To the REGENTS: Faculty Work Time

to:  REGENTS of the University of California
from:  Charles Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
subject:  ITEM E1 for the May 15 meeting of the Committee on Educational Policy

Academic Performance Indicators at UC

     It is gratifying to see the UC Office of the President (UCOP) finally making use of the University’s Faculty Time Use Survey (see page 6 of Item E1, posted at http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/may13/e1.pdf ).  I have been writing and speaking about this important source of data for some time, with little or no response from University officials.  For any serious intellectual study about what goes on in this great public research university, and for any serious attempt to provide meaningful “accountability and transparency” to the public, this is an essential resource.

I am happy to see that UCOP acknowledges that this data, originally collected almost 30 years ago, is probably quite accurate today. The top level results are that Regular Rank Faculty spend, on average, 61.3 hours per week at all university-related activities; and this total work time is primarily allocated: 42% to Instruction; 38% to Research; 20% to Professional, Public and University Service. There is a portion of the non-Instructional activities, amounting to something less than 6%, which may be allocated to Instruction. (The UCOP paper erroneously gives a total of 54% for all instructional activities.)

Regretfully, the UCOP paper does not mention further data that allows one to separate the Instructional work of the Faculty between undergraduate and graduate studies. This is very important for any realistic assessment of work and costs at the University. The older Time Use Survey says that Faculty class time is divided equally between these two levels of instruction; a more recent study by UCOP, which involves a measure of student credit hours, comes out with a different proportion, namely 3/8 for undergraduate classes and 5/8 for graduate classes. (See http://ucop.edu/academic-planning-programs-coordination/_files/documents/fia/fia_annlrpt2007.pdf , Tables 14-16.)

This leads to an estimate that something under ¼ of all Faculty work time – and thus something less than ¼ of all Core expenses for Ladder Faculty – may be fairly allocated to undergraduate instruction.  This conclusion is strongly at odds with the standard method by which UCOP (and other research universities) calculate the average per-student cost for providing undergraduate education.  For more discussion of this controversy, see my recent papers “Financing the University – Parts 22 and 23”, posted at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz .  There I calculate that undergraduate tuition and fees now far exceed 100% of the actual cost for UC to provide undergraduate education (including direct instructional costs, supporting services and institutional overhead).

 

2 Comments

  1. Anant Sahai said,

    May 9, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    Charlie,

    I think that many/most will agree with you that the University is engaged in a vital social task that is far larger than merely educating undergrads. Since society at large is the primary beneficiary of most of what the University is doing, it is logical for the University to be majority supported by the usual ways that such social goods are supported — by tax dollars, both involuntary and voluntary.

    When we think of “voluntary” taxes, we classically think of philanthropy. Alumni donating money to the campus, people leaving the campus property in their wills, etc… Sometimes, little tokens of appreciation and recognition are given — nobody thinks anything of the fact that a major donor might have a room named after him in a building, etc… The plaque carrying the name has a cost which is insignificant relative to the value of their contribution.

    The chancellors must schmooze with the well-off for the same reason that bank robbers target banks — that is where the money is. (Sutton’s law)

    I think that what has happened is that a large number of people have become very comfortable in viewing the tuition as a tax, not as a reasonable fee designed to offset certain minor expenses. After all, it hits higher income people harder than lower income families, etc… As a tax, nobody is concerned whether or not those paying are individually getting a good value for themselves. Merely that the tax is falling fairly upon people with regards to their income.

    So undergraduates and professional Master’s students (and even more importantly, *faculty members’ research programs* supporting PhDs) are targeted for tuition increases because of Sutton’s law — that is where the money is (perceived to be). Not necessarily where the majority of the utility provided by the university is going.

    Tuition isn’t subject to Prop 13. It’s a tax that the Regents can set by themselves.

    What has happened is that society has accepted this attitude even in the commercial space. The greatest value that Google provides to society is through its fine search engine, maps, Android platform, email, authoring apps, hangouts, etc… All of those are offered completely for free. All of the revenue is obtained by charging advertisers. By fairness, the advertisers should only be paying for their particular share of Google’s costs. But Google charges them everything. Why? Because they are more willing to pay.

    The university is doing the same thing. Just as delivering the email and search services to citizens makes advertising on Google attractive for advertisers, the research and service and worldwide reputation of the faculty makes sending undergrads here attractive for rich parents who are willing to pay big bucks to get access to it. And the access to the graduate students is what they are charging faculty for. They target who is willing and able to pay and don’t worry about fairness.

    Is this wrong? In a way, yes. But it is a very small kind of wrong when compared to the bigger wrong of state defunding. Especially in the current cultural context where Freemium models are accepted even commercially.

  2. Charlie Schwartz said,

    May 9, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

    Anant, my good friend and colleague;

    I believe you have inherited the mantle of that famous Professor Pangloss.

    Charlie

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