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Teaching is fundamental to the core mission of a university, and certainly to a college of arts and sciences. The professional expectations for all tenure-track and tenured faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences therefore include an appropriate and fair share of the pedagogical work of the university. Tenure/tenure track professors’ basic teaching load includes both formally assigned courses – group instruction in the form of lectures, labs, discussion sections, seminars, field courses, etc. — and other teaching duties appropriate to the rank and discipline, such as advising and individual instruction and mentoring activities (including supervision of dissertations, theses, and independent studies).
The standard formal course load for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, like that in colleges of arts and sciences at research universities across the country, is four courses per year. As at peer institutions, this standard in fact varies across department and programs in ways that reflect differences in the actual workload demanded for typical research and teaching in those areas, changes in national practices and therefore market forces, and other factors. Thus the standard formal course load for research-active faculty in the natural sciences in CAS, as at research universities nationally, tends to be 2 or 3 courses per year depending on the discipline. Course loads may also be adjusted on a regular basis for selected and especially demanding administrative appointments. In CAS we have developed a standard template specifying course release options for chairs and directors depending on the size and complexity of the unit. Faculty may also “buy out” of courses according to the policies specified in the CAS Faculty/Staff Handbook; more information is available here.
The standard of what constitutes a “course” for purposes of determining appropriate workload requires further definition. Course loads are counted, in the first instance, by number of courses offered, but an appropriate workload also takes account of enrollments in any single course and across the courses a faculty member teaches. It also properly takes account of other factors, such as team teaching and the presence of teaching fellows or other assistance. The College of Arts & Sciences has established general policies for minimum student enrollment at the undergraduate and graduate level to allow a course to be run in any given semester. In general, in departments with undergraduate curricula, all faculty should teach undergraduate courses each year. In general, in departments with graduate curricula, all research-active faculty should have an opportunity to teach graduate courses on a regular basis. Departments are responsible for determining normal expectations for what constitutes an appropriate course structure and enrollment profile for their faculty in consultation with the Dean and for ensuring that faculty meet those expectations individually and collectively.
Here, as at other research universities, standard reductions from the norm of 4 courses per year assume that the faculty member is carrying a full load of other duties and, most especially, that the faculty member is fully research active in a manner that is appropriate and expected in his/her discipline at a major research university. Faculty members who are not appropriately research active should not be assigned the lower teaching loads that assume such engagement in research. Thus, for example, in most areas of the natural sciences, faculty should normally have research funding that supports their work and that of an appropriate-sized research group and should be publishing regularly in refereed journals and other venues. Tenured faculty for whom this has not been the case for a significant period of time, or who do not intend to pursue this kind of active research career any more, should not have the lower teaching loads that assume such ongoing engagement in research. The same holds true in other departments and programs that have standard teaching loads below the four-course norm. Tenured faculty who are no longer active and productive in scholarship and research in a manner appropriate for a major research university should have their teaching loads adjusted higher.
It is the department’s responsibility, through the department chair in consultation with the Dean, to define the appropriate specific standards for determining when a tenured faculty member no longer is research active, such that the teaching load should be adjusted higher. Individuals’ teaching loads should not be adjusted and readjusted in reaction to normal ebbs and flows of research activity. Rather, the adjustment should reflect something of a career change from the normal expectations we hold for tenured faculty. It will usually require a review of several years’ activity to be able to determine that this change has taken place. For these purposes, then, it would be appropriate to assess research activity and productivity over a five-year period, and certainly not from year to year.
It is important to note that this policy is a workload policy, focusing on norms about the amount of scholarly research activity that departments and the College expect as a condition for the allocation of the relatively lower number of formal group teaching assignments. This policy does not hinge on assessment of the quality of the research.
In departments with a standard reduced teaching load for research-active faculty the annual merit exercise, performed in a retrospective framework including the preceding few years, provides an opportunity to determine whether any associate or full professors appear to be falling below the appropriate bar of research activity that is consistent with that reduced load for research-active faculty. Departments should use the merit exercise not just as an assessment of work over the previous year. Where the chair or merit committee (depending on the department’s procedures) sees early signs that this change may be taking place, the chair should so advise the professor in question and work with that person to determine whether there are ways to support re-engagement with research and scholarship. When the chair judges the faculty member to have made the career shift away from full research activity and productivity as would normally be expected in that field at a major research university, the chair should engage that faculty member and the Dean in a discussion about an adjustment of the teaching load in the interest of a fair distribution of work across the department. The Dean will also monitor individual faculty progress at the time of the annual merit review and may initiate discussions about adjustment of teaching loads.
The policy on teaching load adjustment applies only to tenured faculty because research and scholarship are already key criteria for the appointment, reappointment, and evaluation of tenure-track faculty.
August 16, 2012