University professors are not inactive when they are outside the classroom

Something happens with almost 100% certainty when I tell someone that I am a professor at a university. They ask, “What do you teach? That’s a good question, I guess, because most people only knew their teachers as teachers. I addressed this problem before in Forbes, but a recent post in the same outlet prompted me to revisit the subject. Richard Vedder, another contributor, wrote an article titled “Six Ways To Keep American Universities Alive. I often read Vedder’s material, so I have no interest in disparaging the article or dissecting his suggestions. He’s entitled to his opinions as a contributor and I’m sure we both care about higher education institutions. I just want to respond to a statement in his article: “Although they are usually paid to work all year (administrators) or nine months (professors), many are in fact inactive on certain days when they are paid to work. “

I am a Georgia Athletic Association Full and Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Geography at the University of Georgia. I received two of the universities important educational awards and I regularly receive very high evaluations from my students. I enjoy teaching and take pride in my efficiency in doing so. However, teaching is far from the only thing I do. My appointment requires an equal split between research and teaching, as is the case with most professors at my institutions (and similar). My research is focused on the advancement of knowledge and applied capacities in the fields of extreme weather conditions, hydroclimate, climate risks and urban meteorology. On top of that, we are meant to devote time to a larger service to the institution, to the state, to the nation and to the world (and we do so with pride). Certainly, some institutions and colleagues are more teaching-oriented, but this article is written from the perspective of large, research-intensive type (R1) universities. For more information on the differences between universities, click this link for a breakdown of the Carnegie classification of higher education institutions.

Even though we are suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, I am looking at all the vaccines, prediction models, and diagnostic research being conducted by universities across the country. For example, Augusta University intervened with a significant contribution to expand the testing and screening capacity for COVID-19 in Georgia, and I know there are many projects underway in other institutions across the state. These colleagues are not inactive. In my previous article, I listed the following things that a teacher typically does in any given week. They include, but are not limited to,

  • Carry out innovative research in areas of expertise
  • Writing research grant proposals to obtain funds from funding agencies, private foundations, companies
  • Writing peer-reviewed scientific articles to disseminate our research results
  • Review of peer-reviewed articles or proposals
  • Teach courses and constantly modify / update material
  • Note homework and exams
  • Represent the University and serve as experts on panels, boards and external committees
  • Write letters of recommendation for students, colleagues and current / former professionals seeking promotion / tenure or awards
  • Write books and manuals
  • Respond to large volumes of emails
  • Guiding the research process for graduate students
  • Serve on internal, departmental, college or university committees
  • Carrying out administrative tasks
  • Serve as advisers for student organizations
  • Engage in awareness raising on social media, with policy makers and local stakeholders

Since I was “quarantined” my days have been filled with back-to-back videoconferencing meetings, class recordings, grading, lecture recording, counseling my graduate students, reading thesis projects. , drafting of subsequent recommendations. for students looking for jobs or internships, writing peer-reviewed articles, reviewing articles and interacting with colleagues on four major grants from federal or private foundations that I am the lead or co-lead. Several colleagues I contacted offered their point of view.

Dr Kim Cobb, Georgia Power Chair Director, Global Change Program ADVANCE Professor, College of Science at The Georgia Institute of Technology: Today’s universities are more than a collection of classrooms populated by teachers and students. They are anchor institutions that run much of the economy in their region. This means secure employment with all the benefits for the residents of the area, but also food, shelter and other supports for a large number of disadvantaged students. Their extensive research programs are powerful economic engines delivering a high return on taxpayer dollars invested, fueled by highly qualified, dedicated and passionate faculty, staff and students. The results of academic research advance the public good, spurring social and technological innovation to address our most pressing challenges, including the COVID19 pandemic. The roots of today’s universities run deep in their local communities, but their branches extend across the globe, creating community and accelerating progress. Now is not the time to continue divesting higher education in America, which has suffered sustained budget cuts in recent years. Rather, now is the time to nurture and support the roles of our universities as hubs of innovation, drivers of workforce development and essential glue for communities at local and international scales. Simply put, successful universities are our country’s best bet for a prosperous and secure future.

Dr Joann Mossa, Term Professor, 2018-2021, University of Florida: In these “inactive” days, we advise graduate students, do service work for professional organizations, do research grant work, review or revise a journal, or conduct our own research with fewer interruptions. Most of us aim to post in higher level and higher visibility outlets to advance understanding of our discipline. Staff are there to manage grant purchases, to manage budgets, to manage student registration and administrative matters, to direct or assist students with counseling, to handle HR and visa matters, to facilitate many other things that happen on campus, to keep work and classroom spaces clean, to support the running of the university in many ways. They are essential.

Dr John Maerz, Josiah Megs Distinguished Professor of Wildlife, University of Georgia: Professors at large and small universities and colleges typically work more than 5 days a week and well over 50 or 60 hours a week – often extended evenings and weekends. Outside of the classroom, professors spend time preparing for lessons and grading, but also meeting with graduate and undergraduate students, editing theses, coordinating research, serving on governance committees. who oversee curriculum and student life issues, and write scientific papers. A large number of professors have divided the posts between teaching, research, service and administration, and for the most part teaching represents only a minority of their scheduled time. In my case, I teach an average of 4 courses per year, I mentor half a dozen graduate students, I supervise several undergraduates in research including the requirements of the comprehensive theses, while chairing my school and the university programs committee… and my teaching is only considered a third of my professional expectations. 60% of my professional expectations are research. It’s also worth noting that many faculty have done double or triple work to quickly convert online this spring, helping students affected by the changes and being part of institutional groups tasked with contingency planning for the year. future. (Author’s Note: I often do something work-related 7 days a week, even if it’s responding to emails).

Dr. Marilyn A. Brown, Regents and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems. School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology: Solve the crises we face as a nation – the Covid pandemic, global climate change, affordable housing, the opioid epidemic, and more. – all require a solid scientific and educational system. Now is the time to strengthen our universities, not reduce them. We must innovate to get out of these problems, drawing solutions from biology and chemistry, as well as administrative, economic and political sciences. Universities are the melting pot of such solutions.

Professor Stephen Nesbitt, Full Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois: The idea that most professors only work a few days a week is absurd – recent polls show that the average workweek exceeds 60 hours. Professors work hard to stay at the forefront of science and educate the students who power our country’s science infrastructure. In reality, professors often make less money than our students once they establish themselves in the field. These fields would not exist without the basic research and the training that we do at the university.


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