UWRF officials question governor’s proposal to track faculty time

Posted February 21, 2017

Gov. Scott Walker’s new accountability proposal for faculty leaves a lot to be desired, according to officials at UW-River Falls.

As part of his 2017-2019 budget proposal that includes a $100 million increase for the UW System, the governor is seeking to make several changes, including a 5 percent tuition cut that, has concerned some university officials. However, officials are also concerned by a new proposal requiring UW faculty and instructional academic staff (IAS) to teach more and to record the number of hours spent in the classroom.

“This will reverse a nationwide trend where professor time in the undergraduate classroom is down while tuition has gone up — in fact nationally it’s about four times the rate of inflation since 1978,” Walker said during his Feb. 8 budget address.

According to a press release from Walker’s office, the measure is meant to hold faculty and IAS accountable and reward those who go beyond their required workload. Full-time faculty are required to teach 12 academic credits worth each semester while full-time IAS are required to teach 15 academic credits. In addition, tenure track faculty are expected to participate in student advising, conduct scholarly activity and contribute to the university through academic committees or by maintaining relationships with outside agencies such as hospitals.

Faye Perkins, UWRF’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the proposal leaves out a lot of the work faculty and IAS do.

“Teaching is only one piece of what we do,” Perkins said. “But along with that teaching is all of that preparation for the teaching, the reading that goes along with that, the grading that goes along with that.”

Perkins said most faculty often work over 40 hours a week and recording an accurate amount of time spent teaching would be challenging.

“I think sometimes people try to equate what we do in education to a business and I think that’s a difficult comparison to make,” said Perkins.

Mialisa Moline, president of the UWRF Faculty Senate, has concerns about the proposal and said there are several questions still unanswered.

“My big question is, ‘Who’s going to get this information, how will it be used?'” Moline said.

In the governor’s proposal, policies would be developed to reward those “who go above and beyond by teaching more than the standard academic load.” Although it’s still not clear what the reward would look like or what would be required of the recipient, Perkins said faculty and IAS are already rewarded for their extra efforts through overload pay which is given to anyone teaching more than the standard workload.

Many critics of UW faculty claim professors don’t spend enough time in front of students, often letting teachers assistants take the reins. While this does frequently happen at larger schools like UW-Madison, it happens at a lesser rate on campuses such as UWRF. However, according to Perkins, if a faculty member does receive a research grant, the grant helps to pay for a part-time instructor to fill in for any classes originally taught by the researching professor.

Perkins would like to see more questions answered by the governor about what he is looking for in the proposal and what he would like to achieve.

“They may feel it’s needed, but I would say that our faculty here at UW-River Falls go above and beyond every day,” Perkins said.

Walker’s budget proposal is being deliberated in the state legislature. After changes are made, lawmakers will likely vote on an amended budget sometime this summer.