2021-22 University of Denver Workload Equity Committee Report

Letter from the Committee Chairs

Letter from Workload Equity Committee co-chairs on the the release of the report
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Download the Report

A PDF of the 2021-22 University of Denver Workload Equity Committee Report.

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Take Action Now

A collection of resources and concrete step to move forward on workload equity.

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1/12/2023 – Email from Provost Mary Clark


Workload equity reflects a complicated web of formal and informal policies and practices that have a significant impact on the experiences of faculty in academe. Over the last 18 months at the University of Denver, we have made progress toward understanding the problem through the work of a committee seated by the Faculty Senate.

The ensuing Report describes issues of workload equity facing our academic community, summarizes equity scholarship and the national policy landscape, and examines historic and current dynamics at the University of Denver. The purpose of the report is to update the institution on the committee’s work; share significant findings; and offer short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations for creating a more equitable place to work.

The Workload Equity Committee (WEC) was charged with bringing greater clarity and transparency to three interrelated areas:

  1. Faculty responsibilities and expectations
  2. Decision-making processes by which department and unit heads assign faculty responsibilities and set faculty expectations
  3. Standards through which faculty responsibilities and expectations are measured, assessed, and rewarded

To that end, the committee completed internal and national comparative research on policies, practices, and procedures. Relevant data and findings that inform this report are included as appendices. We expect that future workload equity committees will make further progress on data collection and sharing.

Our Recommendations are differentiated by stakeholder, and offer suggestions for short-, medium-, and long-term changes to improve workload equity, with attention to transparency, clarity, credit, norms, and accountability, as well as principles of faculty sovereignty and shared governance. We encourage you to read the table in full, but some of the most important recommendations include:

  • Creation of “guardrail” policies around service at the campus level that protect faculty against the worst inequities, while leaving room for individual units and departments to define workload within their context.
  • Faculty with discretionary authority—such as chairs, directors, and deans—should use this power to support equity for faculty in accordance with principles of shared governance and professional responsibility embedded in the University’s Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) document.
  • Departments, units, and the university should develop or improve tools for workload equity, such as dashboards, equity actions plans, articulated service expectations, etc.
  • “Invisible labor” and “relational care” work should be made visible and rewarded in merit, tenure, and/or promotion procedures, which may require changes in both policy and practice.

Our Summary of the Literature highlights the inequitable impact of service burdens on historically excluded faculty and/or women, identifying the categories of invisible labor and relational care work. We point to research that identifies the particular challenges faced by associate professors and those off the tenure track, such as Teaching and Professional Faculty (TPF), as well as the impetus for addressing workload equity as we emerge from the pandemic.

The Nature of the Problem at DU draws on historical and survey data, stakeholder engagement, and committee interview data to illustrate how the broader challenges of workload equity show up at DU. Although a lack of clear data makes it difficult to illustrate the interplay between workload and faculty and staff retention, they likely relate. Other issues include lack of clarity around expectations across units and faculty lines, and whether activities like faculty advising and mentoring are best counted as teaching or service. DU also faces issues around the appropriate counting and crediting of administrative work (e.g., various faculty director positions), especially for associate professors, and how “service” work in general is or is not recognized and celebrated.

In the Best Practices section, we share workload equity recommendations from the American Council on Education, including concrete tools that can be implemented. We detail approaches to workload equity at other institutions and highlight practices that might be applicable to DU. Work Underway at DU illustrates progress occurring on our campus, including creation of dashboards and draft policies in relation to workload equity, and locates areas for growth, coordination, and leadership.

Report Contents


Suggestions for short-, medium-, and long-term changes to improve workload equity, with attention to transparency, clarity, credit, norms, and accountability.
Jump to Recommendations

Summary of the Literature

Research that identifies the particular challenges faced by associate professors and those off the tenure track.
Jump to Summary of the Literature

Nature of the Problem at DU

Illustrations of how the broader challenges of workload equity show up at DU.
Jump to Nature of the Problem at DU

Best Practices

Recommendations, including concrete tools that can be implemented, as well as work already underway at DU .
Jump to Best Practices

Examples of Work Underway at DU

DU faculty and administrators have already taken steps to advance workload equity, including those detailed in this report.
Jump to Work Underway at DU


Committee Co-Chairs

Committee Co-Chairs
Renee Botta, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Kate Willink, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

Past Chairs

Sarah Pessin, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Kate Willink, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Committee Members


