Snow days and hard workers

Here we are again–still just getting started with spring term and we have yet another snow day. The weather forecasters were much more on target with this one–I have already shoveled the walk and driveway of the 8 inches of snow we got–followed by ice–and now a little more snow.

Campus clean-up is underway, as our facilities crews are hard at work at shoveling, scraping, salting, plowing and clearing the lots and sidewalks so we can get back to classes on Tuesday. A snow day is not an off day for this crew of hard workers.

But today is not really an off day for most of us. Online classes are up and running; my e-mail has certainly been lively with questions, issues and concerns from faculty, staff and administrators; and despite the fact that most of us can’t get to campus, we are “at work.”

That we are “at work” even when the campus is closed leads me to comment upon Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s remarks about faculty workload. Wisconsin’s public higher education system is facing many of the same economic challenges as the rest of us in public higher education. Governor Walker is proposing what amounts to a $300 million reduction in state funding for the UW system. In return, he promises more autonomy for each of the campuses.There is plenty of discussion about the pros and cons of this plan, and I do not know enough about the details to take a stand. But one comment the Governor made I do want to note-and strongly and publicly disagree with (as did the UW system chancellor).

Walker basically said that all that is needed is for the faculty to just work a little harder, and teach one more class (above the standard load of 4-4).

Walker’s statement demonstrates a common and fundamental misreading of faculty work. Yes–teaching is what most of the public sees–teaching is the observable, performative role of faculty. But for every minute in front of a class (or online for an online class), there is all the work that has gone into preparing for that public performance, not to mention all the work in responding to students, grading and commenting on their work, and revising to even better teach the next day.

And let’s not forget the other roles of a faculty member–scholar, researcher, creative performer, advisor, provider of services to students, departments, colleges, the university and the discipline–the list is almost endless.

Faculty work hard, and not just in that public role as teacher.

Here at William Paterson we know we have to keep being effective and efficient with the resources we have–but let’s not pretend that our faculty (and the rest of the university) don’t work hard.