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New Faculty Workload Policy May Change the Future of Wright State

Board of Trustees | Photo by Abigail Abbott | The Wright State Guardian

Changes in Wright State University’s faculty workload policy are raising concerns for staff and students. Here is what WSU students need to know about how this will affect the university.

The new policy: what is it?

WSU has changed the faculty workload policy to increase professors’ class loads as of Jan. 31, 2024. The new policy has been implemented but will not be put into action until the start of the fall semester in 2024. Faculty members have many concerns with the new policy, which may cause problems in the future.

The policy, in brief terms, will increase each faculty member’s number of classes by about one or two classes each year. According to the new policy, the increased workload will bring WSU in line with other Research-2 universities.

The policy reads that each workload increase is not definitive but depends upon several factors for each faculty member. 

A faculty member’s workload will be determined by scholarly productivity. Specific guidelines are provided in the University Policy 2020 regarding faculty workload, which explains the relationship between productivity and the amount of credit hours required.

Faculty may receive offsets, course releases and credits to reduce the teaching load. However, staff will rarely receive a decreased workload compared to previous years after policy implementation.

Previous workload policy

The workload policy in the past allowed for faculty to allocate as much time to helping students as possible. Professors worry about getting students the best education and assistance possible with the new workload policy.

The previous workload policy from Nov. 10, 2010, emphasized the importance of scholarship while encouraging creativity and innovation for faculty.

Generally, educators were working on a three-to-two teaching ratio, meaning professors taught three classes in the fall and two in the spring, or vice versa, based on the 2010 policy. Now, educators can expect to teach about eight classes total each year as opposed to the five previously. 

The previous workload policy allowed for more time dedicated to scholarship, research and service.

Many professors find that devoting time to scholarship is beneficial to remaining knowledgeable and relevant in their field. Time dedicated to research for professors allows students to receive an education from highly qualified educators.

The change in the new workload policy in comparison to the policy from previous years has caused many to question the policy altogether.

Faculty concerns

The main concerns that arise with the new policy involve commitment to students and the future of staffing. 

Robert Rubin, president of the Wright State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors and professor of 34 years, spoke to the many concerns voiced by faculty.

“The biggest problem from our perspective is that this is increasing the teaching workload of faculty, and the problem we have with that is that we want to dedicate as much of our time as possible to our students, one of the things that [WSU] has been known for,” Rubin said.

Students may lose the individualized attention of professors, which has made WSU appealing over other colleges, following the recent policy change. This could affect the quality of education that students receive from WSU and decrease the value of the university.

Faculty’s disapproval of the new workload creates another issue for the university. Students and the campus community may witness a significant decrease in the number of professors teaching at WSU.

Since being made aware of the policy reform, professors are reconsidering their involvement in WSU.

“There’s a big danger here in [WSU] losing a lot of very good faculty because faculty who have options and who may be attractive to other institutions are going to leave [WSU] and go someplace else where the workload policies are more friendly and more reasonable. I’m concerned that we’re going to end up with a kind of a brain drain, and we’re going to have a lot of full-time faculty leave,” Rubin said.

Dr. Noeleen McIlvenna, the vice president of the WSU AAUP and professor of history at WSU, has published several books on early American history and is committed to furthering research in that field. McIlvenna said that the new policy will produce a negative effect on future research and publication.

“It will have a very negative effect upon my research and writing. We have been given only a three-year window to publish half of what we published to earn tenure,” McIlvenna said. “Now, faculty like me will only decide to tackle smaller, article-length projects and will never be able to think through large ideas and stories. That is very distressing for any historian.”

Dismissing research, which has been beneficial to faculty’s classes and credibility, could negatively affect the quality of WSU’s education.

Administration’s perspective

University Provost Amy Thompson stressed the importance of the new policy for WSU to align with the workloads of other peer universities.

According to Thompson, WSU faculty’s teaching load is comparatively lower than other R-2 universities, with a lower retention rate than most as well. 

“I think the most important thing to understand is we were an outlier, and this just brings us in line with everyone else. It encourages research and service and for our core faculty to be teaching our students. This brings us in alignment with other schools,” Thompson said.

The concerns about faculty’s ability to progress in research outside of class with the increased workload have not gone unnoticed. 

Thompson claims that professors’ research will not suffer and that course releases are given to those dedicating time to scholarship.

“What makes our policy different from many other universities is it actually gives them course releases for doing work with students that other schools don’t get,” Thompson said. “If they are doing dissertations, supervising master’s theses or doing undergraduate research with students, they could actually get a course release for that.”

The university made the policy to strive for the same amount of excellence as fellow universities through an increased workload.

Apprehension voiced by faculty regarding the ability to handle an increased workload and continue to dedicate time to students remains the issue preventing policy acceptance.

The provost will review feedback on the policy this summer and finalize the policy for the following academic year.

Policy modification

The concerns raised with the new workload policy have left faculty and students to question the possibility of policy modification. Unfortunately, for those unhappy with the changes, this remains a question with a complicated answer.

Policy modification is not possible so soon after implementation but is not impossible later on.

Dr. Andrew Strombeck, a member of the Faculty Senate tasked with surveying faculty about the policy, explained the likelihood of a policy change soon.

“As for whether the policy can be reversed for 2024-2025, the answer is no: in fact, the policy has been partially implemented already, and by all accounts, it’s been a messy, difficult process for faculty, chairs, deans and staff. The real fight is to get this policy modified for 2025-2026,” Strombeck said.

Any issues faculty and students currently possess toward the new policy will have to wait another school year.

Much of the faculty’s frustrations with the inability to modify the policy is due to being informed about implementation with short notice. According to Rubin, faculty was informed of the policy two days before it was invoked, leaving little time for opinions to be voiced.

The Faculty Senate has recognized the concerns voiced by many at WSU and has attempted to bring the issue to the provost.

As stated by Strombeck, a set of changes to the policy based on a survey of faculty have been advocated by the Faculty Senate and were communicated to the provost on Feb. 23, 2024. 

How students can get involved

The concerns of the new faculty workload policy are not to only be addressed by members of the faculty. Students can get involved in taking action to voice concerns on the matter.

For students interested in getting involved, Strombeck gave advice on ways to effectively express concerns.

“I’d first suggest talking to your Student Government representatives,” Strombeck said. “Students might also contact the president’s office directly to let President Edwards know how they feel about a policy that, in the understanding of everyone I’ve talked to, will have a negative effect on the quality of teaching at [WSU]. And, of course, students can speak out about the policy on social media and elsewhere.”

Student opinion on the matter has already been heard on campus. Many students have handed out petitions against the policy change and informed classes on the matter.

The importance of voicing student and faculty opinions is stressed, as the future of the policy leaves many with concerns to be addressed.

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