Higher Education in Transition: The Challenges of the New Millennium

By Joseph Losco; Brian L. Fife | Go to book overview

2
The Changing Role of Faculty

Gary Rhoades

According to many in the policy arena, the role of faculty should change by spending more time teaching more lower-division undergraduates and by spending less time doing so much irrelevant research. Yet, according to many of these same critics, faculty have been changing their roles in quite the opposite direction over the past two decades. They have been spending less time teaching, (and when they do, teaching increasingly irrelevant material to students) and spending more time doing research that nobody reads. According to many managers and policy makers, and some higher-education scholars, that is how the role of faculty has been changing.

In this chapter, I address several dimensions of the changing role of faculty, of which the foregrounded policy discussion is but one. I begin by considering faculty's involvement in teaching and research activities over time. In doing so, I go beyond the oversimplified dichotomy and universalization found in prevailing views. Faculty work is more complex than doing teaching or research. And, an accurate understanding of faculty work must recognize that there is no such thing as a typical university faculty member. The work of faculty in research universities is not the same as of faculty in masters granting comprehensive institutions. Work in both of those institutions is different still from that of faculty in highly selective liberal-arts colleges, which is also not the same as of faculty in unselective liberal-arts colleges. The institutional setting matters, shaping the nature of faculty work in fundamental ways. So, too, departmental and college settings shape faculty work. The work of faculty in sociology is different than the work of microbiology and immunology faculty in a medical school, which is different from the work of teacher

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