In my role as Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, I’m always thinking about equity and transparency in our work with faculty. In recent years, the need for clarity on faculty workloads has gained more attention from the Faculty Senate and university administration. Because the work of faculty can vary from one academic unit to another, across different positions and ranks, among faculty within a given unit, and over time for individual faculty members, it can be difficult to determine whether faculty are pulling their weight—or doing more than their fair share. Hidden labor can lead to an overextension of those who volunteer and do greater levels of service or other activities and turn into burnout and frustration. Complacency is also a risk for those who are underextended. Our work on Faculty Workload Equity at Texas Christian University (TCU) began before the pandemic and gained momentum in the last couple of years. 

Creating a Campus-wide Model

At TCU, we have just over 700 full-time faculty. Our data on faculty activities was decentralized as we relied on individual faculty PDFs to track who was doing what. Access to aggregate data of any kind was a difficult manual process that encouraged processes and decision-making without attention to data. In 2018, our Faculty Senate Faculty Relations Committee asked us to look at workloads with the goal of promoting equity, transparency, clarity, and accountability across the campus. Then, in March 2019, our new Provost noticed a common theme during listening tours across campus: faculty—particularly female faculty and faculty of color—felt that there was labor they were doing that the university wasn’t noticing, acknowledging, or valuing. This was labor that didn’t count in promotion, tenure, and annual merit review processes. These insights from faculty highlighted the need for a quantitative tool to consider and enhance equity within departments, disciplines, and academic units. We began looking into platforms to support this use case. 

Our efforts were paused in 2020 as the university responded to the pandemic, then continued in 2021 with work to develop workload model parameters or framework for the university. A committee of deans, institutional research staff, and faculty senators who developed and revisited earlier recommendations designed a proposed model for the university. Then in the summer of 2022, I worked with the deans to identify some of the differences among the colleges and refine the model for use across the university as a whole. The model consists of a 100% workload total with a 10% allocation for each three-credit-hour course and the remaining load divided among research and creative activity for tenure track faculty, professional activity for teaching stream faculty, service, and administrative appointments.

Using Technology to Enhance Workload Equity

The deans also provided insights and feedback on a draft form we created in Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting (FAR) that aligns with the faculty equity workload model. The Interfolio worksheet is a workload agreement and mechanism for unit leaders and faculty to plan and document what faculty will do within and outside their home unit in the upcoming academic year. This form has two sections related to teaching workload: one is more overarching with the percentages and some goals for the upcoming year, while the other is a plan for specific courses. We also developed research, creative activities, service, and administrative workload sections that are all structured to capture workload percentages and goals. Reports from this worksheet will facilitate understanding for the unit heads and deans of how workloads fall below, meet, or exceed expectations. 

In fall 2022, we began to socialize the model with the department chairs and the program directors, making revisions given their feedback on the model and the Interfolio forms as well as the goals of faculty workload equity. Colleges began developing policies to operationalize workloads for their faculty by rank, position, and work history, as well as define processes and procedures for developing and communicating workloads that meet the needs of their academic units. 

Piloting the Faculty Workload Model

In 2023, we launched a pilot of our model with nine academic units within four colleges, ensuring a mix of larger, medium, and smaller units to test the model across a range of conditions. The units taking part in the pilot engaged faculty in discussions about faculty workload, mapping workloads, and modeling faculty workload in worksheets created within Interfolio FAR.  

The idea was that academic unit heads would work with faculty to clarify the planned workload for the upcoming academic term or year, and that workload—or a revised one if needed—would inform the annual report. One of the misconceptions that surfaced was that every faculty member would have the same teaching and service loads. Instead, we’re making deeper considerations across departments and units because of disciplinary and field differences that shape teaching, research, and creative activity. We think of it as a system to clarify workload and also align workload and assessment.

