Colleges defend workload policies

By Peter Schuh

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a three-part series focusing on a Faculty Senate report on faculty workload and course load. Various departments and programs have come under close scrutiny with the threat of academic surgery by the Board of Regents, where the report will be seen. Today’s piece deals with the colleges of Law, Business and Professional Studies.

In the midst of Faculty Senate examinations, three NIU colleges have defended their faculty workload guidelines.

The colleges of Law, Business and Professional Studies are standing behind their faculty workload policies, which regulate the instructional, research and administrative responsibilities of the average NIU professor.

College deans justified the results of a report compiled by the FS‘ Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee, which broke down by department the maximum and minimum number of courses taught by NIU professors for the 1991-92 academic year.

For all three colleges, officials said that their colleges were in unique situations.

“The difference between our college and other colleges is that we have a system to regulate the demands we have on our faculty,” said Richard Brown, dean of the College of Business.

With the exception of department chairs, Brown said, “Everyone (within the College of Business) has to be scheduled for at least six hours a semester.” In addition, “if they’re teaching and doing some (community or university) service, they’re teaching 12 hours a semester. On the service side, we don’t give much credit to faculty. What affects the teaching load are those things in the scholarly area,” he added.

In regard to faculty research, Brown said, “The only ones (faculty members) who get release for research time are the ones who do it. I monitor the release times very closely.”

In regard to the College of Business’ guidelines, Brown said, “There are some people on this campus who feel that we are infringing on the faculty’s academic freedom but we see it as a need for accountability.”

He also noted a difficulty in reviewing faculty course load. “Three courses with three different mandates are more difficult than four similar courses.

“I would not equate the number of courses you teach with your total workload. The workload is what you need to look at.”

James Alfini, dean of the College of Law, said his college also has strict guidelines on faculty workload regulation.

He said the college has a two-course per semester guideline. Although a faculty member will on occasion teach one more or less, two “is the norm for law schools across the nation.” The average is recommended by the American Bar Association and is a guideline for program accreditation.

Alfini said there are other factors which constitute the College of Law’s faculty workload. “They’re expected to do scholarship and service. They’re expected to serve not only the university but the profession. Many of the faculty also spend their time on the Bar.”

College of Law faculty are expected to serve on three college committees a year, he said. Unlike NIU’s other colleges, the College of Law is run entirely by a faculty committee framework.

In regard to the two-courses per semester load for law school faculty, Alfini said because of extra college and professional responsibilities, “I see no problem with them having one or two courses less a year than other university faculty.

“If we loaded our faculty up too much with classes we might be threatening our accreditation.”

James Lankford, dean of the College of Professional Studies, said full-time faculty who are involved in grant-funded research can be a benefit to his college. In the college, faculty whose salaries are paid in full by external funding such as grants still teach one course per semester.

“It depends on how you look at it or who the individuals are before you decide if a specific case is a reduced course load or a faculty member being paid full-time by federal grant money,” he said. “In a sense, this university is getting free teaching.”

In regard to the college’s other faculty members who teach two or less courses per semester, Lankford said they have “supervising responsibilities within their various disciplines.”

The FS report lists the college’s allowances for faculty course load reduction as “research, operating a lab, coordinating an area, external practicum, and internship.”