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Little time for research

BY SAMANTHA HONKEN | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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After a day spent in the office and classroom and an evening enjoyed with his two young children, UI history Associate Professor Marshall Poe heads back to work again before bed.

This is a typical day for him. As his teaching load increases and his research time nose dives, he constantly battles his busy schedule to have time for it all.

Poe came to the UI in 2006 to do research in Russian history. His current research, when he finds time for it, is building a website detailing a genealogy of historians.

And though he loves his time in the classroom, he knows it can be very demanding.

“Teaching takes a lot of time to do right,” he said.

Lois Cox, a UI ombudsperson, said ideally, faculty should devote 40 percent of their time to teaching, 40 percent to service on UI and national committees, and 20 percent to research in their field.

Cox said she has seen this balance threatened as classes grow and the number of teachers shrink — meaning professors must teach more classes with more students.

Poe said he is worried about the sacrifices he will have to make with his research schedule as he will most likely teach even more students next semester.

“That time has to come from somewhere,” he said.

David Drake, the president of the Faculty Senate and a professor of microbiology in the College of Dentistry, said the loss of research hours concerns students, too. The quality of education is maintained when teachers can study the newest information and bring it to the classroom, he pointed out.

“The best teachers are the ones active in their field,” he said.

Law Professor Sheldon Kurtz says he always holds that “students come first” but says education is quickly affected when faculty leave and remaining professors take on bigger or more classes.

“Anytime you lose faculty who teach our students, the quality of education is declined,” he said.

Susan Johnson, the UI associate provost for faculty, said no one wants to see teaching time decrease.

“No one is saying teaching is bad,” she said.

Drake echoed that thought, saying faculty ultimately have their students’ best interests at heart.

Poe, also the director of undergraduate admissions for the history department, said his busy schedule means he often works more than 40 hours a week.

In the future, he could have an even bigger workload.

Traditionally, Poe said, those in faculty in administrative positions teach fewer classes. However that could also be lost in the future; he could have to teach two classes instead of one in addition to balancing his administrative duties.

Johnson said the UI administration is watching the issue closely by working with the Faculty Senate to garner professor input and tracking opinions with the Faculty Activity Report, published every two years.

But Poe isn’t too optimistic.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.


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