I appreciate that Ohio University Trustees Dave Scholl and Janelle Coleman took a half hour on Monday to listen to Faculty Senate's concerns about the current administration's approach to budget realignment. Unfortunately, it appears the Trustees are being fed the same misinformation from Cutler Hall as faculty and students.
When asked about the administration's unilateral and underhanded decision to increase faculty teaching loads, Chairman Scholl said, "It's my understanding the policy is based on some state law." That is not entirely true.
Rather, there are three public documents that, collectively, establish faculty workloads at Ohio University: a two-paragraph state law, effective Jan. 1, 1994, requiring such policies (but offering no specifics); a 19-page report issued February 1994 by the Regents' Advisory Committee on Faculty Workload; and Ohio University Policy 18.009, a three-and-a-half page policy approved in June 1994.
Altogether, there are just 24 pages of documentation about OU's faculty workload policies. I recommend that Chairman Scholl, Vice Chair Coleman and all of the Trustees take a half hour or so to read the documents in their entirety, and reject Cutler Hall's cherry picking and dishonest spin.
For those who are unwilling to carefully read 24 pages of documentation, here is the skinny:
• Section 3345.45 of the Ohio Revised Code merely requires public universities to have faculty workload policies. The details are up to each university. Specifically, ORC 3345.45 requires public universities to "develop standards for instructional workloads for full-time and part-time faculty in keeping with the universities' missions and with special emphasis on the undergraduate learning experience. The standards shall contain clear guidelines for institutions to determine a range of acceptable undergraduate teaching by faculty."
• Concurrently, there is the "Report of the Regents' Advisory Committee on Faculty Workload Standards and Guidelines." The report had three basic recommendations: "Ensure that universities reemphasize the importance of undergraduate teaching"; "Ensure that universities evaluate and reward teaching to the same extent as other academic activities, especially research/creative activity"; and "Ensure that a statewide increase in undergraduate teaching will be achieved."
The Regents Report lamented that university leaderships had, by that time, "gradually redefined the role of faculty toward a greater involvement in graduate education, research and service – activities that also play an important role in higher education." The report noted that both government and industry (not faculty) had applied that pressure on universities with "encouragement and financial support for research and graduate education as a means of realizing their own goals." The result, according to the report, was that faculty were "in an environment that gave less status and reward to undergraduate teaching," and called for a statewide initiative to "restructure the reward system within universities to recognize the role of teaching to the same degree as other forms of scholarship."
• Shortly thereafter, the Ohio University Board of Trustees adopted, in June 1994, OU policy 18.009, "Faculty Responsibility and Evaluation," which cites OCR 3345.45 "as interpreted by the Report of the Regents' Advisory Committee on Faculty Workload Standards and Guidelines."
OU policy 18.009 notes from the start that "the educational responsibility of faculty includes more than the hours spent in classroom instruction and scholarship. Other factors to be considered are class preparation; grading and other forms of evaluation of students' work; thesis and dissertation direction; academic advising of students; laboratory, studio or practicum requirements; size of classes; availability and use of teaching assistants."
With that in mind, the policy states that tenure-track faculty, given their role in shared governance, would teach "no more than 12 credit hours," with adjustments made for research/creative, service and administrative duties. For instructional faculty, maximum teaching load would "be based on 15 credit hours in that these faculty do not normally participate in the other activities listed above," with similar adjustments for non-teaching activities.
In 1994, OU was still on the quarter system, when most classes were four credits, so the policy effectively meant that tenure-track faculty would typically teach a maximum of three courses per term and instructional faculty no more than four courses per term. Those "classes per term" teaching loads were kept when OU switched from quarters to semesters in 2012, and departmental workload policies were revised accordingly.
Policy 18.009 concludes with the section "Qualitative Evaluation," making it official policy that evaluation of faculty teaching performance follow the annual peer-evaluations process outlined in the Faculty Handbook. The policy concludes by stating, "Both the quantitative and qualitative assessments described above will be used... by the provost in allocation of resources."
This past fall, Provost Chaden Djalali, on the advice of overpaid and underworked holdovers from the McDavis administration, reinterpreted the policy such that tenure-track faculty would teach up to 15 hours per term and instructional faculty would teach up to 18-21. And the phrase "faculty have to teach more" keeps falling off of the lips of administrators in off-the-record conversations behind closed doors.
There is simply no reasonable interpretation of existing policy that could lead to such a conclusion, so when I say that the provost's recent application of 18.009 is "perverse and dishonest," the opinion is based on an objective reading of the official documentation.
We can only hope the Trustees will objectively read those documents, too – because the top brass in Cutler Hall clearly have not.
Editor’s Note: Bill Reader is a professor of journalism at Ohio University and a faculty senator from the Scripps College of Communication.