If the dateline on this story had been a day later, I would not believe it (hat tip to Diane Ravitch for linking to it): “Bill would require all UNC professors to teach heavy course load.” Apparently, a state senator named Tom McInnis from Richmond, NC has introduced a bill to that effect:
“There is no substitute for a professor in the classroom to bring out the best in our students,” McInnis said in a statement, according to the Richmond County Daily Journal. “I look forward to the debate that will be generated by this important legislation.”
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.
What McInnis is responding to is the fact that most tenured and tenure-track professors receive (or have received) release time (or have reduced loads contractually) to engage in research. This has been one of the “wedges” that has allowed for the increase in the number of adjuncts teaching in our universities. The solution, though, isn’t to make professors teach more classes, for that would break the synergy between research and teaching, but to create more full-time positions that include opportunities for both research and teaching. That’s what will really bring out the best in our students.
According to the Richmond County Daily Journal:
Senate Bill 593 ties professors’ pay to teaching assignments, requiring a minimum of eight courses for the profs to earn their full salary. If academic research requires a lighter course load, universities could supplement professors’ salaries with money from their nonprofit foundations.
The bill would achieve a serious shakeup in higher education among University of North Carolina System institutions by nearly doubling course loads for professors at research universities like UNC Chapel Hill, where full-time tenure-track professors teach an average of 2.3 courses per term.
The reductive reasoning is that universities are for nothing more than teaching undergraduates and that the job of a professor should reflect that. This has never been the case in American universities for it ignores the dynamic connection between research and teaching and omits completely the “value added” that research creates. Making public universities primarily teaching institutions would, as Professor Leonard rightly says, kill public higher education. It would also, as we all know (or should know), set back American intellectual and creative progress tremendously.