• November 28, 2014

Professors at U. of North Texas Are Required to Put in Daily Hours on Campus

Faculty members in the University of North Texas' College of Public Affairs and Community Service have new work rules this year. They are required to spend at least four hours a day, four days a week on campus, on top of the time they spend in the classroom, under a policy adopted last week.

University officials said the goal is to make the college's 69 faculty members more accessible to students and encourage more interdisciplinary research collaboration. But the new rule, which is unusual in academe, is drawing intense scrutiny, as well as complaints from some faculty members.

Shahla Ala'i-Rosales, an associate professor of behavior analysis who studies early intervention for children with autism, said she and most of her colleagues already spend more than 16 hours on campus. She worries, though, that the new requirement doesn't allow enough scheduling flexibility for researchers like herself, who spend much of their time doing research in the community.

"Being scholars in a rapidly changing world, we need to be flexible in how we use our time," she said. "For some of us, it may mean sitting at our computers, and for others, it may mean going out and doing interviews and fieldwork with our students."

(Kean University introduced a similar requirement in 2008, contending that it would allow the institution to offer more courses and more professor-student interaction. It also faced objections from professors.)

There is currently no plan to extend the policy, which was approved by the college's chairs, to the rest of the university.

Thomas L. Evenson, dean of the college, said faculty members will get credit toward the 16-hour requirement for time spent on university-related travel and, in some cases, for research and teaching at some off-campus sites.

"Eighty-six percent of our students are undergraduates, and one of the keys to our success is our student-centeredness," Mr. Evenson said. "We're not going to expect everyone to punch a time clock, but we do want to be sure students have more face-to-face time with their professors."

He said one thing that drove the policy decision was that some faculty members complained that they did a disproportionate share of student counseling while their colleagues spent little time in their offices.

Comments

1. lslerner - September 03, 2010 at 03:52 pm

A move that will do little to enhance the productivity of faculty members. In my long experience, good ones spend lots of time at their work, and scheduling that time comes as a natural concomitant. The drones can spend any amount of time you like on campus and they are still drones.

2. theblondeassassin - September 03, 2010 at 03:55 pm

Unless UNT faculty in this department are unusually stupid or unusually good citizens, this will just lead to an evolutionary race where people will outwit the system ("but I was here from 5 am to 9 am and no-one came by!") with counterproductive outcomes.

I know I would. Just for the heck of it.

3. brianedavis - September 03, 2010 at 04:31 pm

Being a Professor means being available for students. Their well paid---probably too much---and to spend time on campus, with students, everyday. Isn't that what a job is all about. They should be ashamed if they complain. I'd like a job like that.

4. 12052592 - September 03, 2010 at 04:33 pm

It is my experience that all the productive professors I know NEVER stop working. Just ask their ex-wives and their new graduate student/wives...

5. goodeyes - September 03, 2010 at 04:41 pm

Productivity today is not office based for the better organizations. Reward productivity and not office time. What are the department chairs doing because they are typically paid more to be at the office?

6. profmomof1 - September 03, 2010 at 04:48 pm

This is ridiculous. What if you spend most of the day in classes? Then you're supposed to miss dinner with your family to spend four more hours sitting around on campus? And at my university, faculty are given small offices without room for most of the books and files (or quiet) that we need to do serious writing or course preparation. So more face time on campus would equal less research/publication/grant proposal/teaching prep productivity.

7. profjrdn - September 03, 2010 at 04:56 pm

With this kind of dim witted management and inability to deal with slacker employees, falling back on the oldest, least productive management strategy of "let's make a rule", UNT can now officially be invited into the Texas A&M System. They will fit right in. Gov./Chancellor Perry will be right proud.

brianedavis, spend 6+ years getting a PhD while feeding your family rice and beans and you too can get one of these cushy jobs that pays less than I could have made in the private sector where I did not have to work nearly as many nights, weekends, or hours.

8. 11196496 - September 03, 2010 at 05:00 pm

I agree with comment #6 on office size. My office is 90 inches by 90 inches and has a 3x5 foot desk in it. Some terms I share it with another colleague whose office hours have been the same time as the only time I can eat lunch. This is not and cannot be a place for scholarly research. I have to pay more rent so I can have a space at home for my research office and all my books and files. I live and teach in Manhattan, so that is a significant expense. Requiring me to spend extra time in my office would not be productive of much except resentment, reading the Chronicle of High Ed on-line, and writing like this.

9. 11180655 - September 03, 2010 at 05:07 pm

I think all professors should be virtual workers, and as soon as the software can be developed to do their job, let's use that instead.

Imagine a University employee having to actually 'go' to the workplace 16 hours a week. Now that is a hardship.

10. loweredexpectations - September 03, 2010 at 05:08 pm

How ironic that more and more institutions are pushing these kinds of rules (the one where I work is trying to as well) at the very moment in time when industry is moving increasingly towards working from home, increasing opportunities for flex time, and introducing other creative, forward-looking work environments. Score another point for Backwards-Looking Admin!

11. jthelin - September 03, 2010 at 05:44 pm

My first inclination is to object to this measure as yet another administrative imposition on faculty rights, academic freedom and genuine university values . However, on reflection, I think the measure has a good point. Here I am at a flagship state research university with a reasonable load for teaching and advising and for tenure and promotion -- the University of Kentucky, the Dept of
Educational Policy Studies. We offer no undergraduate major and are primarily devoted to a master's and doctoral program -- teaching load of two courses per semester, generous sabbatical every 7 years, and few impositions of meetings, etc. Despite all this academic opportunity and largesse, out of my department of 11 tenure track professors, about 5 of them are seldom around. Best of all, they are career associate professors who have not written or published sufficiently to warrant promotion to full professor (despite a very lenient standard). Furthermore, among these 5, few if any have ever been PI for a substantial research grant. They usually are too busy to attend departmental potlucks for graduate students; they beg off on sponsoring master's or doctoral advisees or theses or dissertations. In short, they have all the perks and advantages of a major research university without fulfilling reasonable obligations of writing and publishing and accessibility to graduate students (graduate students -- not undergraduates, heaven forbid!). So, please, tell me a reasona ble resolution of such avoidance and entitlement?

