Labor & Work-Life Issues

Professors at U. of North Texas Are Required to Put in Daily Hours on Campus

September 03, 2010

Faculty members in the University of North Texas' College of Public Affairs and Community Service have new work rules this year. They are required to spend at least four hours a day, four days a week on campus, on top of the time they spend in the classroom, under a policy adopted last week.

University officials said the goal is to make the college's 69 faculty members more accessible to students and encourage more interdisciplinary research collaboration. But the new rule, which is unusual in academe, is drawing intense scrutiny, as well as complaints from some faculty members.

Shahla Ala'i-Rosales, an associate professor of behavior analysis who studies early intervention for children with autism, said she and most of her colleagues already spend more than 16 hours on campus. She worries, though, that the new requirement doesn't allow enough scheduling flexibility for researchers like herself, who spend much of their time doing research in the community.

"Being scholars in a rapidly changing world, we need to be flexible in how we use our time," she said. "For some of us, it may mean sitting at our computers, and for others, it may mean going out and doing interviews and fieldwork with our students."

(Kean University introduced a similar requirement in 2008, contending that it would allow the institution to offer more courses and more professor-student interaction. It also faced objections from professors.)

There is currently no plan to extend the policy, which was approved by the college's chairs, to the rest of the university.

Thomas L. Evenson, dean of the college, said faculty members will get credit toward the 16-hour requirement for time spent on university-related travel and, in some cases, for research and teaching at some off-campus sites.

"Eighty-six percent of our students are undergraduates, and one of the keys to our success is our student-centeredness," Mr. Evenson said. "We're not going to expect everyone to punch a time clock, but we do want to be sure students have more face-to-face time with their professors."

He said one thing that drove the policy decision was that some faculty members complained that they did a disproportionate share of student counseling while their colleagues spent little time in their offices.