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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who Cares How Many Hours I Work?

According to the general public, a college professor works about 15 hours a week. Maybe 6 hours in the classroom and another nine preparing class and grading. Summers off, ample time between semesters...

According to the academic, the work-load is 50-60 hours a week. Research, committee work and other departmental obligations, peer review of articles...

I think both of those are wrong ways of looking at the problem.

Who cares how many hours an academic works?

40% of my effort is supposed to go to research. (Time, or effort? I'd say effort.) A good research year for someone in my field would be 2 articles and some measurable progress toward a larger project (book.) Or one article and even more progress. So a few Sundays ago, Oct. 3, I spent about an hour finishing the conclusion and introduction to a chapter. It shouldn't really matter whether I spend 1 or 6 hours on research on a given day. What matters is the task, not the time. If I am more efficient, so be it.

Teaching (teaching, preparing, grading), takes the time that it does. Service tasks take the time they do and I get them done very efficiently. What if I worked a ten hour week on a particular occasion (in the middle of the summer) and made a major breakthrough in my scholarship? Was I lazy that week? If someone asked you what you accomplished in a particular day, would you respond with a number of hours or with a list of things accomplished? Are you more impressed with someone with a long list of accomplishments or with a time-sheet showing a lot of hours put in at the office? If someone had an impressive list, you could pretty much ignore her time-sheet, right?

Academic life is increasingly cluttered. Academics take on huge commitments that aren't either teaching or research. Some of these activities are extremely valuable, so I'm not knocking those, especially if they contribute directly to these primary missions.


Of course, some people think scholarship in the Humanities is not worthwhile in the first place, but my contract says I am to do it and I intend to keep on with it.


Maintaining the scholarly base is itself a full-time job.

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