I’m getting tired of hearing Marxist UNC system professors spend half of their six- hour workdays complaining that they are overworked and underpaid. Like most claims they make this is a half-truth at best. In fact, when one examines the evidence it becomes clear they are lying in order to get taxpayers to fund their incurable lack of ambition.
When I began teaching in 1993 I had a reasonably heavy workload. Since then, my workload has diminished substantially. Before I explain how that relates to stagnant wages for professors let me provide some objective facts about declining teacher workload.
In 1993, I had four major categories of responsibility as a professor. The descriptions of those responsibilities as well as the volume of work in each follow:
Teaching: In the academic year 1993-1994 I taught three classes sized 50, 50, and 80 for a total of 180 students per semester.
Research: While there was no specific quota, I was asked to publish a peer-reviewed article every two years.
Service: I was told to serve on committees at the departmental and university level – usually for a total of three committees per year. Membership in professional associations was strongly encouraged and community service was occasionally encouraged.
Advising: I advised between 35 and 40 students per semester.
In 2016, I still have to fulfill four major categories of responsibility. However, the volume of work in two of those categories has changed dramatically. It has also changed slightly in the other two. The relevant information follows:
Teaching: In the coming academic year of 2016-2017, I will teach three classes a semester. Based on recent enrollments, I can expect class sizes of 30 in both of my day classes and 20 for my one night class. That makes a total of 80 students per semester.
Research: Now there actually is a specific quota. I am asked to publish two peer-reviewed (or scholarly peer reviewed equivalent) articles every five years.
Service: I am told to serve on committees at the department, college, and university level – usually one or two total. Membership in professional associations is still strongly encouraged and community service is still occasionally encouraged.
Advising: I now advise between 15 and 20 students per semester.
As one can see, my overall workload has dropped significantly since I was hired. In fact, it has dropped by at least fifty percent in two major categories. What accounts for this? And what does it have to do with the current faculty salary situation?
Explaining the drop in workload is easy. In 1993, there were five tenured and tenure track criminology professors (plus adjuncts) teaching in our program. Together, we were handling around 250 to 300 majors. In 2016, there are eleven tenured and tenure track criminology professors (plus adjuncts) handling a program that still has around 250 to 300 majors.
Many of those expansion positions came in the booming economic years of the 1990s and the years prior to the economic downturn in 2008. There were not many reductions after the economic downturn because a) many of those hired got tenure and b) we were able to absorb funding losses through tuition increases made possible by increased federal student loan access. Ready availability of student loans interrupts natural shifts in the flow of supply and demand. Thus we can more easily raise tuition without losing students.
If you do the math and apply common sense, it isn’t difficult to see how having so many more faculty members has affected our workload. Those who complain that we are working as hard or harder than we were twenty years ago are obviously lying. It simply doesn’t take eleven faculty members as much time to do the work of five.
Nor is it difficult to understand why we haven’t been getting raises in recent years. There are just too many mouths to feed. Two possible solutions to the problem are obvious. We either need to a) learn to live with stagnant salaries or we need to b) reduce faculty positions. I prefer the latter but two significant barriers impede the prospect of implementing that solution:
Ego. University professors are notoriously petty and self-absorbed. They are also painfully aware that they are not taken as seriously as they take themselves. So they are constantly looking for ways to compensate. Whether they are at an interdepartmental meeting or a national academic conference they always ask one another “how big is your department?” It is the academic equivalent of comparing penis size in the men’s locker room. They would consider any reduction in department size to be a reduction in prestige. Trust me, faculty live for these pretentious interchanges at academic conferences (How many papers did you publish last year? How many graduate students are working under you? What, you don’t have a graduate program!).
In short, egocentric faculty members will fight to replace resigning or retiring faculty members when they leave regardless of whether the replacement is needed. They will also fight to save a fledgling graduate program even when it is draining scarce economic resources.
Drive. The other thing keeping professors from letting positions die when people resign or retire is that they cannot fathom any workload increase. If someone retires from an eleven-professor department the other ten are not excited about doing ten percent more work. It is easier to complain about work you are not doing than it is to do more work. So they rally together, keep hiring, and thus maintain a bloated payroll that keeps wages stagnant.
Next time you hear a Marxist professor complaining about his stagnant wages, please be patient. He’s only a Marxist because he doesn’t know much about economics. Take the time to explain it to him. It’s not likely he will understand. But it’s worth a try.
But if he starts complaining about his workload, don’t bother trying to correct him. He’ll just keep on lying. Propaganda is the preferred weapon of the unarmed revolutionary.