The author of a report that decries UT-Austin faculty workloads said he doesn’t believe his conclusion about the University needs to change, despite new and verified faculty data released by the UT System.
Last week, the UT System released updated data detailing faculty salaries, class sizes and tenure status, an update on system data released May 5. A report from the Center for College Affordability & Productivity noted, based on the original UT System data, that 20 percent of UT-Austin faculty teach more than half the student body.
Richard Vedder, an economist from Ohio University and author of the report, said UT would be able to significantly reduce inefficiencies and tuition if the remaining 80 percent of the faculty, who teach smaller and fewer classes, increased their teaching loads. Vedder said the new data list one group of senior administrators as non-instructional faculty, differentiating them from other faculty who teach one or two classes a year. The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education said last week Vedder’s report considers that group among the “least productive” faculty members.
Vedder also said there is great disparity in faculty teaching loads because most professors are teaching smaller classes and doing research as well. Some research is not cited by anyone or is only published in obscure journals, which fails to serve society, he said.
“People [are] writing hundreds of articles about self-esteem,” Vedder said. “[It has] sort of an anti-intellectual quality to it.”
He said unless the impact of the research is extremely high, professors shouldn’t have flexible teaching schedules — rather, they should increase the number of students they teach each year.
English professor Jerome Bump said he is doing research that involves students going out in the community and rescuing animals that are sentenced to death because nobody is willing to adopt them. These students work with Austin Pets Alive! and write small biographical advertisements on Craigslist to save animals, Bump said.
“This assignment gives students an ethical motivation to write,” he said. “It strengthens the foundation of ethics, which enhances the ultimate ethical virtue: compassion.”
He said people like Vedder are out of touch with the origins of the University. One of UT’s graduation requirements is that students take at least one course with a leadership and ethics component. These courses develop a sense of ethics and morality in students, which Bump said is so essential and beneficial for society.
“[This] means creating leaders in society that democracy cannot function without,” he said.
Bump said the sense of morality is far more important to cultivate than learning how to make mobile homes, which Vedder would most likely consider more important than humanities and arts.
“The minute you stop valuing arts and humanities, you’re instantly doomed,” said Student Government President Natalie Butler.
Butler, a communication and liberal arts senior, said nobody knows the value of any research until someone starts doing it. Research done in liberal arts can help students develop good writing and research skills, she said.
Gordon Appleman, UT alumnus and member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, said it is highly unusual for the UT Board of Regents to request data that will cast the University in a negative light.
“These people seemed to be intent on harming the University,” Appleman said.