Professor workload agreements decrease at GV

Samantha Belcher

In an effort to decrease costs to the university, administrators at Grand Valley State University are cutting back on the number of individualized workload agreements awarded to professors.

These agreements, which have been common for years at universities across the country, grant professors a limited course load in return for pursuing research or community service projects or for participating in committees. The agreements, which are established between faculty members and their department heads, do not affect the professors’ salaries.

Joe Godwin, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the frequency of agreements that reduce a professor’s course load has reduced over the years in an attempt to best use the university’s resources.

“As with all personnel we are constantly monitoring expenditures to be sure we are providing the best value to students,” he said.

Each of the about 830 full-time faculty members at GVSU has a teaching agreement, which specifies how much of the professor’s time will be devoted to classes, research and service. However, not all of these agreements reduce professors’ teaching loads in return for research or service projects.

Full-time professors at GVSU teach an average of three courses per academic year.

Godwin said deans of colleges at GVSU have recently been asked if some reduced workloads for a project are really appropriate.

“These annual agreements are made so that the department’s needs for faculty work are met and to align with the faculty members’ individual strengths,” said Gayle Davis, GVSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Davis added that every professor at GVSU has an agreement that gets renewed each year.

The research aspect of a professor’s agreement is usually done with undergraduate or graduate students, while the service he performs is either participation in committees on campus or community service in surrounding areas.

At more research-based universities, these agreements have been referred to as “teacher deals.” At these universities, professors are given a much lighter amount of classes to teach so they can perform research or conduct experiments.

“(GVSU) has agreements to get away from making deals with certain faculty,” Davis said.

Godwin said reduced teaching workloads are almost always constant from year to year, so the amount of them does not usually fluctuate.

Brian White, a GVSU English professor, said picking up committee work in exchange for a reduced teaching workload is not necessarily ideal for professors. White said GVSU professors come here to do research and to teach students.

“Nobody gets in the game to be on committees,” White said.

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