The pilot year has entailed developing and refining worksheets and reports for the pilot units, listening to unit leader experiences in engaging with faculty and reporting, facilitating conversations on workload among them, and exposing them to the literature. We are testing the technology and logistics to see what works and what improvements we can make. We also hosted a webinar with faculty workload researchers for the pilot unit heads and invited all of the deans and associate deans. Every college participated in the webinar.  

Most of our work has involved engaging stakeholders and fostering participation and provision of feedback. We are now planning to expand this work across the campus by having all academic units model five faculty workloads for the 2024–25 academic year in the spring of 2024. We will provide professional development in summer 2024 that will utilize the data in Interfolio FAR and provide a foundation for workload development for all full-time faculty.   

Greater Transparency Around Faculty Workloads

Our goal is to use these workload data to develop reports unit heads and deans can use to identify workload inequities and then make corrections and adjustments as needed. By implementing the workload equity model and using Interfolio FAR for workload agreements, we are working to form clarity and transparency around workload that will facilitate leadership decision-making and action to enhance equity among faculty workloads. While this new endeavor into documenting workloads in agreements is additional work our university did not have before, we are doing so to establish norms for workloads and equity among faculty. 

Author Bio:

M. Francyne Huckaby is Professor and Associate Provost of Faculty Affairs at Texas Christian University. She is a curriculum theorist who holds a PhD in higher education administration. Her books include Researching Resistance (2019) and Making Research Public in Troubled Times (2018). Her honors include the Society of Professors of Education Mary Anne Raywid Award for distinguished scholarship in the field of education, the Claudia V. Camp Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award, the TCU Deans’ Teaching Award, TCU Mortar Board Preferred Professor, Straight for Equality from Fort Worth’s PFLAG chapter, and American Educational Research Association Outstanding Book honorable mention and  Qualitative Research Outstanding Dissertation award.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Historically, university leadership (Presidents and Provosts) have come from STEM and business fields. We know that these backgrounds are important, but we also know that we have to have that humanistic aspect—otherwise, we find ourselves dealing with complex questions without having the full context of what it means for our longevity as a species. As a social scientist, I bring that love of humanity to my work in higher education.  

Importance of Humanities and Fine Arts Faculty in University Leadership Roles

It’s essential to have a humanistic approach in higher education. As a Co-Principal Investigator on the Mellon Foundation’s Breaking the Mold grant, I’m working with colleagues at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland to change the future of higher education leadership. 

It was exciting—Mellon approached our university Presidents back in 2020 about how we could solve this challenge. We went big; we thought expansively about leadership development and, as faculty ourselves, what would have helped our upward trajectory to Dean, Vice Provost, Associate Vice President, and Provost. 

I’m really proud of the program that we developed and Mellon funded—it’s like a dream come true for me and my colleagues. Our program focuses on faculty in the humanities and the adjacent social sciences, mostly women and people of color. We’re in our second cohort, with 15 faculty members across our campus who receive individualized leadership guidance, $10,000 for professional development, and the opportunity to apply for their campus allotment of an additional $50,000 for research or more substantive professional development. 

Some of them have gone to the HERS Leadership Institute, the management development program at Harvard. Some of them are now getting course release time to finish a manuscript because they want to move to full and that will help them. These funds and opportunities are a game-changer for faculty, who may not have gotten the attention or face time with campus leaders. We’re investing in them. 

Faculty Career Roadmaps 

A traditional career roadmap for faculty exists, and faculty should proceed along their established timelines from Associate Professor to Chair to Full Professor, equitably being recognized for their contributions to teaching, service, and research. And it’s always straightforward, right? I laugh as I type this because, in my experience, a roadmap doesn’t exist, and leadership development is uneven. And, when you add in race, gender, discipline—it gets infinitely more complex. We have had very honest conversations about how the traditional way is not the only way. How can we amplify the outliers and the value of diverse perspectives and backgrounds? These are all conversations that we should have across higher ed, and they’re just different nuances. 