Puzzled and Perplexed

12. bclemes1 - September 03, 2010 at 06:23 pm

Ah, yes, the stupid bureaucrats deciding that faculty members work only when they are on campus and in their offices: it is a Texas mentality I understand well. During a few years when I was at Houston Community College, all of us were required to keep "office hours" at the central administrative office during the day. No students were there, and we actually taught at campuses elsewhere in the county at night. We couldn't get our work done because we were huddled in one small room and talking to one another. I am in California now, where such inanities are not imposed, but legislators and bureaucrats still seem to think in 9-to-5 mentalites: i.e., we work 12 hours a week with summers off. Astounding!

13. 22280998 - September 03, 2010 at 06:29 pm

Hey #11

Crack down on the drones. You may not be able to kick them out of the hive, but you can cut off the perks. If only six of you are carrying the full load and the other five are in a 20-year coast to retirement, your students and program will be soon history.

14. vernaye - September 03, 2010 at 07:37 pm

Student-centered? I bet not a single student asked for this measure, nor were any students consulted about it.

15. 11186108 - September 03, 2010 at 08:26 pm

#11 - if you know this, doesn't the Chair, the personnel/tenure review committee also know? One of the rationales for "post-tenure review" is to fix situations such as this.

16. diogenesc - September 03, 2010 at 08:54 pm

Whine whine whine. Boo hoo, I have to spend 4 hours a day at my place of work.

17. vernaye - September 03, 2010 at 09:52 pm

Most offices provided to academics are not a "place of work" except in the most nominal sense. I am in my ninth year of being an academic in the humanities. My offices before now have been a) a windowless closet with a computer so ancient that you had to reboot every 30 minutes so that the memory didn't freeze up b) an even smaller closet that did have a window - a two-way mirror onto the closet next door, since this "office" was once an observation room for psychological tests and c) a former laundry room that I shared with another faculty member (which meant no space for uninterrupted research) and which opened right onto the main entrance to the building, so that there was a constant boom of noise from students coming in and out, as well as the sound on either side of classes being conducted.

Now, I have left America and I have a huge office that is quiet and where I have enough space to store all my books. It's Saturday morning, and guess where I am, out of choice? My office.

18. snapcase - September 03, 2010 at 11:12 pm

It makes me laugh to think that idiots like diogenesc (#16) and brianedavis (#3), both of whom probably know very little about higher education, took the time to register on this site so they can direct their hatred at people who have worked for a long time as underpaid adjuncts to be where they are today. These characters must be REALLY bored at their respective corporate office job.

19. drfunz - September 04, 2010 at 12:12 am

It seems the assumption of these administrators is that we have jobs that somehow translate into regular "working hours". That would be true if all we did was teach and be available for stduents... but I for one PREPARE to teach. And I do research. And I help with my department and I attend University functions. 8-hour-a-day workers put in their 8 hours and can go home and be a non-workers with their families. We go home eat a fast suppoer and go back to thinking and planning for our jobs. Folks who believe we are paid as well as executives in business - or high school teachers in some states - or those in some trades - are clueless. We are not paid nearly enough.

This said, I do believe that faculty should be around more than the hours they teach and more than two days a week. I teach 12 hours a week, have 8 hours of office hours/wk and usually do this over four days. But I do not divide it up evenly; I divide so to have maximum efficiency and maximum opportunity to see students. one of those days I might only be there from 8 am - 10:30 am to catch those adult students who do not mind taking early morning classes.

20. tuxthepenguin - September 04, 2010 at 07:20 am

Are all administrators available in their campus office, to meet with students and faculty, four hours a day, four days a week? No secretaries to schedule appointments, either. If they're in their office, they meet with whoever comes by, whether an undergrad or faculty member shooting the breeze. No such policy? I wonder why.

This has nothing to do with how many hours the faculty are working. It is mandating 16 hours of office hours per week. Anyone with experience in this business knows that will lead to less productivity. It is a monument of inefficiency.

To the clueless, let's use a better example. You work as a UPS driver. They institute a new rule. "Because it's a good idea to allow managers and customers to talk to the drivers, we want all drivers to be in the office four hours a day, four days a week." Such a business would not be in business for very long. Well-run organizations pay employees to do things that have value.

21. mal1000 - September 04, 2010 at 08:13 am

I think this is an excellent idea. Most of my courses are graduate courses (usually 1 undergraduate course every two years) and they are taught in the evening in a high-school about 20 minutes from campus. The students work during the day and come to class 1-2 nights per week.

Many years ago, both they and I discovered the value of electronic communication instead of spending 1.0 - 1.5 hours coming to campus (where they never have classes) or to the off-campus location during rush hour to talk with me. [I do have one evening of in-person office hours each week in the off-campus location as it is clearly more useful than electronic communication on occasion).

So, yes, ask that I spend 4 hours per day on campus - very, very useful to me for getting non-teaching work done. And the chances of this being of use to my students? Zero.

22. drgrieves - September 04, 2010 at 08:46 am

On my campus, there is a rapidly growing culture of resentment. Administrators, and especially their staff, have begun thinking of faculty as spoiled babies who do virtually nothing and then have the gall to ask for decent salaries, technology that works, and some say in the direction the college is going. I am pretty sure that many of the administrators (the ones with academic backgrounds, for instance) know better, but it behooves a certain managerial style to set campus workers, whether administrative assistants or full professors, at the others' throats. (One recent email from a dean's assistant began, "To Those of You Lucky Enough to Have a Four-Month Summer Vacations" before going on to drip pure resentful snottiness for five paragraphs.)

This policy has zip to do with faculty productivity or student-faculty interaction, and everything to do with that management style. As Barbara Ehrenreich says in Nickeled & Dimed, Wal-Mart makes you pee in a jar not because of a drug policy but to show you that they can make you pee in a jar. This is North Texas' way of making faculty pee in a jar.

And:

I just checked the website for Educational Policy Studies at the University of Kentucky and--as I suspected--the five layabouts John Thelin mentions are readily identifiable. What a place that department must be--just the Hap-Hap-Happiest Place on Earth!

