In consultation with the Deans and others, we have decided to clarify a few minimal standards concerning teaching loads. Three preliminaries, and then then rest of the blog simply sets forth the policy.
First, as noted below, different units have different specific policies, and it would be counterproductive to pretend to unify them too closely. There are differences in teaching formats and levels, in research commitments, and in other aspects that make considerable variety both necessary and desirable. It turns out that it is useful for deans to be aware of the various unit policies, but centralization is not in the cards.
Second, we do operate at a time when there is greater scrutiny of teaching responsibilities. As we rely more heavily on tuition funding, our government board and other agencies have a legitimate take in making sure that we’re behaving responsibly. And simple equity among faculty members pushes in the same direction.
But third and most important: there is no systematic problem, which means that the policy does not really change much. Most of our faculty are devoted to the teaching process, often going beyond requirements in taking on additional assignments with students, discussing pedagogical issues and improvements. We are most fortunate in this regard. A policy, then, is mainly designed to provide a basis for appropriate levels of consistency, to help deans and department chairs deal with the occasional request for major exceptions.
So here goes:
With its commitment to “students come first”, George Mason University pledges consistent attention to its teaching function and to faculty roles in teaching. Major academic units within the University have different specific missions, which leads to some variety in specific teaching loads. It is understood that in finding the balance between teaching productivity and research productivity, each faculty member will fall somewhere along the continuum. However, the University maintains some core standards which provide a general framework for unit decisions.
First, the Deans and the Provost commit to annual reviews of teaching load policies, to make sure there is adequate exchange and transparency on this important topic. There is also a general commitment to avoid the use of teaching load reductions as part of the faculty reward structure.
Units may of course develop policies to respond to funded research or to special circumstances such as service as department chairs. However, each instructional faculty member is expected to teach regularly; extended withdrawals from the teaching process, except through formal leaves, are not to be permitted. Tenured and tenure track faculty are also expected to perform some service functions and student mentoring without impact on the standard teaching load.
As of academic year 2015-6, Associate Deans with academic tenure are normally expected to teach at least one course per year. Chaired professors, including University and Distinguished Service Professors, do not receive teaching load reductions as a function of their title.
Each unit will arrange procedures to review all tenured faculty members at least once every three years to determine if they are research-active, as a factor in teaching load assignments.
George Mason University benefits greatly from the zeal and imagination of its teaching faculty. A core University role, teaching is also a valued opportunity for creativity and leadership.