My own background in my position at Morgan is not traditional. My path to tenure included serving as the Director of The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. In that dual capacity, I not only ran an archival repository and museum—I also curated four exhibitions a year, oversaw 40–50 public programs, and had teaching responsibilities. In addition, I had service responsibilities. While it wasn’t traditional, it did give me the administrative background to succeed in my current administrative appointment. 

As part of the Mellon grant, we’ve had these important conversations about pathways to academic leadership. There isn’t one right way, especially for faculty like me coming from the humanities or cross-disciplinary fields. 

Not All Service Is Equal

A key lesson we try to import into this faculty development cohort is about service. We need to have honest discussions about service, and teach faculty how to be discerning about high-value, high-stakes services versus low-value, low-stakes services. Often, women and people of color are given the latter. Leaders must call it out when they see this happening. At the College of Charleston, I was a co-founder of the Black Women Resource Center, and part of its mission was to advocate for my peers to the President and others about these ongoing issues. Faculty may not be able to speak up, so it’s incumbent on us faculty leaders to do so.

There’s not enough credit given to some of the service work that faculty might do in preparation for leadership roles. This is a challenge in higher education—we don’t always acknowledge all of that work or credit it the way we should. In addition, many faculty may not know the steps they need to take to become a Dean or Associate Vice Provost. Some who have put in great service work—cultivating grad students, organizing co-curricular activities, and that sort of thing—and are primed for leadership, but may not have been tapped on the shoulder and asked if they’ve thought about trying to get into these roles. Presidents can often be more focused on STEM and R1 ascendency, which isn’t a bad thing, but that means humanities and social sciences can get lost in the shuffle. 

This project has made us really think differently about how people move up to leadership. It is imperative for us as leaders—as mentors—to make sure that our faculty are getting the development they need. Not only to make our institutions better and to be the best faculty that they can be for our students, but we should be in the business of helping our faculty grow. It’s important to do that—we should all be lifting as we climb in these positions.

Author Bio:

Dr. Patricia Williams Dockery currently serves as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morgan State University. She is a writer, playwright, scholar-activist, and international commentator who is consulted for her expertise on diversity, equity, and inclusion; social justice; and Black women’s intersectional experiences. She has developed educational public programs for grades K—12 and general audiences at the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the College of Charleston Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. 

Dr. Dockery is a Fulbright Scholar and earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois Chicago. A transdisciplinary educator and artist, her play, Septima!, about the life and work of civil rights organizing mastermind and revolutionary educator Septima Poinsette Clark, debuted at Charleston’s PURE Theatre. She and her husband share a beautiful blended family of seven children and a loving boxer-hound mix named Sadie Mae.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Sometime during the COVID winter of AY 20–21, I started to imagine our faculty as a forest.

Maybe it was Zoom fatigue. Or maybe it was my own research: my book “Why We Left” (Minnesota, 2013) examined the enclosure and destruction of English forests as a precipitant of the mass displacement of English to North America. Forests held it all together for rural English people—protecting waterways, providing habitat for game animals and bees, producing nuts during food-scarce winters, and anchoring the shared imagination that held communities together. When their forests were threatened with enclosure and privatization, people rioted. When forests were destroyed, as hundreds of thousands of acres were, communities dissolved.  

What holds faculty communities together? Deeply shared professional values—a “deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge” and regard for “common membership in the community of scholars”—can motivate academic discovery, inspired teaching, extraordinary service, and, well, riots once in a while. Could a values-anchored commitment to care (and the promise of a steady paycheck) bring us through a global pandemic?

The Multifaceted Work of Faculty

During our long COVID winter, I saw San Diego State University faculty drawing from deeply held collective values to hold our campus together by extending care and generosity to each other and to our 38,000 students. As did faculty around the world, our professors served as classroom first responders and Zoom lifelines, even as they shouldered the burdens the pandemic brought to us all—and disproportionately to our colleagues of color.

Returning to campus after those brutal lockdown months, I could see the toll this effort took not only on individuals but on the collective health, communication, collegiality, energy, and continuity of our faculty. 