23. tuxthepenguin - September 04, 2010 at 08:52 am

Setting aside the strangeness of publicly calling out coworkers, I wonder how John Thelin's post is relevant. How is making these faculty members go to the office going to make them productive? They'll sit in their offices and pick their noses. The policy only affects those trying to get something done.

24. reinking - September 04, 2010 at 11:46 am

Is this a solution in search of a problem? What is the evidence that students find their professors inaccessible, especially with e-mail and other forms of digital contact to set up convenient appointments on campus if necessary? What is the evidence that faculty aren't collaborating or will do so more if they are required to spend 4 hours a day of their own choosing on campus? Sounds to me like a smoke screen for other issues and intents. I wonder what effect this requirement will have on recruiting faculty, at least those who want to be active scholars and do more than teach classes? How will this requirement be monitored? Punching a time clock? Will tenure requirements be adjusted accordingly? If North Texas College administrators wanted to communicate that they are short-sighted, foolish, and disrespectful of their faculty, and if they wish to portrary their institution as second-rate, I think they have succeeded.

25. csgirl - September 04, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I came back to academia after a 10 year hiatus in industry, and one of the things I found has changed the most is that students no longer use office hours. Last year, my first year back teaching, I had exactly TWO visits by students during office hours. And yet, that did not affect my ability to interact with students and help them one whit? Why? Because of email and discussion boards! My students overwhelmingly prefer to communicate electronically, and pay no attention to "scheduled office hours". I spend a good bit of time everyday, often in the evening, answering student emails. I think Texas needs to catch up with the times.

26. amnirov - September 04, 2010 at 02:42 pm

16 hours a week, seven months a year????? say it isn't true. My heart bleeds.

27. occhiazzurri - September 05, 2010 at 09:00 am

While I have definitely seen the kind of situation #11 described play out all over my own side of campus, I'm not so sure that a policy like this will do anything to combat the problem. They will no doubt invest large amounts of time and effort to figure out how to adhere to the 4 hr/4x/week rule while still managing to shirk all meaningful duties. Then the rest of us (i.e., the people who actually work) will be lashed with a wet noodle the one week we contract the flu and only come in 3 days.

I also find it interesting that people come here for the sole purpose of railing against the stereotype of the overpaid academic of leisure. I may not be in an office on campus 5x/week, but I'm working 7 days a week most weeks. We won't even discuss my "pay," as it were.

28. archman - September 05, 2010 at 10:39 am

It's the weekend. I, like many of my academic colleagues, will be at school doing work. We may be grading papers, prepping course material, writing grant proposals, performing research, etc...

The vast majority of academics do not work 40-hour weeks. They work 60+ hour weeks. We work on weekends, over holidays, over the summer, and during evenings/nights. From a productivity standpoint, university professors rank very high.

And yet, the public continues to view us with greatly misinformed eyes. They mostly still equate classroom teaching time as our sole work effort. When they were college students (if they went to college), this is usually all they saw of their professors, so this is what they assume all our work entails.

Mandatory office hours on this scale are moronic, thought up by morons who have never been professors. Their is a common adage that many academics are familiar with... "I get to choose when I work my 60 hours a week."

Having these times dictated to us by ignorant admin dufuses is ridiculous, and ultimately counterproductive. With such rules in place, expect less work from most professors, not more.

29. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 11:37 am

"The vast majority of academics do not work 40-hour weeks. They work 60+ hour weeks."

Can you cite some data on this? Preferably data that doesn't rely on self reported information?

I am sure that there are many professors who work 60+ hours a week. Some of them are also incredibly unproductive. There are also enough shirkers in the academy to make this a reasonable issue to be concerned about.

30. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 11:59 am

33: What an excellent example of why many (not "most"--I don't have the data) academics fear and hate an "assessment culture" that refuses to understand that what we do for a living yields numbers in some circumstances but not in others and that our non-quatifiable hours (at home, for example) are often the most productive.

I have been working from home for three hours this Sunday morning. I have absolutely no non-self-reported data to support that claim.

31. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 12:36 pm

My issue in my previous comment is that on these boards there are many who pertuate the myth of the overworked, underpaid professor. When people make these types of claims, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for evidence and to ask for quality evidence. Now, one could respond with: "just trust us, we are overworked and underpaid, so don't even inquire about any accountability measures". However, these types of responses from people who have a vested interest in the outcome are clearly seen as less than credible.

32. prof291 - September 05, 2010 at 12:57 pm

For data supporting the long work hours of faculty, see

Jacobs, J.A. and Winslow, S.E. 2004. Overworked faculty: Job stresses and family demands. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 596: 104-129.

Jacobs, J.A. 2004. The faculty time divide. Sociological Forum 19: 3-27.

The data is self-reported. If the assumption is that every respondent is an exaggerator or liar, oh well.

Note that, like drgrieves, I hereby self-report that I'll be working this afternoon after lunch, like I did yesterday. I also worked before lunch yesterday, but not today.

33. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 02:15 pm

I self-report that have been to the office since first (self)reporting that I was working this morning. The Internet was down (you gotta trust me here), so I came back home (I'm not lying) and chsed my spouse away from Spider Solitaire and commandeered the home computer (honest) so I could help a student prep a paper for a conference she's going to next weekend (hand to God).

I go back to my earlier, entirely inelegant (#22) way of putting this: "assessment culture" is administrators' way of making us "pee in a jar." They do so because (a) they can and want us to know they, (b) to show staff that faculty only think they are special, and (c) to demoralize and confound all of us who came to the profession thinking that academe was based on integrity and good manners (I can no longer say "is based on integrity" since, as #35 indicates, in some cases accountability trumps trust, and those of us who regret the shift apparently look like either reflexive liars or sentimental romantics).

Yes,

34. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 02:16 pm

Add a "can," drop the "yes."

35. archman - September 05, 2010 at 02:29 pm

While the general public harps on how "underworked" professors are (and use the same, tired, misinformed criteria), there is little to no public outcry over the administration and their "productivity".

Talk about a double standard.

