Sunday, November 14, 2010

Faculty Workload

Following on to the first post of this eagerly awaited series, Eli moves the subject of faculty workload. The Rabett is not whining, but he is discussing motivation for the pursuit of grants. This is a US centric post, but there are comparable issues everywhere, which is what comments are made for.

Any such discussion in the US starts with, the obsessively known to academics, but little known to non-academics and students, fact that tenure track faculty are only paid for nine months work and research faculty are not paid even bupkis by the universities. Sometimes, as in the case of medical school faculty, they don't even get nine months. Eli will discuss research faculty in the next post of this series

That's right bunnies, yrs truly either hustles up an additional third of his salary, or endures a certain disdain from Ms. Rabett. There are three ways of doing this, teach summer courses, a death march, given the short summer terms and the amount of material to be taught**, find grant salary support or seek a summer research position at a national laboratory with 10K other faculty. Failing that, one can work for free, become a greeter at WalMart or go sit on the beach.

The casual reader may think that bright, expert Rabetts can charge what they are worth for summer salary, but alas, that is not so. First, the Feds only pay at the same rate that the Uni pays you during the academic year. This goes by the name of the Institutional Base Salary, aka IBS. Second, Rabetts can only claim summer salary for time Eli is actually working, so vacations can't be charged for (some, not Eli, honor this in the breech until they are caught). Granting agencies frown on paying more than a month, so at least two grants are needed. Charge 100% of the time for a month to a grant, and Eli can't (at least in theory) work on anything else, so the safest thing is to have two or three grants (Eli wishes) and proportionally charge each over the entire summer leaving 5% or so uncovered so to write more proposals or go to the can.

Others are saying, well, why not go naked during the summer. This is allowed on certain beaches, and may be possible at the best research universities, but for someone not working at a top 50 place, nine month IBS's for Professors can be less than 100K, often much less, and salaries for Assistant and even Associate Professors can be, well, let's say, not very much, even at the top fifty places.

Which brings us to the academic year. Academic year workloads depend on where. Research university faculty tend to teach one course a semester (1+ 1) or even less. They also tend to have graduate student teaching assistants. OTOH they are expected to bring in grants that support their graduate students and post-docs as well as pay overhead (now called F&A for facilities and administrative costs). More on that later. Faculty at comprehensive, or teaching institutions typically have workloads of 2+2, 3+2 or even 3+3, which translates as the number of courses taught each semester. In general each course has three weekly contact hours. One can explicitly buy out of teaching responsibility through grants. This does not increase annual salary, but rather changes the mix of responsibility (e.g. instead of teaching 2+2 if you got 50% of salary from grants, you would teach 1+1). However, someone bringing in a significant amount of grant funding, will, in general, have a lower teaching load, and if done long enough, the IBS will increase in the next year, etc.

Now, 2+2 or 3+2 may not seem much to a K-12 teacher but that does not include research and advising research students. Add research on to such a load, especially when you are competing with folk at the research universities for funding, and the workload avalanches.

**Eli's department refuses to teach Physical Chemistry during the summer, because it is unreasonable to expect that students will assimilate the material in the short six week summer semesters. We have experimental proof.


Anonymous said...

Ecological footprint, degrowth, time to value things that ain't money, right? :)

I voluntarily changed my life from 120K to 16K and I'm more than happy that I did.

Poor Happy Mouse

coby said...

The misses my be trying to pull the fur over your eyes, but I must tell you that 9 months is 3/4 not 2/3!

Anonymous said...

Not a recipe to attract the best and brightest into academia. Learn how to drive a haulpak (ginormous dump truck) and earn more.

Little Mouse

willard said...

Under the dire circumstances described therein, sitting on a beach three months to whine about a meager 75k salary still looks like the best plan. Naked or not.

jmadison said...

I think willard nailed it. I'm a lowly adjunct earning in the high $40K's, obviously not in the same league as a big-time researcher, but still making > 50% more than the local median _household_ income myself. This is probably not the best time to be complaining about earning less than six figures for a much sought-after and privileged position.

Anonymous said...

Be a 'prince' and not a grinch, get a job at UST, it now seems to be all a-bout straightening the corners. Numbers are for nutters...

"As an International Monetary Fund official from 2001 to 2004, Geithner failed to pay his payroll taxes, which transition officials say is a common mistake for U.S. employees of international organizations who are technically considered "self-employed."

The IMF, like the World Bank, reimburses employees for these taxes with the expectation that they will file themselves. Geithner paid part of the back taxes he owed after a 2006 audit, but didn't pay the balance of $25,970 until after his nomination as Treasury Secretary last November. Senate Finance Committee members, Republican and Democrat, have publicly waved all this off as an honest "mistake." (Senior committee members were informed of the tax issue in December.)"

It never added up and they; still, pulled him back in.

He blows...
Everybody knows

EliRabett said...

Nope, not complaining, merely noting how it is. That three month gap is significant no matter what you earn. Basically faculty salaries range from ~60K to 180K for the nine months, and places range from the middle of Kansas to the middle of Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Once, upon a time, you could have bought the whole island of Man-hat-tan, for just a cover & song. From what I read though, they still take checks.

Wheat of White
We, are all toast..


Jim Bouldin said...

Wow, influence! Anyway, it's 'bout time rabbit, that's all I can say. Anybody that's not in this thing for the money (+/- fame and the periodic trip to Cancun and Letterman appearance) needs to re-examine their priorities. Get the dough or get out, that's my motto.

Anonymous said...

We, all would if we could?:o)

Anonymous said...

You'll only travel a couple hundred miles from the middle of Kansas to Manhattan Ks ....



Anonymous said...

Some will no doubt take this post as just a demonstration of how climate scientists just want to inflate the danger of global warming so as to rake in the bucks. What your post actually shows is that going into academic science (especially physical science as opposed to biomed) is not an easy way to make money. Anybody with the brains to do physical science could easily make bigger bucks in something else, if that's what they really were after.

Besides that, I think your "three months" overstates the case. It's very rare for people to pay themselves more than two months. NSF doesn't even generally allow that, and to pay three months you really have to be not taking any summer time off the grant work AT ALL -- not even for pursuing your own unfunded research. Most of the academics I know actually wind up spending grant money on students or postdocs, leaving nothing left most years for summer salary.

Still, it's a great profession, and the living standard is much more than adequate for people with any true sense of values.