Provost's Workload Policy

Feb 08, 2010
Provost Paul Sale’s February 2 memo to his Academic Affairs Leadership Team has produced some possible misunderstanding and a firestorm of protest.
One source of distress is the appearance that it has already been decided that an average of one publication per year over a three year rolling period will be required to continue with a 9/9 teaching load.  The memo seems to indicate that this is nonnegotiable, but we have also heard that it was intended as a proposal.  

The other cause for concern is the appearance that this requirement will be applied retroactively, to a period during which faculty did not know they were working under such a requirement. Such a breach of fundamental principle seems unthinkable, but there are indications it might have been entertained.

Whether proposal or done deal, in an attachment to his memo (slide 6)  Dr. Sale reports finding a median of two publications per faculty member over three years.  This implies that the intent of a requirement of three publications every three years would be to place a majority of faculty on a 4/4 load.  With higher enrollments per class this would be a heavier student load than before President Cardenas implemented her workload reforms.

Dr. Sale also reports a mean number of publications of 3.69.  In a normal, bell-shaped distribution the mean and median are equal.  The mean exceeding the median indicates a skewed distribution, where a few very high scores inflate the mean and make it a poor measure of central tendency.  In the present case, one way for a few individuals to produce uncharacteristically high publication rates would be by the practice of piecemeal publication, where information that could be published in a single integrative article is broken down over several to create an illusion of productivity.  To understand how this practice is regarded in the academic community one need only search “piecemeal publication” on the internet.

Many faculty who already publish have expressed concern that with the conditions under which we work, a requirement of one publication per year amounts to a demand for piecemeal or otherwise low-quality publishing.

Finally, it was reported at one meeting that we are under heightened scrutiny because there are some individuals at “System” who do not hold us in high regard.  It was suggested in response that we should possibly review whether being in such a system offers any real benefit to either South Texas or the University.