Justifying My 64 hour Work Week

Every semester I along with all my colleagues have to fill out a “Faculty Workload Analysis.” The analysis is part of the “Snyder Report” – much catchier than the official title, the “Instructional Output and Faculty Salary Costs of the State-Related and State-Owned Universities.” According to the Joint State Government Commission – the agency that oversees the report – the purpose of the Snyder Report is as follows:

This report is produced annually for the use of the appropriations and education committees of the House and Senate, and as an added disclosure to the general public. The General Assembly directly appropriates monies to the State-related and State-owned universities for instruction. The data in this study include: averaging benefit per full-time equivalent (FTE) student, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grant and matching fund awards per FTE student, average instructional salary of the faculty at Pennsylvania’s public universities–the salary directly attributable to instructional activities, average total workweek of the full-time faculty and faculty contact hours with students.

One of the more remarkable – and frustrating – aspects of the reports is that faculty members are required to submit a justification if the total number of hours worked are “more than 60 or less than 30.” Having to justify “less than 30 hours,” I can understand. But, having to justify working more than 60 hours feels like just one more piece of busywork during and already busy work week.

This semester my work week averaged out to 64 hours/week. Last year, my average was 55 hours and the average work week for faculty at my home university, Kutztown University, was 52 hours per week according to an analysis conducted by our faculty union. This is not the first time, nor the last time, that I will have to fill out this form. However, this semester I got pissed off filling out the form. Really pissed off.

This semester saw our first ever faculty strike. We struck because PASSHE wanted to fundamentally transform what public higher ed looked like in Pennsylvania. You can read all about that HERE and HERE. But what really got under my skin is that PA lawmakers make public statements during appropriations hearings that faculty only work 17 hours per week. And, the Chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education, Frank Brogan, never said a peep in faculty’s defense.

So, this year I spent a little extra time “justifying” why I worked 64 hours per week. Here is what I wrote:

*****

From: Dr. Kevin Mahoney
RE: Faculty Workload Justification for Working Over 60 hours
DATE: December 5, 2016

[CLICK HERE TO SEE MY FACULTY WORKFORCE ANALYSIS FORM]

It always feels odd to have to write a justification for working over 60 hours (as opposed to having to write a justification for working too few hours). However, in this political and institutional climate in which state legislators make public claims during budget hearings that faculty only work 17 hours/week; the Chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education refuses to correct the misinformation their misinformation; universities are forced to make deep cuts in institutional support for professional development, curricular development, and programming; and, faculty are told we must do even more with even less, here I sit justifying my 64 hours/week.

Frankly, I know that my 64 hours per week pales in comparison to that of many of my colleagues who are leading curricular revisions; serving on university-wide committees such as tenure and promotion, general education, and assessment; or, serving on the leadership body of our faculty union. In many ways, my 64 hours represents a fairly normal schedule of a faculty member who is actively involved in service at the department, university, and state-wide level; has an active research agenda (which, of course, suffers with the lack of any serious institutional support for faculty research); and, is navigating the increasing amount of paperwork and institutional demands in this era of assessment. That is, my work is NOT EXCEPTIONAL. It, unfortunately, represents the time required to be a faculty member at Kutztown University and in the PA State System of Higher Education today.

Need evidence? This past summer, our faculty union conducted a review of all the “Faculty Workload Analysis” reports. The analysis found that during the last academic year, faculty at Kutztown University worked an average of 52 hours/week. That’s not the maximum. That’s the average. My own Snyder Report for last year came in at 55 hours/week. This year, because of my service to my faculty union in a contract negotiations year; writing or revising several papers for publication or presentation; and, a slew of department meetings devoted to “outcomes assessment” and program development, my work crossed the 60 hour threshold. So, now I have to spend additional time writing this justification.

Why am I spending time writing this? Why am I not simply under-reporting the amount of time I work to avoid having to justify my time? Well, because we have elected officials who find it acceptable to trot out lies in public hearings that faculty only work 17 hours per week. If you think “lies” is too strong a term, consider this. Faculty members are required by law to submit a “Faculty Workload Analysis” each semester. By “legislative action” faculty at all PASSHE universities are required to provide an “analysis by each faculty member of the average number of hours per week spent in University and/or University-related activities.” This data is provided to the faculty member’s home university. The university then provides the data to “the Joint State Government Commission” for the “annual Snyder Report.” That is, the reports we provide are part of the information to which our lawmakers have access. And yet, lawmakers on the PA House and Senate budget committees come armed to budget hearings claiming that lazy, undeserving faculty members only work 17 hours per week. And the Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education does not correct them.

So, here’s the question. Will this justification end up being yet another fruitless exercise in busy work? My guess is that most likely it will. But maybe, just maybe, when journalists or historians look back at the attacks on public higher education in Pennsylvania, they will find these Snyder Reports and realize how bad our “post-truth” political environment is. That lawmakers were allowed to simply make up information to support what they wanted to be true so they could continue to destroy public higher education. This form and “justification” will be waiting in the archives until that time.

Sincerely,

Kevin Mahoney
Professor, Rhetoric and Composition
Kutztown University

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