Archive for March 26, 2012

Professors Work Harder Than You Do, David C. Levy

stack of booksOne wonders if David C. Levy came by his ignorance naturally, or whether it’s a state of mind that he has cultivated carefully over the years.  His piece in the Washington Post is so poorly informed that I suspect ignorance may simply be something with which nature has endowed him.  He claims that “Happily, senior faculty at most state universities and colleges now earn $80,000 to $150,000,” that faculty don’t work in the summers (according to him, we work only “the 30-week academic year, which leaves almost 22 weeks for vacation or additional employment”), and bases his ideas for expanding our workloads on the notion that we work roughly 40 hours a week.

All of these claims are false.  I recognize that this is an opinion piece, but shouldn’t the Washington Post provide some basic fact-checking?

1) Faculty salaries vary widely by discipline.  I don’t doubt that a senior faculty member in Business may earn between $80,000 to $150,000.  That’s very very rare for those of us in the Humanities.  I am a senior faculty member (tenured, full professor) in English at a state university, and that’s more than I make.

2) Faculty do work in the summers.  Some teach to supplement their income.  All of us devote some of that time to research and writing.  There are three components to the job: teaching (which includes grading, planning classes, teaching classes, meeting with students, writing recommendations, etc.), research (researching, writing and publishing articles and books), and service (serving on committees both within and beyond the university, reviewing manuscripts for presses and journals, leading programs/departments/professional organizations, etc.).  Some aspects of teaching (grading, class prep) begin and end with the school year — unless you teach summer courses.  But other aspects do not: designing new courses, revising the syllabus for a future term, reading new books so that you can improve the syllabus.  Still, it’s not unreasonable to assume that (unless a faculty member teaches in the summer) we’re doing less teaching work in the summer.

But research and service happen all year.  I do not stop reviewing manuscripts in the summer months, nor do I stop serving on committees for professional organizations.  I do not abandon my research.  Indeed, the summer months grant me precious time to work on books and articles — I’d be a fool if I didn’t take advantage of that.  At some point I need to do a version of “What Do Professors Do All Week?” for the summer months.  I guarantee you that, even during the months I am not paid (because I elect not to teach in the summer, Kansas State University does not pay me during the summer), I am working at least 40-hour weeks.  I would be willing to make this claim for my fellow faculty members, too.  YES, we do take holidays, when we can.  However, for me, at least, often those holidays are a day or two tacked on to the beginning or end of a trip to an academic conference.

3) We work far more than 40-hour weeks. During the school year, I typically work 60-hour weeks.  Indeed, I documented this fact in my “What Do Professors Do All Week?” series last spring, chronicling specifically how I spent each day of the week: SaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday.

I’d write more about this subject, but I’m afraid I don’t have any more time right now.  And Mr. Levy, a word of advice: next time, write about what you know.

More posts on academia from Nine Kinds of Pie (this blog):

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