Reducing resource inequities even in a time of budget squeezes using a systematic approach to comparing teaching loads across UMass Boston
- A. Budgets cuts exacerbate historically-given inequities and make work in the poorer departments very stressful (or exploitative). Such inequities should not be tolerated by anyone in the richer departments. The fact that the focus is on adapting so as to respond to budget cuts should not be an excuse for doing nothing now to address the inequities.
- B. With a fairly simple set of principles and not-very-onerous accounting, it is possible to take stock of inequities and, over time, move towards reducing disparities.
- C. What follows is an ideal type, so readers can reflect on justifications for any departures of reality from this. In particular, a unit may argue that low teaching load is offset by other virtues, such as, serving the community, diversity in student bodies, joint publications with students, and so on.
- D. Granted, the proposal is just a proposal until a constituency is built to advocate it, so it may well come across as a thought experiment for now.
The overall idea of this proposal is that a UMassBoston-wide formula is established for calculating the teaching load of all departments. Departments can develop their own internal
systems of credit for awarding course load reductions (e.g., “6 points earns you a CLR”) as long as these CLRs do not bring the department below the average teaching load across the university. In short, the proposal promotes equity
across colleges and departments and autonomy of departments
to acknowledge local or particular conditions.
Other important ideas in this proposal are: transparency
(if a Provost of Dean makes a decision not justified by teaching load, then that is visible to all) and how to make the transition
to a transparent, equitable, autonomy-respecting system (see #1 to follow).
1. Any change involves a transition problem: How to get change if some lose out? Proposal: No department loses its current Teaching-related Resource Equivalents (TREs) for 3 years. After that, any losses happen only when benefited faculty leave or through reduced hiring of non-benefited part-timers.
2. Establish a formula for Teaching-related Resource Equivalents, e.g.,
full-time equivalent faculty + weighting1 * benefited part-timers + weighting2 * part-timers + weighting3 * professional staff serving students + weighting4 * clerical staff serving students (& serving faculty serving students) +weighting5 * CTF allocation.
- ("Full-time equivalents" allows for faculty teaching [and getting CLRs] in and serving multiple units)
- (Each kind of position adjusted up or down to cover cross-department assignments, CAPS assignments, & a proportional fraction of College administrators and other staff.)
- (No double counting: If a faculty member gets a research course buyout or a CAPS-funded "course buyout," the replacement person is not also counted.)
- (If a faculty member has a grant-funded [or University-funded] research assignment, they count at a correspondingly lower fraction. If a staff member is paid by a grant, ditto.)
- (The weightings are determined by some non-arbitrary process, which would bear some relation to average salary across the University or unit for each kind of position. In other words, the actual salaries of faculty and staff in a unit would not have to be tallied.)
3. Establish a formula for Weighted Student Credits (WSC), e.g., credits registered in courses for fall and spring * weighting, where there may be different weightings for undergraduates, coursework graduate students, thesis Masters students, doctoral students, students in program for licensure, etc.
- (For each cross-listed courses there is a home department and, if it is taught by someone outside that department, the instructor is assigned fractionally to that department; see 2.)
- (Again, the weightings are determined by some non-arbitrary process.)
- (If faculty outside CAPS teach courses onload through CAPS during fall and spring semesters, their home colleges are [or should be being] compensated for the teaching so these courses should count in the WSC. Summer and winter courses, however, are ad comp for regular faculty so that these courses do not count in WSC.)
4. Calculate the Teaching Load (TL) for any unit as WSC/TRE. Refer to the Teaching Load for UMassBoston as a unit as the UTL and set the benchmark UTL at a specified time, e.g., 2015-16.
5. If the 3-year average TL for a department is below the benchmark UTL, then no replacements will be authorized when benefited faculty leave and the part-time budget will be progressively reduced until the department rises to the benchmark. Departments can also increase course capacities, shift from 2& 2 to 3&2 to 3&3 in graduate programs that have 2&2 loads, decrease staff numbers, or adjust their internal credit system for CLRs.
- (This also creates an incentive for departments to conduct annual staff evaluations and foster improvement in under-performing staff.)
6. If the 3-year average TL for a department is above the benchmark UTL, the department has priority when a faculty or other budget line opens up. Meanwhile, the department can award CLRs based on their internal credit system, reduce course capacities, increase staff support, and employ part-timers—as long as this does not bring the department below the benchmark.
7. The internally designed credit systems can be customized to the particular needs of each department (and here, unlike in 2 & 3, teaching and administration of CAPS courses may count). Constraints on these systems to ensure fairness may be set by collective bargaining. In the meantime, it is expected that every department's system will award faculty members credit for: independent studies and thesis/dissertation advising that is not part of the course load; chairing departments and directing/coordinating graduate programs; and pre-tenured years (so tenure-track faculty get CLRs or a semester off teaching before tenure review).
8. As UMassBoston pushes enrollment up, the average UTL should not increase above the benchmark. Increases in enrollment may lead temporarily to increased TLs for departments, but, if the department's TL rises above the benchmark, the TL can be reduced by new hires or the other TL-reduction measures listed in #6.
9. University budget allocations to Colleges cover the salary expenses for teaching faculty and teaching-related support staff that arise under this system. That is, no unit gets squeezed because it happens to have more regular faculty teaching than part-timers, more senior faculty, and so on.
10. Research and other grant income do not buy a department more favorable TL targets. Research grants, if they reduce the Teaching-related Resource Equivalents, lead to a higher effective TL for a department for the same student numbers. Of course, receiving research grants does have the benefit of funneling some RTF to the department to promote more research grant-seeking and allow additional research assistants. (That should be reward enough for faculty in those departments.)
11. Data collection is straightforward: a. Each faculty and staff member must be assigned fractionally each AY to a home department and to any other unit for which they have teaching or service assignments, less any research grant buyouts, less any CAPS-funded teaching buyouts; b. Each state-funded course must have a home department (presumably the original department it was created in), even if someone outside that department is assigned to teach it.
12. If units are to be discontinued, the first to be considered should be the ones for which the 3-year average TL is lowest, subject to a probationary period IF there is a realistic plan for capturing new resources and student numbers or there are other mitigating factors (see C in Preamble). Reassignment of faculty and staff to other units should be to units with a TL above the benchmark, not to ones below the benchmark (for that would shift them into lower vulnerable TLs).
- Q: How to factor in the income to the University from grant-funded research in the unit or the prestige gained by grant-funded research and service that is not reflected in TLs? A: Allow for the income from research overheads through a negative factor subtracted from the formula for Teaching-related Resource Equivalents? e.g., Income-securing Resource Equivalents (IRE) = TRE - weighting 6 * overhead income from research grants. TL* = WSC/IRE. Develop a more complicated accounting system and productivity benchmarks, which might include, for example, cost of building depreciation assigned to the units in that building?
13. For degree- or credit-awarding programs housed in CAPS, the benchmark target would be the financial break-even point (i.e., income - salary - UMass Online charge - distance learning charge - 25% CAPS overhead).