Dr. Alan T. Sherman
Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
November 28, 1998 (last modified December 13, 1998)
WWW-rendered by Alan T. Sherman on December 4, 1998
There is something terribly wrong with the educational values of a university that denies tenure to outstanding educator scholars, pays overworked non-tenure-track faculty low salaries, and rewards its Presidential Teaching Professor with a teaching reduction.
To understand who we are as an "Honors" educational institution, I calculated who is delivering computer science (CMSC) instruction at UMBC in fall 98. Moreover, I calculated their teaching loads and salaries, and for four selected educators I analyzed the percent of their 9.5-month salary that they generated through tuition revenue. I would like to share my findings with the UMBC Community, together with some personal reflections and recommendations.
Over three-quarters of the student lecture hours are delivered by non-tenure track faculty, and full professors deliver only seven percent of the total hours. Nevertheless, tenured full professors earn two to three times the 9.5-month salaries of the full-time non-tenure-track lecturers who carry most of the instructional effort.
Explanation of university titles.
Using September 15 enrollment data from the Registrar, I determined that approximately 78% of the 6,720 CMSC student lecture hours are delivered by non-tenure-track faculty, who make up 61% of the 41 active CMSC educators.
Great care must be taken in reporting and interpreting statistical data on instruction at UMBC. The numbers vary significantly depending on how questions are framed. For example, although Institutional Research records data as "number and percent instructional faculty," the figures look different (and worse) when one weights the numbers and percents by class size. I prefer to measure instructional delivery by student lecture hours, by student credit hours, or by tuition revenue.
Following a two-year-old decision by the Dept. of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (CSEE) to hire full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers to deliver our large introductory courses, the Dept.'s dependence on part-time adjunct faculty (loosely referred to as "part-timers" at UMBC) has declined significantly. Now, "only" 29% of the student lecture hours are delivered by 18 adjunct faculty, who make up 44% of our active CMSC educators, and who deliver 17 (31%) of our 54 lectures. The 5 (12%) full-time lecturers give 16 (30%) lectures, delivering 2,757 (41%) student lecture hours.
By contrast, the 16 (39%) full-time tenure-track faculty give 16 (30%) lectures, delivering 1,494 (22%) student lecture hours.
This effort is divided roughly evenly among the assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor ranks--though with great variation by individual. The 5 (12%) tenured full professors give 5 (9%) lectures, delivering 438 (7%) student lecture hours.
Two (5%) GTAs deliver 549 (8%) of student lecture hours. Most of the recitation sections, are given by GTAs and two undergraduate teaching assistants. I excluded all recitation sections from my analysis.
For its anticipated undergraduate accreditation review, however, the Dept. can accurately report that 21 (51%) of the faculty are "regular" (lecturers and tenure-track faculty). These regular faculty give 32 (59%) lectures, delivering 4,251 (63%) of the student lecture hours. Most (not all) of the regular graduate courses are given by tenure-track faculty.
One lecturer teaches nine sections of a large introductory course, including two large lectures and an honors section. This lecturer has 260 students and cheerfully finds time to see many of them during this lecturer's generous office hours. This lecturer generates over $170,560 in tuition revenue for UMBC. For this herculean effort, this lecturer is compensated with a 9.5-month salary of $41,000, benefits, and no prospect of tenure. This lecturer's salary amounts to $20 per credit hour delivered. Thus, this lecturer's fall 98 teaching efforts generate 832% of the fall 98 portion of this lecturer's 9.5-month salary.
There is a popular and effective part-time adjunct who has taught at UMBC for many years. This adjunct teaches one undergraduate course to 45 students, generating $22,140 in tuition revenue. As an addition to this adjunct's full-time job, this adjunct teaches primarily for joy. This adjunct has "maxed-out" at a salary of approximately $3,500 per course with no benefits and no office. This adjunct's salary amounts to $26 per credit hour. This adjunct's fall 98 teaching efforts generate 633% of this adjunct's one-course salary.
A tenured associate professor of CMSC is a model scholar-educator who publishes, receives external research funding, and is a concerned member of the UMBC community. This professor teaches one lecture of a large introductory course to 86 students (at least that was official enrollment before the most recent exams). This teaching load reflects a one-course reduction due to this professor's significant administrative responsibilities. This professor generates $56,416 in tuition revenue. This professor's 9.5-month salary is $57,750, amounting to $84 per credit hour. As do all tenure-track faculty in CMSC, this professor enjoys benefits and a modest private office. This professor's fall 98 teaching efforts generate 195% of the fall 98 portion of this professor's 9.5-month salary.
