Expectations for teaching, research, and service

The Joint Committee for the Management of the Agreement has had discussions recently regarding assignment of duties. These discussions have included the three primary areas of responsibility that faculty duties entail – research, teaching, administration – expressed in percentages of time devoted to each area, most often as 40% research, 40% teaching and 20% administration.

Of particular concern to the USFA Executive Committee is the use of these percentages in the assignment of duties, and any documentation associated with the assignment of duties. The Executive takes the position that percentages should not be used with respect to the assignment of duties. 

There are many reasons to avoid the use of percentages when it comes to the assignment of duties:

  • In academic units where percentages are used, despite increases in the number of courses faculty are assigned, teaching duties continue to be described with the same percentage.
  • Increases in teaching duties are seldom offset by a corresponding reduction in duties in other areas of responsibility.
  • It is impossible to maintain an even balance between teaching and research, and it is incorrect to describe the distribution of these assigned duties as requiring the same amount of time every year.
  • The ebb and flow of faculty work makes measurement and categorization of tasks and time difficult.
  • It is unknown whether or not perceived failure to achieve a described percentage in an area of assigned duties will be seen as failure to perform assigned duties and result in discipline.

Expressing the balance of time faculty devote to their three primary areas of responsibility as 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% administration is a very good guideline for preservation of the teacher-scholar model we have long cherished here. We should continue to espouse that as an ideal. However, putting such a formula into a formal assignment of duties when teaching load increases from one year to the next is a very bad idea. It creates a situation where an employee is apparently expected to put equal amounts of time into research and teaching, even while teaching load is increased. Furthermore, if the expectation is that research productivity must be maintained or increased, and is subsequently assessed as not being up to standard, another outcome might be an entrenchment of differential assigned duties where one is required to do more teaching than one’s colleagues—and how then to improve on a program of research, scholarship, or artistic work?

Your Guidelines for the Assignment of Duties should reflect the amount of work that is reasonable and consider all types of teaching, research, administrative service and, where appropriate, clinical service. Article 11.5.2 of the Collective Agreement sets out 10 criteria under which each academic unit must identify activities that encompass the full range of academic work. Not one of the criteria is financial. 

As stated before, faculty are responsible for academic program design. If the resources available are diminishing, it may no longer be sustainable to deliver programs as they have been previously delivered while expecting faculty to have full and active research programs. Faculty have the ability to lead change to academic program requirements in order to ensure that teaching demands are reasonable in light of all our other duties.

If you wish to speak to a representative of USFA about how to prepare solid language for your guidelines, or if you just want to discuss fairness in the assignment of duties, reply to this letter and someone will be in touch.