This is what “common membership in the community of scholars” means after all: faculty work is a collective, interconnected experience. Faculty are rooted in and evolve in the context of campuses, disciplines, and communities that have their own distinctive histories, climates, vulnerabilities, and stressors. 

The multifaceted work of faculty—as teachers, researchers, artists, and stewards of the university’s academic mission—is held together by a million largely invisible strands of interrelatedness and interaction, just as forests are—as our colleagues in biology have shown—held together by massive underground fungi. 

The benefits a well-rooted, diverse, and healthy faculty can generate are, like those of an old-growth forest, simultaneously essential, invisible, and precious: the generative cultivation of knowledge for the common good, the inculcation of disciplines of critical inquiry and communication essential to the health of human societies, and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity for young people to participate in such a hopeful collective experiment during their formative years.

COVID pushed me to (forgive the cliche) see the forest for the trees. It led me to conceive my post-pandemic work as an Associate Vice President of Faculty Advancement and Student Success, not primarily as developing individual faculty members (a verb I’ve never liked) but rather supporting the community of scholars that hold my university together.

Fostering a Culture of Faculty Support

Faculty support is more than training chairs to carry out routine managerial processes, dispensing helpful tips on managing professional pitfalls, or staging tenure and promotion workshops. Before, during, and after the pandemic, our robustly diverse assistant professoriate was, in fact, achieving tenure and promotion at very high rates. But they were stressed—by the fraying of their own physical or mental health, the impossible math of stretching a public university salary to cover the costs of living in California, by new expectations from students for teaching multi-modality and ubiquitous online availability, by the many righteous but loosely coordinated “asks” proliferating from university offices, and even by the abrasive conduct of a few colleagues.

Fostering a culture of faculty support means recognizing faculty as the critical and distinctive resource of any university—a resource that deserves ongoing care and repair. We often talk of the liabilities of “deferred maintenance” when it comes to facilities; what are the “deferred maintenance” liabilities we face post-COVID in our human infrastructure and our collegial relationships? What are the most important investments a university can make in the future of its faculty, collectively conceived? How do universities support the well-being of this hopeful and sometimes difficult profession and its hopeful and sometimes difficult constituents?

For my part, I still offer workshops, but I start everyone with a catechism of questions prompted by my SDSU colleague Lacie Barber, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology, whose research on telestress and its related work demands has won national notice:

  • Are you checking email after 5 PM or on weekends? Do you have email notifications set on your phone, and if so, why?
  • Are you holding at least 20% of your calendar for your own research, scholarship, or creative activity?
  • Are you limiting your 1:1s to 20 minutes or convening advisees in groups?
  • Do you have a regularly convening accountability/writing group?

Taking Action for Faculty Advancement

I now urge junior and senior faculty alike to dismantle the air of doom and mystery that still hangs over our tenure and promotion processes, an unhelpful residue of the days when hazing (like dating your graduate students) was seemingly an accepted element of faculty culture.

I now use my resources to fund a Women Faculty of Color support group led by women faculty of color who are credentialed in psychology and the counseling fields, with participants reporting positive outcomes in terms of their well-being and persistence.

In addition, I have started consistently elevating housing as a critical “faculty advancement” priority in my conversations—which is critical because faculty work best when they feel securely rooted. 

It can be tough putting down roots in San Diego these days, but they do it. 

Like the ribbons of centuries-old oak trees and fire-scarred sycamores in the canyons just north of campus, faculty hold on through tough circumstances. 

They are tough, sometimes gnarly. They are key to the whole ecology. 

Deep in their treebones, most of the time, they know what they are doing.

Author Bio: 

Joanna Brooks is an award-winning author and editor of 10 books on race, religion, gender, social movements, and American culture. She has appeared in global media outlets, including the BBC, NPR, the Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, and The Washington Post. 

Joanna is a graduate of the CSU Executive Leadership program and a founder of SDSU’s Digital Humanities Center and Shared Governance Leadership Institute. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.