Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lazy Rivers And Lazy Campuses: Most Students And Faculty Simply Do Not Work Very Hard

TTForbes:  Lazy Rivers and Lazy Campuses, by Richard Vedder (Ohio University):

Two decades ago the rage on campus was to constructing climbing walls; today, lazy rivers are in vogue, places where students can float on rafts, probably drinking their favorite beverage and contemplating life. But what is really in vogue are lazy campuses, where neither the students nor the faculty work terribly hard, and, where effort is exerted, some of it is in trivial pursuits. ...

[T]he average student spends 3.2 hours each weekday on educational activities – attending classes, writing papers, reading assignments, studying for exams, or group projects. That is 16 hours over the week. Add in perhaps nine hours on the weekend (maybe three hours on Saturday, six on Sunday – generous estimates, I suspect), you have 25 hours per week. Assume students spend 32 weeks annually (two semesters) on academics, students work 800 hours a year. ...

What about faculty workloads? While the U.S. Department of Education can probably tell you how many female Hispanic anthropology professors there are in Mississippi, they cannot tell you the average teaching load of U.S. professors – that is a state secret – a dirty little secret the academic establishment does not want discussed. ...

There is some spotty historical data and a good bit of anecdotal evidence. Unquestionably faculty teaching loads have fallen over time – probably, like with the students, by one-third or more since 1960. In my department, teaching loads in 1950 were typically 12 hours a week – four three hour courses. By 1965, when I started teaching, they were nine hours – three courses. Today, they are 6 hours – two courses. At top-flight research institutions, the three hour load is increasingly common. ...

It is true that published research has grown over time. Yet the typical professor is not a world-class scholar, perhaps publishing one article a year, typically in journals very few academics read. My guess is that the typical full-time professor in the 20 or so offices surrounding mine is in his/her office maybe 10 hours weekly, in class another six, and maybe spending 8-10 hours a week on academic pursuits at home, the library or academic meetings. The total work load is about equal that of students, although faculty sometimes work in the summer. ...

One reason students are learning relatively little in college, and that employers often feel they are unprepared for the workplace, is that people don’t work hard enough in the academy. The universities have monopolies on credentialing people for professional level work, and like most monopolists, abuse that power by paying themselves well, not in “profits”, but in “dividends” or perks in the form of light workloads and high job security.

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Initial thoughts are tenured v nontenured; teaching something like contracts v tax; actually caring about what you do; and so on.

However, the comments about students may be on the money. I teach accounting majors who look forward to making $60k upon graduation. But when I ask them what accountant do, all I get are blank stares. Then when I tell them they will be working 8-10 a day, 6 days a week, they do not believe me. They cannot contemplate a world where you do not check social media every 10 minutes.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Nov 5, 2015 7:58:01 AM

Mr. Vedder works so hard that he has time to criticize others for being lazy.

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 5, 2015 4:15:48 AM

Did we really need a Forbes article to tell us no one learns anything at Ohio University?

Posted by: Nathan A | Nov 5, 2015 3:20:57 AM

This description bears no resemblance to my own collegiate experience 35 years ago, or to any of the universities I've taught at since. I guess I'm glad I didn't go to Ohio U.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 4, 2015 9:47:28 PM

Same here, Richard. I teach 210 students this semester. Even if you are teaching many fewer, they can keep you busy if you try to be a good mentor. That is not to mentor scholarship and service, each of which can be endless, if you choose not to be a slacker.

Posted by: JayA | Nov 4, 2015 5:35:12 PM

Hey, Richard, if this is based on your workload, which I assume it is, since you cite nothing in support of your thesis except "anecdotal evidence" - would you hop on over here and give me a hand? I've been trying to finish and cite an article for about six hours straight and am nearly crying with frustration. I'll put you to work.

Posted by: Carla | Nov 4, 2015 1:29:48 PM