Last week, NC Senators Tom McInnis and Andrew Brock introduced a bill (SB 593) to raise faculty workloads in the UNC system to eight courses per year. That is a gigantic increase over the roughly five per year they now teach on average. (It has some readers hopping mad over at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel). I’ve written a couple of reports on UNC system faculty teaching loads in the past 4 years, and it’s good that the legislature is tackling the issue. My recommendations were somewhat different than McInnis’s bill; I would like to see teaching standards differentiated between the different departments, as the state benefits very little from lots of the research that is produced, primarily in the humanities and social sciences, and benefits quite a bit from research in the scientific and technical fields. And I didn’t call for them to be increased quite that much. But there are indeed great cost efficiencies (and taxpayer dollars) to be captured by some changes to the faculty workload standards. Furthermore, students will benefit greatly by having a renewed focus on teaching instead of research.
Obviously, if professors are more productive, the schools will need fewer teachers to teach the same number of students. But that should not even enter into the picture: the university system is not a jobs program for academics, and whether a bill reduces or increases the number of jobs is irrelevant. The goal is to provide a quality education as efficiently as possible, using the appropriate number of professors.
At the very least, introduction of the bill begins an important dialogue, and I commend the legislators for beginning it. Of course, the bill still has to go through committee hearings and may not be exactly the same at the end of the process.