AAUP Testimony on Faculty Workload, Student Debt, Administrative Bloat, and Instructional Spending

Testimony of John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, on House Bill 484, before the Ohio State Senate Finance Committee, on May 13, 2014

Chairman Oelslager, Ranking Member Sawyer, and distinguished members of the Senate Finance Committee: my name is John McNay and I am President of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which represents nearly 4,500 college and university professors at both public and private institutions of higher education across the State of Ohio. I am also a professor of American history at the University of Cincinnati where I teach courses on the Cold War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. I recently became chair of the history department at the UC-Blue Ash campus.

I come to you today to voice my association’s support for the House-passed version of House Bill 484. I applaud the work that was done by House members, particularly those that serve on the Higher Education Subcommittee, in amending this legislation to reflect a bipartisan and fairer approach to these important issues.

As it stands now, HB 484 requires state universities to report and evaluate their workload policies and procedures to the Board of Regents by the end of this calendar year. The bill specifically calls for universities to work with faculty and organizations that represent faculty on furnishing this report.  It is my understanding that some individuals and organizations would like to see the requirement for faculty involvement removed from the legislation, but it is important that this provision remain intact.

All too often faculty are excluded from discussions that directly involve our work. If the General Assembly and Board of Regents desire a report and evaluation that accurately reflects the time and work that faculty invest in their teaching, research, advising, and service at universities, faculty must be part of the process.

In addition, the House-passed version of HB 484 removed language originally in the bill that called for universities to come up with a plan to increase faculty workload by an arbitrary 10 percent.  As you probably are aware, this is just one of several ill-conceived workload mandates that has been proposed over the last few years.

Workload policies are carefully crafted at the college, department, and individual faculty levels. It is important for it to remain that way. Mandates from the state may be well-intended, but would have unintended, adverse consequences that could affect student success as well as Ohio’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty. As such, it is our hope that the Senate concurs with the House in keeping this provision out of the bill.

Additionally, I would like to address Section 7 of the legislation, which creates the Higher Education Student Financial Aid Workgroup.  My association firmly believes that it needs to be made explicit in the bill that a faculty member be invited to participate in this workgroup.

In order to have a thorough conversation about financial aid, there has to be a discussion about where the money at our universities currently is being spent. The mainstream assumption is that college is so expensive due to the faculty that have to be employed; however, Ohio’s colleges and universities, on average, spend less than 30 percent of their operating budgets on total faculty compensation-–salary and benefits. These are issues that likely will not be addressed given the current make-up of the workgroup.

In the vein of financial assistance to students, I would like to respectfully request that this committee work to restore funding to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG). Since 2009, when OCOG funding was cut by more than half from $358 million to $171 million, and requirements were changed so that federal Pell Grants are applied before a student can receive OCOG funding, low-income students have been put at an even greater financial disadvantage. Students used to be able to count on OCOG to help with college-related expenses outside of tuition and fees, but are now struggling to pay for living expenses and books.

We need to be making it easier, not harder, for students to go to college. We cannot talk seriously about higher education’s role in the economic recovery when students are being saddled with so much debt that they have extremely limited purchasing power after graduation. A February 26, 2014 article published by Time entitled “Student Loans are Ruining Your Life. Now They’re Ruining the Economy, Too,” reports the widespread agreement among economists that graduates’ inability to spend is not just hurting them, but the entire economy.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My association and I want to be partners with you in making our higher education system the best it can be. We welcome opportunities to be involved and be heard outside of committee hearings. I would be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.

5 thoughts on “AAUP Testimony on Faculty Workload, Student Debt, Administrative Bloat, and Instructional Spending

  1. Questions: Is the bill requiring a 10% increase in faculty workload overall or a 10% increase in teaching workload? Is the 10% applied to all faculty as individuals or to the category of faculty collectively?

    • In each of the last four years, Gov. Kasich has proposed a 10% increase in faculty workload–either in the biennial budget or in the budget reviews in the off years. In previous years, it was an increase in teaching load, which would be extremely difficult to calculate, never mind enforce, given the variations in teaching loads even within institutions, never mind from institution to institution.

      This year, the proposal was for a 10% increase in teaching and/or research, which would have created a mass of paperwork for very little net increase in actual productivity.

      The underlying reality is, of course, that almost nothing that we do as faculty is neatly divisible by ten–or actually by any other number if the intention is to impose some sort of increase across the board. John McNay’s earlier testimony on the issue made just that point.

      In both instances, the 10% increase was to have been applied to faculty individually.

      Of additional interest was a proposal by the Inter-University Council, essentially the executive committee of public university presidents, to make workload a non-negotiable matter, rather than a matter that they could choose to negotiate or not. So, for instance, at my university, where we approved the change from a quarter to a semester calendar on the condition that the administration finally agree to negotiate workload, the administration would have been able to step away from its part of the deal.

      So, the IUC opposed the arbitrary increase in workload, but they tried to make workload non-negotiable.

      • In SUNY, where workload is a mandatory subject of negotiation, the union (United University Professions) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with New York State back in the eighties that the university could increase the teaching obligation of faculty but that faculty members were then free to decrease their “self-directed” research and/or service workload to “compensate” for that. In all cases, the faculty member was to be fulfilling a full obligation.

        In a subsequent case of an improper practice charge where a faculty member’s teaching obligation had been increased to fifteen hours a week while the normal full-time obligation was twelve hours, the PERB reminded everyone of that agreement and further opined that it was not clear that the faculty member in question was at a full workload (his scholarship and service were minimal to non-existent).

        Thus, the “mix” of factors for a faculty member’s workload allows for all sorts of “interesting” interpretations by management. However, it is simply not possible to assert that all or even most full-time faculty are teaching full schedules and are concomitantly active scholars and busy with service obligations. It just simply is not the case in most if not all institutions — faculty shun additional work and the self-directed nature of scholarship and service lends itself to minor or major abuses. Frankly, especially in the public university setting, ti would seem that the management has an obligation to ensure that faculty perform a full workload. When faculty at public universities enjoy a lower teaching load with the expectation of scholarship, it is manifestly bad administration to allow them to perform little or no scholarship as though they were community college instructors hired only to teach.

        The very fact that adjunct faculty complain that full-timers are taking paid overloads robbing them of courses they could teach would appear to prove the point I am making about performing a full obligation. If all full-timers were so performing, they would have little time left for teaching additional courses. What the state should want, it would seem, is to stop the scams of double-dipping that are occurring by forcing faculty to do more on their full-time salary — that is, to at last perform a full load — and to thereby reduce the adjunctification and the paid overload burden on the citizens and the student tuition. It is difficult not to understand or agree with that goal if the legislature is observing that the status quo really is below a “full load” expectation for most faculty.

  2. The workload agreement at my institution, Wright State University, includes the following provisions:

    To keep the assigned teaching load, a faculty member must have produced at least half of the scholarship required for promotion over the previous five years. This measure takes into account that faculty who have been promoted may be engaged in longer-term research projects that may not show results within a five-year period.

    Any faculty member who does not meet this requirement will receive a one-course increase in teaching load for that year.

    On the other hand, any faculty member who produces more than twice the scholarship required for promotion over the previous five years is eligible for a one-course reduction in teaching load.

    This formula provides both the proverbial carrot and stick. It is another way, besides merit increases (which are meaningless in periods in which raises are minimal), to reward productive faculty.

    Lastly, I believe that our “standard” teaching loads are slightly lower than the norm, which is intended to encourage research and scholarship.

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don't impersonate a real person.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s