Over the weekend, the collective brain of the academic bloggers exploded.
In the Washington Post, David C. Levy writes that professors are receiving big salaries, but not spending very much time in the classroom. He says that they aren't working 40 hours per week and they have 22 weeks of vacation every year.
The anger was huge.
Greg Weeks says that it is ludicrous to measure teaching time solely by time in the classroom.
The idea that faculty work, even just the teaching part, is measured mostly by hours in the classroom has no relationship with reality. Just for the teaching side, the list of responsibilities includes, but is not limited to, writing syllabi, preparing lectures, grading exams and assignments, advising students (in some cases, like mine, both undergraduate and undergraduate), assessing academic programs (both your own and others), serving on committees (departmental, college, and/or university) related to student issues, writing letters of recommendation, attending pedagogical workshops/meetings, recruiting new graduate students or majors, sitting on MA or Ph.D. committees, supervising independent studies and last, but not least, answering student emails on all different kinds of topics.
Rob Farley also explains that his contract is based on the expectations of research and committee work. Maybe schools put too much emphasis on research, but that's the way it is.
James Joyner says that the summers are used for research and for teaching additional classes.
I pretty much agree with Greg, Rob, and James; college faculty do work long hours. I had one semester where I was so overworked that I coasted on three hours of sleep for days at a time. I reworked one class three times – a very time consuming process – and would have probably continued tinkering with it, if I kept teaching.
While Levy was completely off base, I do think that we have to consider a few questions. Are college professors working in the right way? Are they spending too much time on committees and doing service requirements? Is teaching getting enough attention? Are colleges putting too much emphasis on research at the expense of teaching students? Maybe everything is perfect and wonderful, but the questions aren't totally off base.
And, let's be honest, we all know of faculty who aren't working those 40-50 hours per week. They aren't doing any research and haven't prepared a new class in a few decades. They are clearly in the minority and are a few years away from retirement, but we all know that they exist. We also know that certain disciplines have fewer work requirements than others. Art professors aren't grading papers or preparing lectures. Shouldn't there be a conversation about how to make sure that everyone is pulling their fair weight?