President David Burks informed faculty of the approval of a reduced workload policy in an email on March 1. Burks said the policy came to fruition with input from the Faculty Leadership Committee (FLC), and allowed faculty members two contract options to apply for: a three-fourths or a one-half teaching load faculty employment contract. Interested faculty were instructed to request their preferred option in writing to their college’s dean by March 18. The deans submitted approved requests as recommendations to the provost for further approval.
The announcement came nearly five weeks after Burks announced a voluntary faculty retirement incentive at the Jan. 24 University faculty meeting.
While the voluntary retirement incentive came from administration, the reduced faculty load policy was a grassroots movement stemming from an idea from a faculty member, and then developed by the FLC.
Amy Cox, chair of the art and design department and president-elect for the ‘22-’23 school year of the FLC, said the idea was originally brought up in the fall semester at a faculty forum. Cox said after discussion, faculty suggested that the FLC should propose a policy to administration. An ad hoc committee was created in December, with Cox as chair, with 11 faculty members total from a cross-section of campus. Cox said the goal of the committee was to put a framework around what half-time or three-fourths time might look like for professors.
“When you start talking about reduced load, you have to start thinking about reduced responsibilities,” Cox said. “Most teachers have their teaching responsibilities, but then they also have many other things that are required, like advising, and going to meetings, and committee work.”
Cox said that the committee quickly realized that a reduced load option would look different for everyone.
“We created just a handful of guidelines of what that could look like, but [faculty] would always need to check with their immediate supervisor,” Cox said. “It would really be more of a negotiation.”
Cox said that from the committee, the proposal went to the FLC, who presented it to the provost and the president. From there, Cox said that human resources and administration took the suggestions, and crafted what became the proposal Burks sent to faculty.
“What was proposed to the faculty was very based in what we suggested,” Cox said. “So it was a really good collaboration.”
Burks’ email outlined that half-time and three-fourths time faculty members will remain eligible for health and dental insurance, retirement plan matching, and other voluntary benefits. The tuition discount that full-time faculty members currently receive, however, will differ between the two options.
“Three-fourths teaching load will retain the current tuition discount of 100% for employee/spouse and 75% for eligible children,” Burks’ email said. “Half-teaching load will offer a reduced tuition discount of 60% for employee/spouse and 50% for eligible children.”
Dr. Kathy Dillion, professor of english and director of the center for teaching and learning, applied and received approval for a three-fourths load option for her contract next year.
After teaching and working in different roles at the University for nearly 30 years, Dillion said that while it was a hard decision to make, she has yet to have a regret.
Dillion said that the most recent American Studies Institute Distinguished Lecture Series speaker, Harvard professor and social scientist Arthur Brooks, reaffirmed her decision.
Dillion said she considers herself to be in what Brooks calls the second curve of a person’s career. While the first curve is marked by fluid intelligence, the second is defined by crystallized intelligence, or wisdom from years of experience.
“As you get near retirement, you think a lot about what you want that last part of your life to look like,” Dillion said. “I feel a personal need to do a better job with fewer things.”
Dillion said since officially making her decision, she has felt a weight off her shoulders, and has seen the effects of that in daily interactions, especially with students.
“I made the choice,” Dillion said. “I’m more in control of life circumstances. I was intentional about it. I want to show up as that person who is present, who is healthy in mind, body, and spirit, and who is engaged with what I’m doing.”
Although the number of professors who applied for one of the options has not been publicized, Dillion said she was surprised that more faculty members did not take the opportunity, and thought that many who may have been interested could not spare the financial change, or their department could not spare their work loss.
Cox said she knew of several professors who seriously considered the options, but ultimately decided not to apply, mainly due to the effects of a reduced salary.
Burks said a major criteria in approval of any application included being able to make a change without having to hire a replacement.
Dillion said she hoped the opportunity would remain available for faculty in years to come.
Both Cox and Dillion said that the policy called for reduced-load contracts to be reevaluated on a yearly basis, as all teaching faculty contracts are at the University.