My final example is a tenured full professor of electrical engineering who is a successful researcher. This professor teaches one graduate course to 9 graduate students. This teaching load reflects a one-course buyout using funds from this professor's significant external research funding. Students may find this professor in a TRC office or lab, located about half a mile off the main campus. This professor generates $7,020 in tuition revenue. The (75%) portion of his 9.5-month salary paid by UMBC is $97,550; additional 9.5-month salary comes from external research funding. In addition, as do most CSEE tenure-track faculty, this professor supplements his 9.5-month salary with up to 2.5 months of summer research support paid by external funding. Although this professor's fall 98 teaching efforts generate only 14% of the fall 98 portion of the UMBC contribtuion to his 9.5-month salary (amounting to $1,806 per credit hour), this professor brings in significant amounts of external funding to UMBC. In particular this professor notes, "I am using over 25% [$24,388] of my salary as buyout [per year]."
These four examples illustrate the variety of ways in which CMSC faculty contribute to UMBC's teaching, research, and service missions. Some contribute primarily through teaching; some contribute primarily through research; and some through a balanced combination of teaching and research. One could make similar financial calculations to quantify the percent of each faculty member's salary generated by external research funding.
Whether or not someone is an effective educator has little to do with their employment status (e.g. full-time versus part-time) nor with their academic rank. Some part-time adjuncts are outstanding educators, and some tenured full professors are marginal teachers. Teaching effectiveness involves a complex combination of interpersonal, psychological, communication, technical, and intellectual skills, motivations, and experiences . It is difficult, however, for part-time faculty to have much out-of-class interactions with students nor to contribute to the community service activities of UMBC. Part-time adjuncts do often add beneficial perspectives from their experiences outside of academe.
For better or worse, our significant dependence on part-time adjuncts and full-time lecturers is an economic necessity. Delivering quality education is expensive. There are not enough funds from the state, tuition, and donations to hire enough tenure-track faculty to teach all of our courses. The current number of CMSC undergraduate majors is over 920 and rising. Also, there is a tremendous profit margin for UMBC when it allows a tenure-track faculty member to "buy out" of a course for, say, $12,000 of external research funding, and UMBC hires a part-time adjunct for, say, $3,000 (without benefits) to teach the course instead. A significant competitive advantage for UMBC is its fairly low tuition in comparison with high-priced Ivy-League schools.
A few years ago, then Provost Jo Ann Argersinger explained that "We don't have teaching `buyouts,'" elaborating in euphemistic political doublespeak something to the effect that "We have `teaching reductions' for faculty with especially active externally-funded research programs."
I am not against reduced teaching loads. In fact, to run an exceptional course and to maintain a research program, it is desirable to teach only one course per semester and to devote significant effort to the course. I object to the diminished value many research faculty and administrators place on effective teaching.
There is, however, a vicious cycle: Those who have more resources (including teaching reductions) can produce more research, and those who produce more research get more resources.
It is fine that some outstanding researchers spend most of their time on research and advising graduate students. It is fine that we hire qualified full-time lecturers who have heavy teaching loads with no research expectations. It is good for students that there are a variety of educators with differing styles, since not all students require the same type of instruction. It is good that that our educators can contribute in different ways and in different ways at different times in their careers.
Something is seriously broken, however, when we fail to retain our best educators, such as Associate Professor James (Jim) Mayfield and Assistant Professor Jim Sasaki, each of whom left UMBC after prolonged unpleasant experiences with their tenure evaluations. Also, we should do more to demand, reward, and respect effective teaching and to value scholarship through teaching.
There is something wrong when we give lip service to the value of teaching but make crucial tenure and salary decisions primarily on the basis of refereed publications and external research funding. There is something wrong with our values when we view teaching loads as something to "buy out of" with research funding and when we reward the Presidential Teaching Professor each year with a teaching reduction. Why do we not symmetrically allow outstanding educators to "buy out of research?" Moreover, why do we refer to the privilege of teaching as "teaching loads," but we do not refer to research activities as "research loads?" There is something wrong when we view full-time lecturers and part-time adjuncts as second-class citizens. There is something wrong when we have the flexibility to tolerate an outstanding researcher who is a marginal teacher but fail to tenure an outstanding educator who is an adequate researcher.
The most sought-after technical degrees are mostly from schools that combine excellence in research and teaching, such as MIT and CalTech. There are also some highly sought-after degrees from schools (such as Swarthmore) that focus primarily on undergraduate education. Unfortunately, most of the better-known state schools (e.g. Berkeley) seem to emphasize research at the expense of effective teaching.
We at UMBC should strive for excellence in research and teaching, but not by unrealistically demanding dual excellence from each individual. Instead, as we do to some extent, we should demand reasonable competence in both from all, and collective excellence from the group. Our current state is out of balance: we should be doing better in research and in teaching, and we should value teaching more than we do--including in salary and tenure decisions.
Although UMBC and its students benefit from the collective dedication of many outstanding GTAs, part-time adjuncts, full-time lecturers, and tenure-track faculty, for many of these educators, their salary is incommensurate with the tuition reven ue they generated and with the level of their instructional efforts.
Dr. Alan T. Sherman is a tenured Associate Professor of Computer Science and a member of the Undergraduate Committee in the CSEE Dept. In fall 98, he taught 45 students in CMSC-441 and 36 students in CMSC-641, generating $50,220 in tuition revenue--161% of the fall 98 portion of his 9.5-month salary.