UM faculty say changes could cut into quality

They point to professors' many nonteaching tasks

October 20, 2004|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Denny Gulick, a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland for the past 40 years, is teaching two classes this semester, advising graduate students on their theses, mentoring others. He spends his time answering e-mails from students and colleagues, doing research and - in those rare free moments - working on a new edition of his book.

Now there is a cost-cutting proposal from the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents recommending that professors from all of the state's public colleges and universities increase their teaching load by 10 percent.

"If you're running as fast as you can run, and then they say turn on the speed, that doesn't make sense," said Gulick, who is chairman of the undergraduate math department at College Park. "I'm happy doing what I do, but I can't do more. Something's got to give."

Like Gulick, some faculty leaders said yesterday they worry that the quality of education could suffer if too many burdens are placed on the teaching staff. Under the proposal, those teaching at the two research universities - College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County - would have to increase their workload to an average of 5.5 courses annually, up from five now. At other schools, workloads would increase from seven courses to eight a year.

The goal, like that of 15 other recommendations made by the regents committee, is to find money to pay for new programs and students without further increasing tuition, which has jumped 30 percent in the last several years. Even university leaders who helped with the courseload proposal said they worry about the effect of such a rule.

At UMBC, faculty bring in $90 million in grants and contracts, said Provost Arthur T. Johnson. "It's not necessarily that they want to teach less," he said. "They need time to do their other work." He warned that top professors could be lured away if the state imposes too many demands. "We have other schools seeking the very best of our faculty," he said.

Said College Park Provost William W. Destler: "Just to look at podium hours doesn't even come close to reflecting their actual workload. Faculty courseload is not the same as faculty workload."

College Park student body President Aaron Kraus said he would support having professors teach more because, he said, students can't bear any more of the financial burden. "In an ideal world, the faculty shouldn't have to be increasing its workload and should concentrate on research," said the senior from Long Island, N.Y. "But it's a way to save money."

Another recommendation would push students to complete their degrees on time so there can be room for members of the "baby boom echo" who are expected to finish high school in the next several years. If students take too long to graduate, the state would charge a penalty.

"This isn't a very student-friendly policy," said Hannah Putman, a senior from Severna Park. "I'm sure for some students it is laziness, but for most it's not. The reason they go to college is not just to get a good job and make money, but to become a more well-rounded person."

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