To overcome the growing budget shortfall and improve course access for students, the University is expanding professors’ course loads for the next academic year. For those who are willing to teach an additional course, the University will only offer pay comparable to those who teach Graduate Liberal Studies Program (GLSP) courses.
According to the WSA Report from the February Board of Trustees meeting, increasing faculty teaching responsibilities was an option placed “on the table” to bolster the endowment if it continued to contract. Now, however, this initiative is off the table and onto WesMaps. At least 35 smaller courses and sections are in the works. Writing Creative Nonfiction, taught by Adjunct Professor of English Anne Greene, for example, has been divided into two smaller sections, both of which are listed on WesMaps. Other mid-size courses will also be divided into smaller sections containing no more than 20 students; several new 15-student seminars will also be offered.
As President Michael Roth explained in an e-mail to The Argus, based on the level of interest and the fields of participating faculty, the University may also hire visiting professors to complement these offerings. So far, only a small number of professors have agreed to take on additional teaching. Because the initiative is still under discussion, the official number has not yet been settled.
“Relatively few of our faculty will be involved in it,” Moon said. “It’s a handful of people.”
Faculty members who agree to teach an additional course will only receive compensation comparable to that received for instructing courses within the Graduate Liberal Studies Program (GLSP). A number of faculty members currently teach in the GLSP in addition to undergraduate courses and are separately compensated for doing so.
The small class initiative is supported by $1 million of funding from unnamed donors that will be spread out over the next four years, beginning in the upcoming fiscal year. The objective of the initiative is to increase the number of discussion-sized classes for students.
However, there are more faculty members who have expressed interest in teaching in the GLSP than there are spaces, said Donald Moon, Dean of the Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, who helped implement the program by speaking with faculty interested in taking on additional teaching.
“There is this interest on the part of some faculty [to teach an additional course], and here is this opportunity to provide them with some extra income and increase the number of discussion-sized classes,” Moon said.
However, the addition of an extra course could impact the set course load for all professors. The University’s current teaching load is two courses a semester, four courses for a full year.
“The Academic Affairs Committee does have concerns about the possibility of expanding course loads for faculty,” wrote Benedict Bernstein ’09, a member of the Educational Policy Committee and Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), in an e-mail to The Argus. “But [it] is also eager to work with the administration and faculty to find ways to alleviate several problems facing the University.”
Some professors have expressed concern that the initiative could set the standard as five courses a year, as opposed to four, and not be met by a comparable increase in pay considering the decline of the University’s endowment.
“There’s concern that this program provides an opening for an increase in the teaching load,” Moon said. “The administration has made it clear that this not what they’re proposing.”
When the program was first introduced, a number of faculty members raised questions about the ramifications of the initiative, wrote Joseph Rouse, Chair of Faculty, in an e-mail to The Argus. Some of these reservations were brought to the attention of Moon.
“A number of faculty expressed concern that this program should have been more widely discussed and brought to faculty meetings before implementing it,” Moon said.
However, faculty members are not required to take on an additional course if they feel it will limit their other academic endeavors, such as research, and serving on committees and as advisors.
“Since no one is compelled to do this, anyone who feels that their efforts would be spread too thin can simply refuse to take up the opportunity,” Rouse wrote.
Professor Greene has agreed to teach an additional section of Writing Creative Nonfiction next semester. The two sections will allow the class to focus more on discussion. Aside from increased discussion, Greene said that there are a number of different reasons professors may have agreed to teach an extra course or section.
“I think it’s an interesting experiment,” Greene said. “All of us who teach here understand the appeal to students of being in a small class. Although coming from a larger school myself, I certainly recognize all the virtues of large classes.”