Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Publish or Perish' Becomes 'Teach or Perish' Many Legislators Want Professors at State Universities to Teach Longer Hours and Research Less

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Publish or Perish' Becomes 'Teach or Perish' Many Legislators Want Professors at State Universities to Teach Longer Hours and Research Less

Article excerpt

As a professor of biology at Ohio's Central State University, David Rubin regularly works 60-to-65-hour weeks. But only 12 of those hours are spent teaching students in class.

The state of Ohio, which pays Professor Rubin's salary, wants teachers at public universities to spend more time with students. The legislature has passed a law requiring a 10-percent increase in teaching at the state's 13 public universities.

As state budgets have dwindled and tuitions have soared during the past five years, the question of faculty productivity and accountability has attracted widespread interest. Tuition-paying parents are outraged about the number of graduate-student teaching assistants lecturing in state universities, and lawmakers are seeking ways to get more for less by increasing teaching loads.

At least 12 state legislatures have mandated studies of faculty workload at public institutions in the past several years. In addition to Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, and West Virginia have passed laws demanding that public-university professors spend more time teaching. Lawmakers in Wisconsin, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Colorado are considering such measures this year, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Maryland, the legislature has threatened to withhold more than $21 million in state-college funds until higher-education officials show a renewed concentration on teaching.

Public accountability

"The public is increasingly insisting on exercising accountability over higher education," says Barbara Walvoord, a professor of English at the University of Cincinnati. "They're not willing to buy as large amounts of research as they've bought in the past. They want more teaching, and they want more attention to the quality of undergraduate teaching."

But quantifying quality teaching is proving tricky. The Ohio law was sparked by the discovery that professors spent 10 percent less time teaching in 1990 than they did in 1980. So the law called for a 10-percent increase in teaching at all state universities this year over 1990 levels.

"It was a difficult law to interpret," Professor Walvoord says. The legislation does not require all faculty members in the state to teach the same amount of time or do the same amount of research. But overall in a department, university, and ultimately across the state system, the mix needs to yield 10 percent more teaching time.

"My gut feeling is that little has happened at most institutions because of the vagueness of the guidelines," says Rubin, of the Central State University. "There was probably some shuffling of numbers done to satisfy the regents' guidelines."

In August, Central State's chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) filed a lawsuit against the state challenging its authority to impose increased teaching loads. …

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