Ohio’s Public-University Presidents Take a Stand, of Sorts, on Faculty Workload

As I have indicated in several previous posts, there is another attempt in this year’s budget review bill (HB 484) in the Ohio legislature to increase faculty workloads by ten percent.

I have posted OCAAUP President John McNay’s full testimony on that provision to the House Committee considering the bill.

Bruce Johnson has also testified before that committee. Since 2006, Johnson has served as the President of Ohio’s Inter-University Council (IUC), the organization through which the state’s public university presidents coordinate their initiatives and their responses to legislation related to higher education.

Johnson is a Republican, a former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and the former Director of the state’s Department of Economic Development. Under his leadership, the IUC has not exactly been supportive of public university faculty. Most notably, the IUC not only accepted but actually advocated for the language in Senate Bill 5 that would have eliminated all collective bargaining rights for faculty.

Below is Johnson testimony on the workload provisions in HB 484. It’s actually a fairly cogent response to a poorly conceived, ultimately unenforceable, but now annually recurring attempt to mandate an across-the-board increase in faculty workloads. Johnson manages to make some of the arguments that John McNay made in his much more openly skeptical testimony, while still seeming to make the politically required gesture of supporting the broader intent of the bill.

_________________________

The faculty workload policy in Section 6 of the bill requires the Board of Trustees of each state institution of higher education to issue a report to the chancellor on the institution’s policy and procedures. The report is required to include an evaluation of the institution’s current workload policy and procedures and the institution’s recommendations to modify its policy to increase the aggregate faculty workload by ten percent in the combined areas of instruction, advising, and research.

We believe that this language is more flexible than previous iterations requiring that each full time research and instructional faculty member teach at least one additional course. We are grateful that the language allows the Board of Trustees to determine the workload policy, as opposed to someone unfamiliar with the particular details of the policy. That being said, there is some confusion regarding what is being asked.

Faculty workload is generally, in fact almost universally, described throughout the United States as three things: teaching, research, and service. A faculty workload policy cannot be established without at least considering service. Service activities typically fall into two categories: institutional and professional. Institutional service includes administrative duties, committee work, and student advising. Professional service usually refers to work done in support of one’s academic discipline and involves such activities as serving on committees and boards of professional organizations, organizing or chairing sessions at national or international meetings, editing or reading manuscripts for professional journals, or participating in on-site program evaluations. The relationship between teaching, research, and service can be complex and demanding. The particulars of a faculty member’s workload may be negotiated, so that an individual faculty member may spend a higher proportion of his or her time conducting a specific research project or serving on a national panel.

It is the IUC’s assumption that the purpose of the provision is to improve faculty productivity.  We can support that notion.  The confusion comes with the language in the bill in paragraph (B) of Section 6 which states:

(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 percent in the combined areas of instruction, advising and research.

Does the language require the university to require full time faculty members to work longer hours or to merely shift the workload from one area to another or to other areas of service that currently are not recognized in the existing language? If a university already requires its faculty to provide adequate levels of student advising, does the proposed increase make the university more productive or less productive? Is there any data suggesting that faculty on Ohio’s public universities are working below accepted national norms?

To make this section better, the IUC has three recommendations:

Option 1: Remove paragraph (B) of Section 6.  Deleting this paragraph would provide maximum flexibility to each state university in developing its report and any accompanying recommendations on a faculty workload policy.

Option 2: Insert the word “service” in paragraph (B) to allow for a fourth area of work performed by faculty on campus.  Doing so establishes a more accurate and realistic representation of what it is faculty actually does.  Unquestionably, faculty workload includes service and the inclusion of student advising recognizes this point, but faculty also serve on important advisory panels to the state of Ohio, their local communities, and to economic development organizations.

Option 3: Remove the ten percent requirement in paragraph (B) so that the report is required to include recommendations to modify its faculty workload policy to increase the institution’s aggregate faculty workload in the combined areas of instruction, service, and research. The ten percent requirement is clearly an arbitrary goal. By leaving the increase in aggregate workload up to the Boards of Trustees, I believe you will see better recommendations from the universities.”

 

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