Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Mr. Bullshit" Gets Called Out. And We Stand By For a Follow-Up.

Mr. "Bullshit" has generated some email and we want to give a quick followup.

First of all, while it's true that we are on vacation, we're not so lazy as to not verify some things. Yes, the poster in question is a faculty member, or at least has access to an actual professor's email account that we've verified through the institution in question - a pretty well known liberal arts college in the Midwest. And, according to the school paper and a faculty newsletter, he's a pretty well regarded fellow, and indeed twice a winner of teaching awards there.

A lot of the mail we've seen so far doubt the post's veracity, but we'll stand by it. Maybe he's lying his ass off, but it is what he sent us. We've hit him with a request for a little more info about grading, research, and committee work, and we'll post that if we hear from him.

Until then, here is some flava from the responses:
  • Wow - 13 hours a week! And no research (and almost no service) whatsoever! Pretty good to be an associate at a liberal arts school. I'm an assistant professor at a R-1 school; I teach a 2-2, plus a summer course for extra money. I'm on campus Monday through Friday from about 8:30 to 4:30, doing teaching prep, research, meetings, reviewing manuscripts, etc. I put in probably 2 hours of work each night, too; I don't normally work on Saturdays, but usually put in between 6 and 8 hours on Sundays. So I work anywhere between 50 and 60 hours a week, closer to 70 if I've got grading to do or a deadline, less (closer to 50) if I go to lunch, spend time visiting colleagues to chat, or have to attend job talks. That holds, let's say, for 11 months of the year. That puts me between 2200 and 2600 hours a year.
  • First off, I have my suspicions, based on the tone of the email, that it was written by a student. Second, if it was written by a professor: Don't you give assignments? Don't you grade assignments? Or do you have some poor TA picking up your slack?I teach two writing classes. The enrollment cap is 34. 6 papers are required in each class each semester. It takes me 15-20 minutes to grade each paper. You do that math. It ain't gonna fit in thirteen hours, sweetie!
  • I think you should publish the name and college of the author of 'Bullshit' so that the administration there can fire the slacker! I've worked in four universities in three countries (two in the US), and the notion that one can get the job done in less than 50 hours a week is laughable, so either Bullshit is self-deluded about what work s/he's doing, or it's pretty cushy at his little college. In the UK, the Trades Union Congress did a study on unpaid overtime in 2005, and discovered that those in education work the most unpaid overtime of any profession. The Trade Union Congress survey put it at 11 hours, 36 minutes unpaid overtime per week for (among others) university lecturers, but said in their report that they believed that this was an under-estimate. When UK lecturers were asked to take part in a work-hours-tracking programme a couple of years ago, many of us discovered that we regularly did 15-20 hours per week overtime, and on occasion I found that I'd worked 72-hour weeks.
  • Bravo to anyone who calls "bullshit" on the overwrought hand wringing of so many professors I know. I won't claim to be able to do it on 13 hours a week, but 20 is about right, and that includes my office hours, teaching, grading, and committee assignments. These 70 hour a week people must have some sort of impediment.
  • How do you incorporate anything new with just 1 hour of prep? It takes me about an hour just to find, re-read, and adjust OLD notes! And when do you grade? You don't mention that at all, but the bio prof mentioned spending MANY hours doing just that. And when do you do your research? The Bio prof never explicitly states this either, but that is, indeed, part of your job too. Unless, of course, you're one of those rare few who think you got tenure just on your teaching ability alone. I accuse you of the same fault the student poster had: You believe your only job is to step into a classroom and get paid for the time there. You and I [and most of the readers] know your job is FAR MORE than just the credit hours you spend in front of students. Stop devaluing the work you do, which includes anything necessary to be a valued member of your profession. But then, of course, you could just be a lazy-ass. I bet that never pops up in your stellar student evaluations, but it might in a promotion review [which might explain your mediocre salary for an associate professor].
  • This note can't be for real. First of all, at any decent liberal arts college, that salary would be entry level only. I'm at a SLAC in the South in my fourth year and I make more than $50k.
  • I challenge all RYS readers to give their real hours. I'm in my seventh year of teaching, one year to my tenure board and I work much closer to 400 than to 2800! Put me down for about 25 a week. But that's a lot of reading and writing I would be doing ANYWAY. Life of the mind, people. It's a little bit easy because it's something I love to do. I have colleagues like the 2800 hour nut who simply MUST tell the rest of us how hard they work. You know what? I don't give a shit. Scuttling around in a panic doesn't impress me, and doesn't make your classes any better.
  • Would the work this faculty member puts in be typical across all classes of faculty? I don't think so, but I don't imagine it is aberrant, either. All the same, while not everyone does 2200, or 2400, or 2600 hours of work a year, I'd suspect that the lower down the career totem pole you go (assistants versus associates versus fulls), you're going to find more work being done - especially at R-1 schools. And if you look at 2-year schools, or liberal arts schools with, say, a 4-4, or (heaven forbid!) a 5-4, you're going to find a lot of work there too.