The level of stupidity on display in David Levy’s Washington Post article Do college professors work hard enough? is astounding.

While Levy portrays himself as a life-long educator and academic and a “former chancellor of the New School University,” his article only reflects the growing disconnect between those who educate and those who administer and sit on boards of educational institutions.

(Oddly, a search for “”David Levy” AND chancellor” on the New School web site turns up zero results. He was, apparently, a CEO of the Parsons New School of Design, one of the branches of the New School. Beyond that, I dunno.)

Jill Kronstadt has saved us the trouble of deconstructing and rebutting Levy’s silly arguments in her astute piece on “The Shelf Life of Total B.S.”  For instance:

His contention that full time faculty only spend 15 hours a week teaching is especially outrageous. Levy writes: “Even in the unlikely event that they devote an equal amount of time to grading and class preparation [as they do to teaching], their workload is still only 36 to 45 percent of that of non-academic professionals.”

First of all, for most faculty, teaching “15 hours a week” means teaching 5 different classes, most of which have at least 25 students. In my department, we routinely spend 20-30 minutes commenting per student essay – and easily double that on the 8-10 page essays in transfer composition. We assign five essays a semester, minimum. Although I’m not a math whiz, my calculator says it adds up to 200-325 hours per semester on grading alone. For a 15-week semester, that’s an additional 13-20 hours a week just on grading. That’s not counting office hours, meetings with students outside of office hours, or prepping. If Levy thinks he can do a good job teaching without spending at least a couple of hours outside of class for every hour in class, he has no business calling himself an educator – and, based on the inaccuracies this essay, it’s clear that he needs to spend a little extra time fact-checking what he puts in print as well.

As for the “curriculum development, service on committees and community outreach” our faculty handbook “suggests,” Levy might not realize that these activities are not only part of our evaluations – in other words, that would-be slackers still have to participate – but are intrinsic parts of ensuring that our students learn. In an average week, most of us spend at least a few hours in committee meetings and a few more hours doing work for our committees. We engage in professional development so that we can be more effective in the classroom. And some of us, despite a lack of financial support from our institutions, still find time to engage in scholarship.

Over here where I work, scholarship and service count for more than half the job. The last time I tried to count the actual hours I spend on work (i.e., on stuff that gets counted as part of my workload), it averaged between 50 and 60 hours a week. Granted, that was before parenthood came along, but it’s still higher than anyone in my family — some would say anyone in their right minds — would like.

Barkley Rosser at Econospeak sheds more light on the topic, as does this Inside Higher Ed piece. But one of the more astute comments from among the 1,233 and counting that the Washington Post article has generated is this one:

Using this logic, sports coaches should be paid based on the game time they are actually coaching, generally fewer than 150 hours a year.

The ignorance shown in Levy’s argument that 15 hours in the classroom will not normally be accompanied by at least an equal amount in preparation, grading, reading, meeting with students, and all the rest, is stunning.


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