To the ignorant masses regarding professor workload, I will paint a simple picture using the "simplest" professor model, that of the full-time community college instructor. They normally have no research hours, and are hired specifically for service and teaching.

1. Classroom teaching = 12-21 hours per week (15-18 hours is most standard)
2. Grading student work = 3-15 hours per week (field specific-lean towards the higher end for most instructors)
3. Preparing courses = 3-20+ hours per week (new preps entail the higher end)
4. Advising & Committee work (5-10 hours per week)
5. Stupid required admin junk (2-4 hours per week, and climbing)
6. Scholarly Activity (minimal but expected-and on your own time)

I am probably missing something and undervaluing some of these ranges.

Yes, it *is* possible to be a total slacker and run a sum workload well below 40 hours per week. However, this is difficult to do, and quite rare. On the other hand, running over 40 hours a week is quite easy to do.

36. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 02:30 pm

"I can no longer say "is based on integrity" since, as #35 indicates, in some cases accountability trumps trust, and those of us who regret the shift apparently look like either reflexive liars or sentimental romantics"

I would argue more along the lines of sentimental romantics than reflexive liars. Although there are plenty of reflexive liars in the academy, some of whom are even faculty. While there are many people who put in 50+ hour weeks, there are also a sizable fraction of shirkers as well. After all, if we really wanted to cut spending in higher education most departments have some deadwood that could be let go with the effect of allowing the university of hire more competent people at lower prices. A win win for everyone except the dead wood.

37. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 02:50 pm

So how do you allow me and others to be accountable for the work we are doing today and at other times when we are off-campus or otherwise out of the assessment loop (on-campus nights and weekends and holidays)? How do we supply data to those who would keep us accountable and protect us the appearance of sentimentality or prevarication? If we can't self-report, how can we get people to believe us when we say that we really, honestly are putting in the hours we say we are? Or--and is this what North Texas is getting at?--do we need to change our work habits so the only place we ever work in in the classroom or campus office?

38. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 03:25 pm

I think you just need to face reality and realize that we have a reputation similar to used car dealers. There are dishonest car dealers just like there are college professors who shirk. The majority in both professions are probably decent and honest, but the sizable minority spoil it for the rest. Some additional scrutiny is not necessarily unwarrented mainly because we really haven't done a good job of policing our own ranks. And I am mainly talking about the public sector here. Should taxpayers be upset when they see someone working 20 hours a week, 30 weeks a year? Absolutely! Even if it is only 10% of college professors that is still way to much.

39. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 03:41 pm

Again: tell me how to prove that I am working today or over the summer when I am "on vacation."

What mechanism do you suggest? If I decide that you are right, how exactly do I subject myself to the "additional scrutiny" that proves that I am not lying about how much I work?

Is there some device or software that will allow me to "punch the clock" from home on Sundays, for instance?

40. fruupp - September 05, 2010 at 03:52 pm


My students rarely see me in my office because they can't be bothered. Rather, they catch me in the classroom for a "quickie" (which often becomes anything but) just before and just after class. I've never counted that time toward my office hours, but I will if McAdministration gets stupid.

Otherwise, students e-mail me (because it's easier FOR THEM!), which means I'm doing office hours from home (and elsewhere). I'll quit doing so and let the Dean of Academic Affairs explain to Mr. & Ms. Snowflake why their professor won't see them except during officially-sanctioned office hours, which, as I stated above, they don't want to be bothered with.

What's next? Visitng students in their homes?

41. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 04:12 pm

"Again: tell me how to prove that I am working today or over the summer when I am "on vacation." "

I am not sure that proving that you are not shirking is any more provable than a used car dealer proving that he is not a crook. What we do know is that some used car dealers are crooks and some college professors are underworked and overpaid.

42. drgrieves - September 05, 2010 at 04:29 pm

I do not know what you are trying to say then. Is it sort of like this:

1. Some professors (like members of other professions) cheat the system.

2. Others do not.

3. For the honest ones not to be perceived as dishonest, they must provide data through a non-self-reporting method that they are in fact working when they claim to be working.

4. I don't know how or even if that can be done.

I do not see how the upshot of all this can be anything but either "Suck it up: nothing you do will convince the public that you are honest" or "Work only when you know you are being watched."

Yes, we know that some "some used car dealers are crooks and some college professors are underworked and overpaid." But most used car dealers are honest, and most professors work plenty for their salaries. I'd prefer to fight back against those who, for whatever reasons, insist that we must be cynical and expect the worst of everyone else.

Pollyanna over and out.

43. stinkcat - September 05, 2010 at 10:34 pm

"1. Some professors (like members of other professions) cheat the system."

I would argue that it appears that cheating the system seems to occur more frequently among college professors than it does among a lot of other professions. It may be due to the fact that the work of college professors is more difficult to measure. You rarely hear about, say janitors being underworked and overpaid.


"For the honest ones not to be perceived as dishonest, they must provide data through a non-self-reporting method that they are in fact working when they claim to be working."

I am not sure its the honest ones I am after here, just the people who complain that we are all overworked and underpaid. If you want to claim that most of us work 60 hours a week (and I don't believe you were the one making the claim) then you need to provide evidence and be honest about the limitations of that evidence.

44. williamdonnell - September 05, 2010 at 11:23 pm

A bunch of idiots. Probably thought up by some female administrator.

45. archman - September 05, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I fail to see why someone would lie about working more than 40 hours of week, when they are not required nor advised to. Professors aren't paid on the clock, nor do they get overtime. You are paid to do a job that is increasingly becoming more and time consuming with rising enrollments, rising bureaucracy requirements, and rising tenure expectations. At the same time you have fewer and fewer TT lines, giving more service duties to the remaining faculty. These are not wild nor extravagant claims, but the Way Things Are.

Evidence for underpaid college professors is plastered all over the CHE. In many cases you will find that we are not even keeping up with cost-of-living inflation. This is really not in dispute, at all.

46. tee_bee - September 05, 2010 at 11:39 pm

#3, I strongly doubt you're a college professor. Few professors would claim to being overpaid--and, in terms of their education, they aren't. And most professors in the United States can write in English. You may wish to brush up those skills before making uninformed comments and gross errors in spelling or word choice.

