CUNY professors hit with major reduction in teaching hours

CUNY and the Professional Staff Congress have come to an agreement to implement a reduction in the current faculty teaching load of 21 credit hours.

PSC has announced that the change is intended to “enable professors to devote more time to individual work with students, to advising, holding office hours, conducting academic research, and engaging in other activities that contribute to student success.” This change is scheduled to be implemented over three academic years beginning in 2018-2019 and will reduce the mandated credit hours assigned to faculty members from 21 to 18.

Workload reduction has long been proposed by faculty members and will apply to all community colleges, senior colleges and full-time classroom teaching faculty of CUNY. By fall of 2020, faculty at 11 senior colleges will be teaching 18 credit hours per year. At seven community colleges, the teaching load for instructors will be 24 credit hours.

The change is intended to help both instructors and students, and to ensure that students gain more opportunities to connect with professors. PSC also hopes that the change will enable professors to focus on their research while developing a closer bond with students.

“This agreement recognizes that faculty work encompasses critical elements in addition to classroom teaching, better positioning our faculty to address critical responsibilities such as student advising and mentoring,” PSC President Barbara Bowen stated. “Multiple studies show that the single most important academic factor in student success is time spent individually with faculty.”

One study is a report from The American Council on Education, which claims that student success is largely attributed to the effectiveness of the faculty members instructing them.

In June 2016, CUNY and PSC settled the last collective bargaining agreement and convened a joint labor management committee designed to address faculty’s teaching workload. Both parties are working toward creating a new contract.

Dr. David Jones, a political science professor at Baruch College, has joined a task force comprising other faculty members with the goal of maintaining research-driven faculty, spending more time with students and preserving the reassigned time for research.

Prior to the new workload agreement, Baruch had its own system to help promote faculty research called research reassigned time. Research reassigned time allowed faculty members to teach three fewer credit hours and dedicate an equivalent amount of time to research for the same pay.

Therefore at Baruch, the workload agreement will benefit some faculty members who have not done as much research and have not been receiving research reassigned time.

Nonetheless, faculty members who had gained from research reassigned time will not reap any benefits from this incentive as the agreement will not change or improve their current arrangement, which may be a demotivating factor. The decision by Baruch’s administration will have the effect of aligning all faculty’s teaching credit hours across the board. So most faculty will be teaching the same amount of credit hours per year.

Jones believes that the key to creating a productive classroom environment is to motivate faculty members to do more research that they can bring into the classroom. He feels that it is imperative to set a plan that preserves the principle of reassigned research hours and allocates them in a fair way.

Additionally, Jones has pointed out how full-time faculty members in other schools, such as Rutgers University, teach four courses per year, whereas CUNY professors are obliged to teach seven courses a year with nearly the same compensation.

Another challenge is identifying a source of funding. With fewer people teaching and PSC unwilling to pay the cost associated with the new policy, the school has the responsibility to hire faculty members and potentially cover significant costs.

Bowen insists that CUNY faculty need “a better contract.” “The members of the PSC have been told for decades that there is not enough money to fund CUNY adequately or to fund fair contracts for the faculty and staff,” she said.

Compared with other institutions, CUNY’s faculty members are underpaid, which reduces the chances of attracting the best professors and staff to the various campuses. She believes that offering higher wages is the key way to improve the university's educational system.

A task force, established after the May Faculty Senate meeting, is working to provide the fairest way to distribute faculty research time. The first task force committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24. In the meeting, Baruch's president, Mitchel B. Wallerstein, will present his goal for faculty workload reduction.

NewsStacy KimComment