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Board of Regents reports on UI Faculty work ethic

BY GRETA MEYLE | OCTOBER 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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The state Board of Regents released numbers Tuesday showing that University of Iowa faculty members work an average of 57.57 hours on average per week — and some members in the university community are wondering if those numbers are sustainable.

The survey weighed the amount of time faculty members spend doing research, teaching, assisting students outside of class, etc. at three Iowa schools — Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and the UI. The regents require the universities to survey their faculty every two years. According to the survey report, the data are designed to monitor faculty job performance against agreed-upon standards and to provide constructive feedback and assistance to the few faculty members who fall short in one or more areas of their work.

Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice said he was pleased with the results.

“We had entirely positive results,” he said. “The only question that I got from the Board of Regents was why was Iowa State’s average [higher] than ours?”

Questions arose to whether the survey would place the number, 57.57 hours, as a weekly expectancy on faculty. Faculty Senate member Professor Jane Pendergast said despite the positive results, the survey worries her regarding the sustainability of maintaining this amount of work in the future.

“Is it OK that people are working nearly 60 hours a week on average?” she said. “I mean, 12 hours a day five days a week, is that really what we want for employees here? There are other things to do in life besides work. Is this where the regents want us to stay?”

Pendergast also said the amount of work becoming a norm might hinder graduate students in their desires to pursue teaching.

“I think there is a cost to having such huge numbers of work, and I think if we were a business we might start worrying about burnout and paying people, etc.” Pendergast said. “Maybe it’s happening, maybe it’s not, but I certainly see it in the students — they don’t want to go into academics because they don’t want so many hours. It worries me.”

Assistant Professor of journalism Travis Vogan said he believes the statistics accurately echo the work of faculty at the UI.

“I don’t think a lot of folks get in to this profession because they want to have a 40-hour-a-week job,” he said. “They get in this profession because they like doing these kinds of things and they’re interested in it. And I guess that’s the danger, if more than average becomes average — if the expectations continue to increase… then it makes it difficult to budget your time.”

The survey by the regents indicates that faculty at the UI spend an average of 21.80 hours in student instruction and 22.49 in scholarship, research, and creative work.

Faculty Senate President Erika Lawrence said despite the potential concern of increasing the expectation, the survey demonstrated the faculty work ethic.

“I think there’s this perception by external stakeholders sometimes — perhaps from legislators, from the Board of Regents, perhaps from the public — that faculty here don’t spend a lot of time on teaching, and I think what it shows is that we really are spending 20 to 25 hours a week on teaching — as much time as we’re spending on research and even exactly how we’re spending that time, so it really helped challenge some of those myths,” Lawrence said.

Rice said it is undetermined how the data will be used, but he is confident in the results and believes the data will allow the UI faculty to begin asking questions that will provide solid evidence to back their claims.

“It was such a different experience in front of the regents to talk about each one of these student instruction areas and to be able to talk in detail about how the time was spent,” Rice said. “And it was all believable — that we’re actually spending more time teaching, actually spending more time researching.”


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