47. texasguy - September 05, 2010 at 11:39 pm

There are two simple criteria to evaluate the work of faculty working in research institutions: (a) How much do they publish? and (b) What is the impact of their published works?

Being on campus is essential for people in natural sciences as they have lab experiments to run and/or to supervise. For these people, sixteen hours a week on campus is well below the bare minimum. This is not true for mathematicians, who are as likely to work at home than at school.

I must confess that I am among those who work better at home than at school.

48. prof291 - September 06, 2010 at 09:18 am

Evidence for the long work hours of professors was demanded and then supplied in a previous post. Though perhaps imperfect, it unequivocally supports the claim of average long workweeks of college and university faculty. Other studies and surveys correspond. Where is the equivalent evidence that supports the slanderous claim, plentifully repeated by those who don't understand academic work, that professors work little? There is no evidence to support that, apart from vague statements like "I knew a professor who...." There is no systematic evidence of any sort, self-reported or otherwise. The fact is that faculty overwhelminingly work long hours. Tenured and TT jobs are good jobs, no doubt about it, but they're as demanding as any other professional activity.

49. stinkcat - September 06, 2010 at 09:29 am

"Where is the equivalent evidence that supports the slanderous claim, plentifully repeated by those who don't understand academic work, that professors work little?"

I never said that professors work little. What I claimed is that there is a sizable minority of professors who work little. It is not slanderous if it is the truth.

50. samwise - September 06, 2010 at 09:38 am

to stinkcat: you have been blowing smoke about evidence to indicate workload. As yet you are blowing smoke about the percentage of faculty that are shirkers. Either put the evidence forward or quit blowing smoke about things that you have made up in your mind.

51. samwise - September 06, 2010 at 09:50 am

to stinkcat: Any by the way make sure your data can be verified by outside observers we don't want anyone just making stuff up about shirking do we. You have turned a blind eye to every comment about when and how people in academics work best. The alternative is to require office hours which has absolutely no bearing on how people work best it is similar to putting a cardboard cutout in the office just so someone can some an occupied desk. You are the very reason that academics are having so much trouble you refuse to accept self reported data because everyone lies, you acknowledge that what you want is not measureable so you just go on and on about shirking faculty with as much evidence as the public has about the President being a muslim. It would be helpful to the discourse if you could provide evidence (verified) of shirking, provide a method for measuring the unmeasurable or just drop out of the conversation until you have something other to say than just platitudes about non working lazy members of academe.

52. stinkcat - September 06, 2010 at 10:14 am

"You have turned a blind eye to every comment about when and how people in academics work best."

Actually, I never made any comment about the wisdom of this policy mandating office hours. I never claimed that this was in any way a good solution. What I did claim was that it is very easy to find a significant fraction of people abusing the current system.

"You are the very reason that academics are having so much trouble you refuse to accept self reported data because everyone lies,"

Actually I never claimed that everyone lies. There are many reasons why self reported data may not be accurate. People may very well overestimate the time they spend on different tasks.


"so you just go on and on about shirking faculty with as much evidence as the public has about the President being a muslim"

So, you are saying that there is no evidence that faculty shirk? So the two people in my department who never attend meetings, cancel classes constantly, and blow off their office hours are not shirking? I agree that is anectdotal evidence, but when I talk to people in other universities and other departments in my own university the response is invariably that there are plenty of shirkers in their own departments as well.

If you don't have any shirkers in your department, consider yourself fortunate. Because with the people I know, it is a significant problem. What we really need is some better data, I agree.

53. samwise - September 06, 2010 at 10:24 am

to stinkcat: I very much appreciate your response. The issue is better data. I suspect I have shirkers as well but because I cannot observe their behavior at all times I can only suspect they are not working the same. But as you say its all anecdotal. Right now the only verifiable data is published research and Universities in Texas are trying to destroy that by increasing teaching loads or as in this case requiring office hours for little reason. So

"What we really need is some better data"

is very true and in addition we need administrators with half a brain that stop to think before suggesting ideas that have no basis in assessing the workload of a faculty member and are ridiculous at the outset. Observe A&M's attempt at assessing teaching by dividing a faculty member's salary by the number of students taught.

54. tcli5026 - September 07, 2010 at 12:40 am

Certainly, there are shirkers, liars, and cheaters in academia. No argument from me (I know some in my department). And, if I had some magic wand, I'd get rid of them all.

But, the real issue is this: does it help if the university administration imposes a requirement for faculty to be on campus a certain number of days a week for a minimum number of hours? As a number of posters have already argued, it probably will achieve little. Those who already shirk their responsibilities, will continue to do so. Those who take their jobs seriously, on the other hand, may become less productive because they have less control over their schedule, will spend more time commuting, and so on. They may also resent this sort of top-down change in academic culture. Those with options will likely find jobs elsewhere.

It is much better for the university to provide incentives to spend more time on campus, or to make the effort voluntary.Buy-in is important if the effort is really meant to improve the academic environment for the faculty and students.

And for those who simply want to criticize "whiny" professors: you all obviously have no understanding of the profession.

55. hieronymous - September 07, 2010 at 06:43 am

Though I don't think this is a wise policy, We must all try to understand its source: pressure from state legislatures and the public who see rows of empty faculty offices on Friday afternoons and see their professor neighbors mowing their lawns mid-day during the week. As stinkcat posted earlier, the visible (or perhaps invisible) minority of faculty who take advantage of the system taint those who are devoted, hard-working faculty members working both in and out of their offices.

One manifestation of such pressures is silliness like this policy. My spouse's institution has a similar policy in place and even went so far as to require that full-time faculty who teach distance learning courses must be in their offices a certain amount of time for each DL course they teach.

Image triumphs over substance once again--but faculty must be mindful that image does matter--and more must be done to police those who tarnish that image without punishing those who pull their academic weight.

