The Teaching Load

I’m bringing this from under the password protection because people seem not to know about this.

Usually, tenured professors teach a certain number of courses per semester under their contract. At my university, the teaching load is 3:3, meaning 3 courses per semester, which is high.

In reality, however, many people teach up to 6 courses per semester. If your course is underenrolled, you either consent to teach it for free, or it gets cancelled. In many cases, cancelling the only section of an advanced course means students don’t graduate on time. If the program is already struggling, this can pretty much put the whole program under the threat of extinction. So people consent (and actually beg) to teach up to twice their contractual load because they can’t face letting down the students and want to save the program.

I make the schedule for my department, and I keep asking my faculty members, “Are you sure you want me to do it? These are 6 courses I’m scheduling for you in the Fall. Are you sure?” And yes, they are sure because they don’t have a choice. We don’t have this issue in Spanish but in French, German and Chinese, it’s what always happens. On one occasion, my German faculty member taught a whopping 7 (seven) courses in a semester. He’s a Full Professor, and his contractual teaching load is 3.

We used to have lecturers, TAs, adjuncts. But it’s all gone. This poor German professor is doing the job that we used to spread among 3-4 people.

It’s worse in Physics, though. Those guys are really suffering.


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