Letter to the editor
University qualms expressed
December 12, 2008
The work load and expectations need to be ratcheted down. We are expected to teach too many students; expected to be on too many committees; expected to research, write, present and publish more than is reasonable at a school with such a heavy teaching load. We are constantly asked to do more, and no work requirements are ever reduced.
Some of the most wonderful parts of a university suffer significantly because of this. The time for faculty to sit down and talk and exchange ideas and have bag lunches where we model for students intellectual inquiry and civic discussion among those who strongly disagree is lost.
We serve as lousy role models for a broader under- standing of life-long learning for the vast majority of our students who will not be pursuing academic positions. We have no time to appreciate the arts if we are social scientists, to read Scientific American if we are in English.
The push to produce for conferences or journals which are peer reviewed in our fields requires that our intellectual expansion goes into narrower and narrower aspects of research. We are pushed to be more and more like faculty at major research institutions.
We need to think of the unique role that institutions like ours can play, rather than try to be little UW-Madisons. We should give faculty options for different paths to promotion and tenure.
Some may want a larger research agenda and less committee work. Some may want to focus more on teach- ing and less on research. But THESE OPTIONS must come with lower expectations in all areas. Not lower for quality, but lower in quantity.
We are also lousy role models for our students to live a healthy life, a balanced life, a life where family, friends, work, exercise, and civic engagement are not constantly in competitive for the last three seconds of the day.
I feel very strongly about this and see no improvement. I think we all need to come together to promote less work and more healthy, balanced living.
I think this would be a great mission for the University. It could be part of our branding, be part of our research agenda.
It could distinguish us from other institutions of higher learning and places of work generally.
Davida Alperin, political science professor
Editor’s note: This letter is a response to the Quality of Workforce Job Engagement Assessment Survey (QWL).