Brian Gearity, Graduate School of Professional Psychology
Dean Saitta, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Hava Gordon, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Erin Elzi, University Libraries
Michele Tyson, Morgridge College of Education
Deb Ortega, Graduate School of Social Work
Brian Majestic, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Oliver Kaplan, Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Alison Staudinger, Office of the Provost
Matt Gordon, Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science

Dear colleagues,

We, as co-chairs of the Workload Equity Committee, along with our committee members, are delighted to announce the release of our report on faculty workload equity. Here you will find the report as well as a website designed to support our collective next steps as we continue to move forward with Advancing Equity in Faculty Workloads and Rewards. For your reference, here is the original committee charge which sets out the scope of this report.

The report and website provide a set of guiding principles to frame faculty workload equity discussions, resources to guide these efforts, and a suggested timeline for this process. It is important to emphasize that the goal of these resources is to address inequities and create fair and equitable work environments.  With the aid of these tools, our hope is that departments, programs, schools and colleges engage in deliberative processes aimed at increasing equitable practices, processes, and policies that consider input from faculty of all rank and series.

A recently published study by the American Council on Education points out,

One of the most important, but often overlooked, areas in which inequity can arise is within the distribution of faculty labor…. the context that surrounds faculty workload reinforces and perpetuates workload inequities, and these inequities have the potential to undermine productivity, satisfaction, and retention (Eagan and Garvey 2015; Griffin et al. 2011; Misra, Lundquist, and Templer 2012; O’Meara, Bennett, and Neihaus 2016). It may seem challenging to address the realities of the existing faculty work environment, but academic leaders, departments, and faculty members can take action to create better, fairer, equity- minded workloads.

The same study also points to the growing inequities in workload that have resulted from the pandemic. Over time such inequities lead to faculty burnout and lower morale. As also described in the report:

We concede that opening the can of worms related to faculty workload may cause short-term discomfort as patterns of inequity emerge. Yet, addressing workload inequities now offers the long-term potential to creatively address some pandemic related workload demands, mitigate losses of faculty productivity, increase retention, and overall promote a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive academy.

 After spending the last eighteen months studying this complex topic, we have learned the following:

  • Deliberate designing for workload equity focuses on meaningful faculty work, our collective responsibilities to each other, and to the work of our departments, programs, schools, and colleges with an eye towards equitably sharing the workload across rank and series.
  • Workload equity begins by becoming clearer on all the contributions of our colleagues and identifying collective pain points and working to design processes, practices, and policies that make them better, one small step at a time.
  • Trying to do everything all at once is a recipe for failure and resentment. Trying to make improvements in one area, succeeding, and then celebrating small wins is the path towards sustainable, faculty-led success.
  • Workload equity is part and parcel of many of our existing practices—such as evaluating teaching, research and creative activities, and service; managing our curricular responsibilities; and thinking about appropriate service loads across rank and series. As such, improving workload equity processes, practices, and policies often involves improving what we already do.
  • The emphasis is not on doing something new or adding more work, but on working together to work better. We need to keep our eyes focused on valuing the many contributions of our colleagues, and in this way, supporting equitable workloads.

For AY 22 -23, the next phase includes:

  • Exploring how schools and colleges can innovate and iterate small wins in this work to make incremental improvements in workload equity, and to help identify and find solutions for pressing pain points. For example, in some units, working on equitable advising workload might be a priority for faculty, while in other units explicating service expectations for each rank might help clarify expectations and support greater equity in promotion.
  • Seating the AY 22-23 Workload Equity Committee (see Faculty Senate approved charge for details on the work of this year). Please reach out to Faculty Senate President Renee Botta if you would be interested in serving on the committee or if you would like to nominate someone to serve.
  • Continuing the local work of the Department Equity Action Planning (DEAPS) teams and to recruit the next cohort of DEAPS to begin in January 2023.

Please feel free to reach out to either of us with feedback on the report or to set up a meeting to discuss your experiences. This year's committee will continue this work and we will be happy to aggregate feedback with them to inform future action.

We look forward to discussing this report in the first Faculty Senate meeting of the year on September 16 from 11:30-1:30 p.m. As always, any faculty member is welcome to attend Senate meetings. Your senators will also be reaching out to you as this work continues.


With best regards,


Kate signature

Kate Willink
Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs

Rene signature

Renée Botta
President, Faculty Senate