Boise State researcher examines faculty time use

Administrative tasks, email require extensive professor time, Ziker says


“What makes the work even more time-consuming for faculty is that in most departments, administrative staff have other tasks to accomplish, and they do not generally have the time to assist faculty in many of their administrative responsibilities,” Ochs said in an email.

Boise State University Anthropology Prof. John Ziker recently released parts of his study examining university faculty’s use of time during the day at the university. Results so far indicate faculty members actually work much longer than 40-hour work weeks and much of their time is spent in ways other than research or teaching.

Ziker conducted an initial survey of Boise State faculty asking how they spend their days during the week.

“We sort of [knew] intuitively that we [faculty members] work around 60 hours a week,” Ziker said. “The survey results confirm that people definitely work over 40 hours a week.”

According to the initial survey, 9 percent of faculty reported working 40 hours or less, 40 percent worked 41 to 50 hours per week, 35 percent worked 51 to 60 hours per week and 16 percent worked more than 60 hours per week.

Ziker acknowledged some limitations to the survey results, since the research method required faculty to use self-reporting. Ziker and his team developed an iPhone App that is “a lot more accurate,” through its focus on “behavioral observations.”

The app asks the faculty members questions such as “What were you doing at 4 a.m. yesterday?” and then walks them through their day.

“It is much more difficult to kind of fabricate what you’re doing when [we] run a person through their day,” Ziker said. “I thought that [work hours] would be a little bit lower actually.”

As chair of the Boise State anthropology department, Ziker said he was surprised by the amount of time the average faculty member spends in administrative business.

The ultimate goal of Ziker’s project is to increase the amount of teaching and other creative activities, such as research, the faculty members do at universities across the nation.

Religious Studies Prof. Vanessa Ochs said administrative tasks can be extremely time consuming, between organizing conferences, reading graduate student applications and making selections.

“What makes the work even more time-consuming for faculty is that in most departments, administrative staff have other tasks to accomplish, and they do not generally have the time to assist faculty in many of their administrative responsibilities,” Ochs said in an email.

Ochs said many people are unaware of the enormous load placed on faculty members.
“When professors hear their friends and family rib them about teaching only two classes a semester and having the rest of their time ‘free’ to do their research, they are aware that few know how many other tasks are required of most professors,” she said.

Putting in long hours may be necessary for such a large organization to function, said Politics Prof. David Waldner, who added he does not have many complaints about the system.

“I think the advising of undergraduate majors is very important, and I try to get to know all 40 of my students to help them choose courses that will help them post graduation to find a satisfying career,” Waldner said. “I wouldn’t want to get rid of this.”

Waldner says he does a lot of work recruiting students, and the administrative tasks that come with promotion and tenure.

“It is absolutely a burden, but 80 percent of it is a necessary burden,” he said.

Drama Prof. Richard Warner said though it can be stressful at times, administration was a goal he wanted to pursue artistically.

“As I moved into becoming an associate professor because of tenure, I was one of the co-architects of the new drama program,” Warner said.

Warner said his time commitment to the department has been very fulfilling. He has taught famous alumni such as Tina Fey and Sasheer Zamata.

“I do a lot of advising for majors here because I’m the guy who helps students be placed in the profession,” he said. “I’ve had some good placements in graduate programs.”

Waldner said there are some improvements that could be made to University administration by giving teachers rewards for the extra hours they put into their work.

“Some of the Ivy League universities have a system that if you mentor a lot of doctoral students, where you spend several years seeing them through their entire dissertation research, you get some teacher relief to compensate for that,” Waldner said.

Ziker hopes to expand the study beyond Boise State, so it can be applicable to more universities. Numerous faculty members from other institutions have emailed Ziker voicing their support for the project and how some have taken upon similar studies themselves.


Published April 12, 2014 in FP test, News





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