Are professors under-worked?

According to Dick Morris, I’ve joined a cushy profession. Professors don’t teach very much, which makes college expensive. He argues that by requiring faculty to work harder “approximating the work week the rest of us find normal” and holding down some administrative costs, the tuition can be cut in half!

Comments on The Choice sum up the reaction — mainly, that strong opinions are easy to have if you have no clue what you are talking about. Most have focused on the ridiculous claim that faculty don’t work very hard, presumably due to Morris’s odd belief that the only time professors spend working is time spent in the classroom. Morris would presumably cringe at the claim that the only time he spends working is the time he is physically typing out an article.

Well, maybe not Morris. There’s no evidence in this article, at least, that he spend any time doing research. But most faculty spend a lot of time doing research, preparing for class, grading, sitting on committees, meeting with students, etc. When I find one who works less than 50 hours a week, I’ll ask her secret.

There are also some funny numbers. Morris argues faculty typically teach 5 courses per year, spending 18-20 hours in the classroom per week. If they were to teach 8 courses, they’d spend 24 hours in class per week. Increasing the number of courses by 60% seems to only increase hours by 20%-33%. Sounds like profitability through magical thinking.

There is one point that Morris could have made, though: some universities could be made cheaper by having faculty do no research and less preparation for class. This wouldn’t necessarily be an ideal situation, but it would be cheaper. The question is whether it’s worth the cost.

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