April 2015 Advocate – Concerns about excessive workload


AFT & Senate leaders discuss concerns about excessive workload

by Teeka James, AFT 1493 President

On March 2, 2015, AFT Executive Committee members met with the District Academic Senate to discuss what appears to be near universal distress on the part of faculty over our ever-expanding workload. We all know the drill: SLOs, committees, evaluation, hiring, program review—oh yeah, and teaching. During the conversation, it became apparent that while in some cases our workload has expanded through addition—with new responsibilities, such as handling email or assessing SLOs, being added to the faculty docket—in others, responsibilities have simply swollen from their once manageable states into a many-headed Hydra.

Mythical serpents aside, the problem seems to be one of scale: not only are there too few hands to make light work, but too many folks are slow to pitch in, leaving most of the burden to a fraction of the faculty ranks. In fact, the AFT workload survey (spring 2013) revealed uneven distribution of workload amongst full-time faculty as a primary factor in burnout; the survey also indicated that part-time faculty are interested in participating in committee work, provided that they are paid for it. The center of the problem—too many tasks, too few (willing and paid) workers—has two obvious solutions: increase the number of workers or decrease the number of tasks. Before we can take either approach, we need to figure out how much (non-teaching work) is enough, with “enough” connoting both manageable load and equitable distribution.

It won’t surprise anyone that we have no solution yet, just fantasies, but AFT and DAS agreed to meet again later in the semester. In the meantime, we are cataloguing committee seats and listing faculty duties in as much specific detail as we can muster so that we can cross reference our contractual obligations against our lived experience. Just as Heracles could not defeat the Hydra without help from Iolaus, we’ve got to tackle this workload beast together, or else watch what scraps of sanity we cling to be devoured by exigency.