Part of the job, not part of the job

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a kind of interesting piece called “What’s in it for me?” by Chris “not his real name” Barnett. It’s the story of how Barnett had a meeting with his dean, who was frustrated by the faculty not being willing to propose new or different classes without “getting” something out of it, like additional money. The dean complains about the poor faculty attitude, though Barnett has a different perspective:

At our college, at least, there is no pay for directing independent studies or developing new courses (though, of course, teaching those courses is compensated) or giving up part of our weekends to attend an alumni event. The dean is right in that such things are our job and help sustain the life of the college, and since we are hired by the college, we ought to willingly take on such opportunities to help the college and its students.

I understand why the dean feels we’re being selfish. And we are, indeed, being selfish. But for me and many of my colleagues with family obligations, our responses are fundamentally different from our students’ responses. For when we say, “What’s in it for me?” we really mean, “What’s in it for my family?”

Time spent at the college is time not spent at home. It is time not spent with visiting grandparents or cousins. It is time not spent with spouses. It is time not spent with children who grow up faster with each passing semester.

Now, I agree with part of what Barnett is talking about, but it seems to me that he’s talking about two different things. Showing up at “extra things” on weekends (recruiting functions, alumni events, award ceremonies, etc.) are things I think of as “above and beyond” the normal functions of the job. When I attend these things, I usually get a letter or something that becomes part of my tenure and promotion file. It counts as “service;” not a lot of service, but some service at least.

In any event, I don’t think faculty ought to be required to do these things. I think faculty should have to attend graduation once in a while (I’ve been once in the time I’ve been here), but that’s about it. I do a couple extra sort of events like this every year when they fit into my schedule and when I’m interested in the event in question.

But I think that developing new classes and directing independent studies is clearly smack-dab in the middle of an academic job. This just doesn’t seem “beyond the call of duty” to me at all, and I don’t understand why Barnett is trying to collapse these two different kinds of things into one.

I do think there are some ways in which developing new classes can be not quite in the job description. Take online classes, for example: I think creating a new online class is a bit different, and at EMU at least, faculty get compensated for doing this extra work. In my department, directing MA projects earns faculty some compensation for teaching. But for the most part, of course faculty create new classes, update old ones, direct independent studies, etc. Showing up on weekends is extra; showing up during the week isn’t.

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