56. zagros - September 07, 2010 at 08:56 am

Why should we be punching the clock? The hallmark of a professional is that he or she is paid for work completed, not time completed. How can you measure this? Look at my output. Judge my research quantity and quality. Judge my teaching based on the syllabus, assignments, and assessements (we are doing assessments constantly to try to improve teaching . . . or at least to increase paperwork). Judge my service based on the written record of my contributions. It is quite easy to judge what I have done and whether it is worth the monetary expenditure by the university.

On the other hand, if we go to "punching the clock" as the evaluative tool, I fail to see how this improves measurement of outcomes.

What bothers me are statements by #35 (stinkcat) who addresses the REAL agenda:

"After all, if we really wanted to cut spending in higher education most departments have some deadwood that could be let go with the effect of allowing the university of hire more competent people at lower prices"

Oh, yes. Let's "hire more competent people at lower prices". I'm sorry but, if anything, you should pay higher prices for the more competent people. Perhaps you end up with a lower wage bill because you eliminate shirking but don't expect (or even desire) to lower wages for individual professors at the same time as increasing quality.

I certainly am not "underpaid and overworked" because I choose the lifestyle that I have. I put in 70+ hours a week because I enjoy it. I have an extensive publication record (and continue to publish with 3 articles and 1 book in the past year even though I am a professor at a teaching-oriented university), honestly enjoy teaching and my service commitment, and always give my full effort in everything I do.

The reason for this is because I choose how to teach the courses that I teach (although the course selection is somewhat dictated by the requirements of the degree program), choose the service commitments that I entail (avoiding those for which I can make little impact and embracing those that are in need of my skill set), and choose the research that I pursue (although chasing research grant dollars does limit the flexibility somewhat). This is quite unlike the corporate world where I earned quite a bit more but had my work subjected to mindless and irresponsible micromanagement and time card punching.

Indeed, if you seek to cut my pay and (worse) make me "count hours" or otherwise decide to micromanage my life beyond the ordinary and reasonable requirements for accountability, the benefits of being a professor begin to diminish. After all, if I have to be micromanaged, I might as well be better compensated for it and thus I very well might choose to leave academia to return to the corporate life.

57. facultydiva - September 07, 2010 at 10:03 am

#44 - Probably thought up by a female administrator? Oh, let me count the ways male administrators can be stupid!!!!!!!!!!!

58. frankfletcher - September 07, 2010 at 10:05 am

This requirement is directly out of Frederick Taylor's playbook and is a throw back to the 19th century and doesn't deal with the reality of 21st century education and the world that students and faculty live in today.

59. stinkcat - September 07, 2010 at 10:23 am

facultydiva,

I agree, administrative stupidity is independent of gender.

60. 11272784 - September 07, 2010 at 11:01 am

I spent 13 years in Texas. The entire state has a fascination with reducing human behavior to numbers and mandating behavior based on those numbers. The approved method in public institutions is to take orders, shut up, know your place, and not make waves. I'm delighted I escaped that state!

61. sparkyk1 - September 07, 2010 at 11:28 am

Here at College of the Mainland a 2 year college in Texas we are required to keep 7.5 office hours per week. That is 1.5 hours for each class (basic load of 15 credit hours) These hours are listed on our schedule which is posted on our office door. The office hour requirement has been in place many years. I believe that most faculty put in those hours, no one runs around checking to see if they are in their office at those times it is an honor system.

62. softshellcrab - September 07, 2010 at 11:39 am

Great, great idea. I support this 100%. Half the faculty in my department are here only for classtime plus maybe 4-6 hours per week. Spare me. They're not home working, if they were it would show up in SOMETHING gettting done by them, but they don't publish or anything else. They are simply home watching T.V. Don't tell me they aren't, I have been at this for many years, working with these same people, and do know from talking with them that they are not working when they are not here. They are just goofing off or doing some other side work, treating their professor job like a part time job. This is their job! Get to work. Certain things can only be done here at the school, and other things are done better here.

63. cpury - September 07, 2010 at 11:45 am

My oldest daughter will be a college freshman next year. As part of her selection process, I've been on campus tours of several major research universities in the Southeast. At each campus, including my own, office hours were a prominent feature of the tour. At one university, the spiel was something along the lines of "During office hours, professors can't do anything else. They can't be grading papers or working on research. They will be sitting in their office waiting for you to come by." Except, ya' know, they never do! They send me an email and want to meet with me at a time that works for them, or they just want to ask a simple question and get a quick electronic reply.

I think there's a real mismatch in this case between the marketing of a university education and the reality. Universities want to play up the accessibility of their faculty in a way that appeals to parents, so office hours are prominently featured because that's how it was when the prospective student's parents went to school. Interestingly, I never once heard "and our faculty are very responsive to email" or "if you have a question, you can IM the instructor" or "our faculty have a required 24-hour turnaround time for electronic questions". In my experience, that's what the students care most about, but they don't know it yet because all they have is high school and their parents' experience to go on.

Co-incidentally, on one of those many college tours, I heard that "Some of our professors even do a little research on the side." Yeah, if by "on the side" you mean in order to keep our jobs.

64. jthelin - September 07, 2010 at 12:10 pm

At one state flagship research university, one person occupies two administrative positions: vice president of the university hospital; and, exec vice president of finance and business affairs for the entire university. How, tell me, does one person do this? A 16 hour day? If, indeed, administrators are subject to time accountability that is spared m any faculty, would some one please explain how such an du al appointment (for a total salayr of $450K per year) is possibly -- and monitored? (Well, perhaps administrators like faculty are not expected to keep regular hours?)

65. stinkcat - September 07, 2010 at 01:48 pm

"Oh, yes. Let's "hire more competent people at lower prices". I'm sorry but, if anything, you should pay higher prices for the more competent people. Perhaps you end up with a lower wage bill because you eliminate shirking but don't expect (or even desire) to lower wages for individual professors at the same time as increasing quality."

So you are in favor of salary inversion? This occurs quite frequently in business fields where you often have assistant professors making more than full professors.

But truly, I am a consumer at heart. If we could get rid of a dead wood full professor at $100k per year and replace him or her with an Asst Prof who would be thrilled to take the job for $40k, I would pay the $40k. I have never paid any of my carpenters or plumbers more than the least I can, why should hiring professors be any different?

