Monday, January 7, 2013
Over the holidays, Northwestern Dean Dan Rodriguez sparked a spirited debate with his post, Workload:
As reformists and irritants likewise insist, we are going to increase our expectations of full-time faculty members in order to realize cost savings and take our foots off the tuition pedal. ... So how ought we to think about these great(er) expectations?
(1) Teaching regularly and well and with sufficient accomodation to institutional needs, as these needs evolve in this new and difficult era. Deans, including this one, will be reticent to enter into permanent teaching reduction agreements. Scheduling will need to follow the imperative of student learning and sensible organizational management, not principally the convenience of full-time faculty members. Faculty leaves, whatever the reason and whatever past practice, should be discretionary and timed around the needs of the school and its learning environment. And teaching must be excellent -- sophisticated in content, coherent in expression, up-to-date, and connected increasingly to the essential project of making our students into first-rate young lawyers;
(2) All hands on deck. Faculty members are the professional portals to the students' legal careers. The work of training rests in their hands. But, to an increasing extent now, so, too, does counseling and placement. Developing opportunities for students to pursue remunerative, valuable careers should be part of the work of a faculty member. This will range from active career counseling, writing effective recommendations for clerkships and, where appropriate, law firm employment, and helping students with their employment search in imaginative, tangible, and reliable ways. This work is too important to leave solely to overworked career service offices and deans;
(3) Insofar as scholarship forms an important part of the modern faculty portfolio, expectations of excellent, impactful scholarship should be high -- indeed, in this difficult environment, especially high. Law profs have an exceptionally enviable gig. Let's just suppose that faculty members need to demonstrate their suitability for this gig on an annual basis, and with unimpeachable evidence that they are doing their scholarly work at a level that befits this great job.
In short, faculty workloads will grow. They ought to grow. The central question, to me, is how they ought to grow in a way that serves the professional objectives of our students, while also preserving what is tremendously valuable in the contributions of the law professiorate in the contemporary legal academy.
See also today's earlier post, The Least Stressful Job in America: Professor.
"In short, faculty workloads will grow. They ought to grow."
This way of putting it tends to obscure the underlying difficulty. Some faculty members already carry a very heavy workload (working nights and weekends). Not much more can be squeezed out of them (although what they spend their time on can be changed). On the other hand, some faculty members do little beyond teach their classes and serve on a committee or two, and others work at a productive but comfortable pace. Faculties differ in the proportion of people in these respective categories.
Getting more out of the latter two groups is difficult because deans have little power to sanction slackers and limited resources to create incentives for working harder. A dean can increase faculty productivity by assigning an extra class to those who should be (or could be) doing more, but deans are reluctant to do this because it generates resentment.
The key is to raise up the internal culture of expectations within the faculty in a way that gets everyone to embrace the duty to give it their all. Any suggestions on how to do that?