PAUF Notes: Current Workload Policy (March 3, 2010)

In numerous meetings regarding workload policy last week it became evident that there is great misunderstanding of our current workload policy, at least with regard to its original intent.  The following is the situation as we understand it.

From the beginning of her presidency, President Cardenas intended to reorient UTPA in the direction of research. Realizing that couldn't happen with faculty saddled with a 12 hour load, a policy was instituted where everyone would be assigned a 9 hour load at the cost of being evaluated according to the standards of a research university.  A 12 hour semester load is also known as a 24 hour academic year load or a 4/4 load, meaning four undergraduate courses each semester.  

Realizing that it would be a bad management practice to require people hired and faithfully serving under one system to suddenly be held to a different set of standards, an exclusion was adopted by which anyone tenured on or before September 2005 could continue under the old system, with a 24 hour annual load and evaluated under teaching university standards.  Whether many would actually exercise this option remained an open question.

After adoption, this concept quickly morphed into a completely different idea where 12 hours per semester was the norm, and 9 hours was something like special released time, essentially a grant that didn't require an application.  Those electing the 9 hour load who could have stayed with the 12 were thus thought of as incurring a special obligation not incurred by those for whom the 9 hour load was a requirement.  The special obligation required continual proof of worthiness to have a “reduced” load, with those having the “real”, non-optional, 9 hour load facing no such requirement.  Since the distinction between the suspect and privileged groups was based on tenure date, older and younger faculty with exactly the same duties were expected to be held to different sets of requirements and penalties.  

As widespread as this misconception became, there is nothing in the HOP supporting it.  The relevant portion of the HOP states only that previously tenured faculty "may elect to teach a 24 hour load for their faculty appointment", in keeping with the original intent.  What appears to be happening now is a major policy change, where the 12 hour per semester, 24 hour per year, 4/4 workload is no longer an election for previously tenured faculty, but is a teaching track onto which one may be forced for lack of research productivity.  Issues then arise such as the standards used for such a decision, by whom the decision will be made, under what circumstances one may move between a teaching track and a research track, and what future implications there might be of tying workload to a performance evaluation.