66. sahmphd - September 07, 2010 at 03:34 pm

There needs to be some acknowledgement by administrators that the physical presence of faculty members on campus is important. Good for UNT for taking this step. I know that students have come into my office to discuss an issue only because other faculty members were not around. Is doing research at home or in the field important? Absolutely. But so, too, is being available for students and having a presence on campus.

67. ragtopz2000 - September 07, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Knowing Dr. Evenson personally, he is not a 'stupid administrator.' He is a well-respected academic who is taking steps to improve the student-centered education process. To those academics who complain about having to spend 16 hours in the office-give me a break. Having been in higher education for a quarter century, I will also confirm that there is a significant minority of professors who are slackers. My son graduated from UNT, and the stories I heard from him about faculty not showing up but for one or two classes a semester (with grad students teaching a majority of classes) makes liar of anyone here who says most faculty work 60 hours a week. I have seen too much in my 25 years adn in my son's education years--it just 'ain't' so!!!!

68. olmsted - September 07, 2010 at 06:35 pm

Are office hours important? When in grad school, my major prof knew my knock. It was my knock, and, though his door was shut and I believe his pub record indicated he wasn't often sleeping, he would answer.

Office hours are largely about relationship building. They permit access when stresses (or even whim) strikes a student. I had a similar prof as an undergrad at WVU. Charlie's office door was characteristically open, and he permitted me to come in, sit down, and chat...often while he continued to work. In effect, he had a management system between student demands for his time and other demands.

Today, as an academic admin, I, too, wrestle with the balance of understanding colleagues' work patterns, productivity, and responsiveness to students. There is no silver bullet answer. With devils in the details, the problem is both real (that is, the problem of some colleagues not working adequately, and the problem of how we evidence the work we toil at to admins, colleagues and the public) and pressing. Some of the challenge, simply put, comes from the annoyance of filling out accountability documents. We may feign offense, but sometimes it's an intellectual smoke screen to cover 1) the fact that it's annoying, and/or 2) we don't want to see or have others see the numbers.

A final point. For every colleague that has been disgusted by peers who are slacking, it behooves us to have administrators who are seeking means to put such behavior in an open, accountable review. Sometimes simply cooperating and not making a stink is the best thing that can occur, so that the true 60hr/wk folks don't inadvertently provide cover for slackers...without the slackers even raising a finger.

69. gadget - September 07, 2010 at 07:21 pm

I decided not to pursue a career as a faculty member at a major university when I was working on my PhD. Why? All the faculty I saw were working 60-70 hours a week. Their spouses were unhappy and frustrated, their children barely saw them, and they were under immense pressure to produce. It made me realize that I valued home and family far more. And yet they were the lucky ones. One semester I TA'ed for someone who had had several years of visiting lectureships and anticipated more years of moving from year to year. He had no significant other or children. His dream was to land a tenure track position so he could start to build a normal life--at age 37.

I have worked in several public agencies and in many businesses. People are people--some work hard, some slack off, and most do a decent job. Professors are no different. It is the productivity measures that are different. If a university is facing productivity problems with some faculty, then they should deal with those faculty. It is a basic management principle--punishing everyone just makes hardworking employees resentful and the scofflaws will find ways around the new rules.

But of course, this is Texas, where the legislature is so besotted by lobbyist and corporate parties and perks that they can't remember what day it is, much less the business they should attend to. The foundation of politics in Texas is resentment, including towards pointy-headed eggheads who use big words and don't believe in the literal word of the Bible.

This too shall pass, by the way. These legislative temper tantrums come and go. North Texas is doing it first and voluntarily, but the legislature, which is presently working on cutting 18 billion out of the state budget, is likely to mandate this for all public colleges and schools. Even the ones like my own which does not even have shared offices for some of the full time faculty: You see them pushing luggage carts around campus, loaded with paper, office supplies, lunch, books, and an occasional computer. They are the academic homeless people, in line for an office if someone quits, retires, or dies.

Sign me--a native Texan

70. stinkcat - September 07, 2010 at 07:32 pm

gadget,

While Texas does have some nutty ideas in education, this proposal seems to have stemmed from the faculty of the individual school. Are the faculty just as nutty as everyone else in Texas.

71. terminalmfa - September 07, 2010 at 11:54 pm

You know, I get the desire to make sure faculty are available and accessible to students. I think that's important, and I see the frustration that arises from some of my colleagues who are frequently unavailable to students. The problem, based on my observation, is that students don't come during your office hours. They come when it's convenient for them. If that's during the standard work day, then they assume you'll be there.

Well, we can't be there at every hour, and I have to keep my door closed just to avoid constant interruptions (admittedly, this isn't just my students but also my colleagues coming by to chat, as well as legitimate needs since I'm an undergraduate program director).

I'm not at all a closed-door kind of person. I enjoy interaction with my students and my colleagues. But it's hard to get anything done with the door open all the time. If I keep it closed, people seem to think that means, "He's not in." Well, I am in. But I'm working when the door is closed, too.

For the record, my university has some rules about office hours. I post a few (about six) and then list "other times by appointment," and that seems to satisfy everyone. And the only one who really seems to check the office hours is the administrative assistant when she's looking for someone. She's also the only one who seems to get upset if you're not there when you're supposed to be.

I'm in the office almost all the time. I work better there because I have kids at home, and I'm easily distracted there. But I also skip out on office hours whenever I have something else worth doing because, honestly, no one uses them anyway. (This comes after several years of observing my office hours religiously, by the way).

72. archman - September 08, 2010 at 09:33 am

I have steadily observed a decline in students coming into my office over the last few years. So have many faculty. The problem does not seem to caused by AWOL professors, but by lack of student interest. Combined with online and email accessibility, students just don't come in for the most part.

I have had 13 hours of office hours this semester so far. I have seen less than 10 students. I usually spend less than 2 minutes with each student. Their cell phones tend to go off during even these brief spans. They must get out of my office and text or facebook, before the sky falls.

On the other hand, I have had at least twice the number of emails, and devoted far more time to that than in office chats.

I have spent a few hours getting information on Blackboard up and available. I consider that time much better spent than sitting in my office waiting for people that more than likely will never appear.

