Faculty Workload Equity Task Force and Related Research

Feb 1, 2021

The Faculty Workload Equity Task Force met Thursday, January 28th. The committee will be meeting with the Dean’s Council on February 11th to better understand workload equity issues within and across units. We also plan to meet with associate deans and chairs and directors to learn from academic leadership and understand the dynamics from various perspectives.

In order to meet our charge, we have formed three working subcommittees:

Existing Research

  • Dean Siatta, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • Kate Willink, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs
  • Jae McQueen, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Brad Davidson, Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science


Best Practices

  • Brian Gearity, Graduate School of Professional Psychology
  • Oliver Kaplan, Josef Korbel School of International Studies
  • Deb Ortega, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Renea Botta, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences


University & Departmental Data

  • Michele Tyson, Morgridge College of Education
  • Rick Leaman, Daniels College of Business
  • Brian Majestic, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Sarah Pessin, Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Erin Elzi, University Libraries Michele Tyson, Morgridge College of Education


We are currently reading this newly released ACE report: Equity-Minded Faculty Workloads: What We Can and Should Do Now. 

It can seem daunting to tackle workload issues because of the potential for conflict, but this points to both their importance and the need for new tools. While a general conversation about workload is likely to recycle the same old scripts and defensiveness (most faculty feel that they are doing excessive service) we also know that systemic inequities do exist. To disrupt these scripts and focus conversations about workload, the American Council on Education accompanied this report with a webinar in January, “Equity-Minded Workloads by Design,” led by its co-authors.  

The report and webinar offer new evidence of the perennial problem of workload pressures on underrepresented minority faculty, particularly women of color, and propose a scalable approach to better understanding workload at the department and unit level. They argue that we need to reflect on “how we organize, distribute, and reward work” in academia if we are to confront any of the many inequalities we face, especially those worsened by the pandemic. They found that collecting and sharing data really did change hearts, minds, and behavior. 

Here is a brief summary of their ideas and suggestions on how to encourage fruitful reflection and discussion within the faculty. Watch the webinar and read the report to learn more!

  • One low-stakes approach is to devote time at a faculty meeting or retreat to an intentional exercise of articulating what “service” means to everyone in your unit. Give people homework so they come prepared. You might use the “Tuesday’s Inbox” exercise, which asks each person to decide which of a series of service requests to prioritize, as a way to start a conversation about what faculty consider important service (see pg 21 of the report). 
  • Get together and read the report, or an equity scorecard approach, or other scholarship on equity in workload to jumpstart your conversation. 
  • Build on this discussion by creating “Faculty Expectations Guidelines” with benchmarks for service for faculty at each level and in each series (see pg 12 of report).  
  • Chairs might start incorporating a “Service Audit” into existing formative reviews, asking each faculty member what their priorities in service are for the next 2/3 years (see pg 11 and 31 for template). 
  • Consider partnering with the VPFA to pilot a “dashboard” that makes visible what contributions faculty make to campus, and, without insisting that every person be identical, helps weigh different types of service commitments. The ACE dashboard model differentiates effort (high, medium, low) as well as time commitment. This also is useful for junior faculty to help them better understand the type of service they are taking on when approached with a request. 

The VPFA’s office can help you in this difficult, but important, work. The Faculty Workload Equity Committee will be working on these issues for the next year and sharing ideas and resources along the way.

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