I can go on the record as saying that I think the job of a university professor is the best job in the world. As someone who has served as a professor, dean and president, I speak from personal experience when I say that it’s a very challenging role, but it’s also extremely satisfying.
The workload of faculty members is often a mystery to those who work outside of a university. The life of our full-time faculty members begins with time in the classroom teaching. For many at CSULB, this is a 12-hour, face-to-face weekly commitment.
This may sound very small compared to the usual 40-hour work week. What the 12 hours represent, however, is time spent in front of students in classes. Then we add another 3 hours to the faculty member’s workload to account for office hours and other forms of mentoring. Does that mean faculty members work 15 hours per week? No!
My decades-long experience with teaching university students was that for every hour of actual class time, I committed at least two or three hours of preparation to offer the class. So to teach 12 hours, takes at least 24 hours to prepare. Brand new classes take longer to prepare, of course, and those with lots of digital upgrades can be very challenging as faculty members learn new technologies to keep their classes fresh. So now we see that in order to fulfill their teaching responsibilities, faculty are working about 36 hours per week.
University teaching is necessarily enriched by research, which is a significant part of every professor’s life at CSULB. In fact, classroom teaching is only one of the roles our faculty play, albeit a primary one. We also expect them to be recognized scholars in their fields. Many of our faculty do their research in the summers for no compensation or they earn competitive grants from federal, state, foundation, or industry sources to “buy out” their teaching and support undergraduate and graduate research assistants. At CSULB, our faculty secure approximately $38 million annually in support of their research. It’s hard to quantify how many hours per week faculty spend in their respective labs, writing articles or books, or in field work (in wetlands, oceans, deserts), but, trust me, it’s a lot!
On top of teaching and research, university faculty are expected to be part of the governance structure of the university. At CSULB, we have an Academic Senate that is a major consultative body in formulating our curriculum and the many policies and procedures that are required to manage a large and complex organization. For example, what are the requirements for tenure, or for a new course or program, or for setting an academic calendar? And, how do we articulate with multiple community colleges so that transfer students can seamlessly finish their final 60 credit hours with us? All of these and much more are part of the work of university faculty with the department chairs and college deans.
This internal governance service is augmented by the many hours faculty devote to community service. In previous columns, I’ve talked about the programs that faculty supervise for community wellness, education, and economic development. In addition, many faculty members meet regularly with industry and business leaders to be sure that our educational offerings are at the cutting edge of industry needs.
So, if you hear people trivializing the workload of a university faculty member, please know that at CSULB faculty members are likely to be working 60 or 70 hours per week teaching, mentoring, researching, and serving both our university and our community. It’s a big job. We have the best faculty members in the galaxy. They are a treasure for the Long Beach community, and beyond.