I will predict quite confidently that if a typical 4-year public university measures office hours against student visitation, they will find a lamentable (and growing) trendline of diminishing returns. This will be exacerbated at schools with larger class sizes (where the students are anonymous faces and have no instructor face-time).

73. 11134078 - September 08, 2010 at 11:12 am

Quit complaining and organize!

74. fullprof99 - September 08, 2010 at 06:49 pm

Virtual Office Hours (via email) definitely have overtaken the real, face to face things. I do a lot face to face with students in my role as chair of my department, but students in my courses almost always email instead (or catch me before/after class, which I leave time for and encourage).

75. billso - September 08, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Interesting comments... and lots of people here who post under a pseudonym or a user number. Hurm.

76. kmkavi - September 09, 2010 at 02:36 pm

I did not read all the comments. But I do work at UNT-Denton (Main Campus which has more than 100 years of history). But I am not aware of any such requirements here. There is a new UNT campus in Dallas (UNT-Dallas) which became a University only this Fall (used to be a branch campus of UNT-Denton). UNT-Dallas is primarily an undergraduate institution. The requirements described in this article may be at UNT-Dallas campus.

77. mikep - September 09, 2010 at 05:08 pm

Perhaps I am jaded by my amazing experience at a small college, but I think unfortunately many of you are missing the point probably intended by the administration (though I will agree that simply making a rule, as someone already pointed out, is neither the most effective solution, or the appropriate resposne to a perceived problem)...

Nothing in the article indicates faculty must spend their time in their offices, but that is what so many posters already complained about. I'm sure the intended outcome is to build connections between students and faculty, create an atmosphere of "availability"(sometimes determined by more than just open office hours), and develop relationships. For many at large research institutions where both faculty and students can become simply numbers to the school itself, this might be a foreign concept.

As an undergradate, I knew my professors on a first-name basis, saw many of them around town and on campus at random hours. When there was a major event, they were there with their families. I always felt, even if I didn't like some of them, that they were around and were accessible as mentors/teachers/people.

For those concerned that they might be just sitting in front of a computer, waiting for the never-coming students to drop by....try visiting the student union, the library, the dining commons, the green spaces outside....interact with students...say hello, strike up a conversation with a freshman. As the ones with experience, knowledge to share, and the ability to guide, you might need to be the one to start that process and interaction...

Just a thought...

78. globaltheatre - September 09, 2010 at 06:38 pm

I have to admit that I'm in agreement with the previous poster (mikep). I had a similar experience as a student (undergrad and grad). I try to provide that for my students. Also, his point is correct that the article indicates on-campus hours with flexibility for those doing work at other sites, on clinicals, etc. As a community college faculty member (rank of Professor) at an institution where we are required to teach a minimum of five classes per semester plus maintain 10 office hours, I find it difficult to agree with those complaining about how this will interfere with work. Additionally, we are required to engage in an evaluation and promotion process that requires documentation of teaching effectiveness, professional development, contributions to the college/division/department, and community service. Many of us also maintain a research and/or writing agenda. By the way, we are organized and work under a collective bargaining agreement.

I do however, have issues with decisions made by administration regarding working conditions and/or the delivery of instruction and services to students if they are not vetted in good faith by faculty. Assuming the purpose of this decision is as altruistic as it indicates, I don't have a problem with it.

79. samwise - September 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

to mikep and globaltheatre #78 and #79: It is good that your experience as an undergraduate was enhanced by interactions with faculty. But two points. First, today's student is not likely the student of your generation. Being a faculty member in a situation where there must be an evaluator and person being evaluated reducing the distance between faculty and students today can be interpreted by sons and daughters of helicopter parents that you are their buddy and therefore could only be there to provide positive outcomes not appropriate evaluations of effort. I am not suggesting that students be shunned I am suggesting that to maintain the appropriate evaluator/ student roles that respectful conduct inside and outside the classroom by both parties is the ground upon which appropriate evaluation stands. Walking campus, going to the student union (especially in Texas heat) may be something out of interest but to seek out students at these locals to generate friendly conversations for the sake of atmosphere generates an environment that results in more friction than necessary. Second, globaltheatre, a faculty member at a Tier 1 institution must devote 50-60% of their time to conducting research. It is their primary role and research does not happen when teaching 5 classes per semester with office hours in double digits. The interruptions alone would stifle any thoughtful work toward publication. I would suggest that research is not your primary function and that at best it could be a hobby for some but not the primary activity you are evaluated on. So please do not suggest that your situation in anyway resembles that of a faculty member at a Tier 1 research school. Publishing as a primary function can be costly in terms of time. For example, the time for a single article from start to finish in the publication cycle may take several years. If you are being evaluated on something that is that time intensive you are working on multiples of these. So before you find it difficult to agree with people complaining about getting work done put yourself in their shoes not yours.

80. sotexsooner - September 20, 2010 at 03:28 pm

More bad news from Tejas....

UT System Academic Institutions Productivity Gains
1. Instructional Strategies
* Eliminating/Reducing small classes
* Establishing minimum class size at Coordinating Board levels
* Expansion of hybrid courses
* Expansion of on-line programs
* Larger class enrollments
* Different course lengths

2. Faculty Productivity
* Focus on increasing teaching loads
* Incentives to develop on-line courses
* Decreasing adjunct faculty

3. Improve Classroom Scheduling
* Improve scheduling policies beyond colleges expectations
* Centralized class scheduling
* Improved management of class sections

4. Degree Adjustments
* Reduction of major to 120 hours
* New Baccalaureate Completion program
* Community College Articulation agreements

5. Administrative Efficiencies
* New teaching policy for administrators
* Management of teaching loads
* Management of student/faculty ratios

6. Use of Facilities
* Increase summer enrollment
* Implementing student tuition discounts over summer and off-peak hours
* Implement a new pricing model
* Lower division (summer only) one half price
* Create new semester within summer (mini-semesters, 13 week semester)
* New pilot program of financial incentives to colleges and schools
* Evening and weekend classes
* Repurposing space to create more classrooms
* Expanded use of off-campus facilities

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