one-size-fits-all workload edict from the state is a solution in search of a problem. We will continue to highlight where the real problems in higher education lie.

Besides the workload issue, the MBR also calls for the “College Credit Plus Program” to be fully implemented and operational for the 2015-2016 academic year. There are still many outstanding questions surrounding College Credit Plus, especially in regards to who teaches the courses and how funding will be awarded.

We will keep you apprised of developments as this bill goes through the legislative process.

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So there are at least three takeaways from this hardly surprising turn of events.

First, this might seem another instance of holding a round of public hearings to cherry-pick additional justifications for conclusions that have already been reached. But if you look through the committee’s report, there isn’t actually any testimony suggesting that faculty workloads ought to be increased. So it seems as if the process of holding the hearings, rather than the actual material produced by the hearings, is being used to justify the proposal for the workload increase.

Second, there is nothing in the bill that addresses administrative bloat—even though, as John McNay, the president of OCAAUP, has demonstrated in testimony during these hearings and as I have documented in previous posts to this blog, the problem is all too apparent. It is apparent in the rapid rates of increase in presidential compensation, in the creation of new administrative positions at all levels, in administrative compensation at all levels, and in the numbers of administrative support staff being hired.

Lastly, despite the considerable attention given to the issue over the last six months in Ohio, there is nothing in the bill that addresses the corresponding increases in the exploitation of adjunct faculty. I am certain that the crafters of the legislation will insist that hiring priorities are an institutional prerogative. But , of course, that would beg the question of why the legislature is addressing faculty workloads.

5 thoughts on “We Are Just Not Working Hard Enough

  1. Of course, it is egregious that administrative bloat was not addressed, but the dirty little secret is that full-time faculty in many colleges and universities in the nation have been off-loading work — for example, transferring advising responsibilities to a growing cadre of professionals and even students in peer-advising — while decreasing research and service and taking on extra courses for extra pay, as part of a growing trend for decades now.

    These sorts of workload behaviors are more widespread than most of the public realizes and it is difficult to say whether it is wrong-headed to address such trends at the statewide level. In fact, some administrative bloat is actually a by-product of faculty behaviors in some areas, for example the development of large non-faculty-staffed advisement centers on campuses as indicated above. The call from AAUP and others to involve contingent faculty in governance and service, e.g. committee work — uncompensated, of course — is only more of the same pattern of behaviors.

    And then there is the hypocrisy of full-time faculty retirees, drawing a pension, who take on a few paid adjunct courses as well, contributing to the parceling of labor which could otherwise be bundled into more full-time positions. These individuals even more boldly have taken on many leadership positions in unions and the AAUP, claiming to defend contingent faculty rights while, like Liberace, crying all the way to the bank.

    In short, faculty workload issues are not as clear-cut as they appear at first blush. If the 10% increase were truly an increase to 110% of a full workload for all such faculty, that would be one thing. But in many, if not most, cases, an increase of 10% actually only brings the faculty member up to a regular full workload. And that, the public would argue, is a legitimate statewide concern.

    • Dear Professor-at-large,

      You obviously must be teaching in a different world from the one that I am familiar with.

      As a tenured full professor, I find the opposite of what you say is true. More and more responsibilities are being heaped on faculty as work continues to expand.

      This is largely a product of administrative bloat – with too many administrators looking for something to do, we have more initiatives, more academic plans, more strategic plans, retreats, conferences, and on and on. And don’t get me started on the enormously complicated hiring processes that have been increasing bureacratized leading to more meetings and more planning sessions. More make work leaving less and less time for teaching, research, and genuine service.

      • This commenter does not doubt that there are faculty who become over-burdened, but the fact remains that almost all full-time tenured/tenure-track research and service is self-driven in most colleges and universities. Rarely are specific committee assignments, etc. actually required or imposed on individual faculty by the administration.

        This very fact of the self-driven nature of research as well as service has permitted the Public Employment Relations Board in New York State — faced with an improper practice charge on workload where a SUNY college faculty member was forced to teach an additional course on top of the usual four-course load — ruled that the faculty member was free to reduce his/her service to keep his workload within a usual full-time obligation. Indeed, the PERB even opined that it was not clear that the faculty member in question would be at a full workload (without the additional course) given the paucity of self-driven research and service commitments.

        So, the question of workload is far from simple and the generalizations made in the first comment are not easily undermined by occasional or even frequent anecdotal evidence of over-worked faculty. The self-driven nature of faculty research and service is the key factor which management can leave to the faculty member to reduce when assigned workload such as teaching is increased.

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