Monday, July 06, 2009

Liverpool: More Than Home of the Beatles

By Richard Vedder

When I think of Liverpool, I think either of a somewhat grimy British industrial town or of the Beatles, who started there. But Liverpool has produced a new higher education development: an attempt to make faculty work in their offices. The faculty of Liverpool Hope University are furious --what are they justified?

Liverpool Hope wants its employees to spend 35 hours a week on campus --in class, in their offices, in meetings, etc. Since I suspect the faculty work no more than a 40 week "year", the school is asking employees to spent 1,400 hours a year on campus for a year's pay. Since the typical American worker puts in at least 1,800 hours annually on the job, that does not seem unreasonable. But most faculty would view an edict such as that at Liverpool Hope with great alarm.

Why? Faculty say "professionals" should not have to account for their time. They often can and do work from home, particularly viable in this age of computerized information. However, this argument has only weak validity. Almost all professions have persons who do most of their work from a workplace --doctors, lawyers,accountants,architects, etc. Much of what faculty SHOULD be doing typically involves interaction with students and other faculty.

Interestingly, in the hard sciences where expensive equipment is needed to do research, a large portion of the faculty are at the office most of the time. But go into a building with faculty offices in the humanities, social sciences, education, journalism, business, etc., during most of the school year and the offices are likely to be perhaps 25 percent occupied. Some of the faculty are in class delivering lectures or delivering papers in other locations, etc., but some of them, are, well, doing God knows what. I know a lot of faculty who I doubt honestly work more than 30 hours a week for 40 weeks a year.

A compromise is possible on this issue. I think universities and liberal arts colleges can reasonably expect faculty to be on campus more than 20-25 hours a week, or at least three days weekly. This means more time spent in class, meetings, and three hours of formal office hours weekly, but sufficiently low to let faculty spend a day or even two each week working from home. Yet faculty would even view such a modest rule like this as a huge insult to their professionalism and freedom of expression. Tough.

For the record, on a typical week I am on campus the 35 hours weekly the Liverpool Hope requires --even in periods like now when I am not receiving a dime of pay. I just think that is what professionals do. I recognize that others have different work habits, and my 25 hour work rule would allow a fair amount of independence, including work at home a couple of days weekly, for those who actually work a full work week. But it would force faculty to spend a bit more time around campus, hopefully being available for students needing help.

1 comment:

capeman said...

For once I find myself somewhat in agreement with the Doc. On this:

"Interestingly, in the hard sciences where expensive equipment is needed to do research, a large portion of the faculty are at the office most of the time."

He is correct. Though I'm not sure how much of it has to do with the expensive equipment. Perhaps it's that to keep the money rolling in for the expensive equipment -- grant money, or as the Doc has called it, prostitution -- the whores do have to produce. But I'd say it has more to do with being interested in their work, and needing to be around a certain amount to get it done.

I can't say about the humanities, business, law types staying away from the office, or how much work they actually do at home.