One state worker whose salary I am glad to help pay is Marion Higa, state auditor. She asks great questions. The latest is "Why isn't the University of Hawaii faculty teaching more?" I am surprised she was not provided better information on the faculty's workload.
UH faculty do plenty
outside the classroom
State auditor didn't have facts
when she suggested faculty should
increase class hours
I am in class "only" nine hours per week, more than many of my colleagues in other departments at UH and more than my colleagues at universities on the mainland. Given that, why am I working 50-60 hours per week? Shouldn't it be much less? Let's check it out.
This semester I'm teaching a course I haven't taught in years. It is taking me about four hours to get ready for each class hour, preparing special materials for the students and getting myself up to snuff.
I also ask the students to write short papers. It takes me two weeks to get through them. I provide very intensive written and sometimes oral feedback. (I work from the premise that my students deserve the very best I can give them, and I'm never quite satisfied that I am doing enough, even for those who are less enthusiastic than I.)
Besides talking with those who come for consultation during, before and after my office hours, about three hours per week, I also take their calls at home in the evenings and on the weekends.
For the other two courses I give weekly quizzes and other assignments. It takes a while for me to get through all that and to provide the careful individual feedback I think my students deserve, usually half a day per assignment.
And then there are the two graduate students from other departments who, because of my special interest and research in teaching and learning, have asked for my assistance as they prepare their master's or doctoral theses. That's another two or three hours per week.
There are also the culture-mentoring seminars I attend every week in the business school and to which I sometimes contribute. That's another hour and a half, minimum.
And then there is the outside stuff, "community service." On a recent Wednesday morning I was interviewed on Hawaii Public Radio. I'm committed to helping our public school teachers -- and anybody else who is interested -- learn how to meet the needs of a vast array of learning styles, beginning in kindergarten.
And then there was a recent Saturday morning, one of my "non-work" days, when I assisted two state Department of Education people presenting learning style concepts to principals and teachers on one of their "non-work" days, and making sure that they have access to resources they need to improve instruction and achievement for our children.
And then there's Oahu Civil Defense, where I volunteer to coordinate the special skills of about 150 other volunteers. That's about three hours per week.
Add to that another volunteer group where I spend at least one evening a week participating, besides transporting equipment and people. I'm also on the board of that organization.
And then there's the department's technical committee. I'm a member of that, too.
After all that I try to keep up with developments in my fields of special interest, reading professional journals and books, and write up my own research findings, but there's not much time left. Currently I'm working on preparations for the third international conference on psychological type and culture, scheduled for next January in Honolulu, while still trying to edit the papers -- some late arrivals -- from the last conference.
Nobody ever asks what the faculty does during "off-duty" periods. Nobody I know has time to lie on the beach or stay glued to the boob tube. Summers and between semesters are great times for faculty to catch up on the latest findings in our fields, write to tell others what we have discovered, and incorporate all that into our teaching materials for the next set of students who are soon to appear.
If I am asked to teach another course, what am I going to leave out in order to do that, and still give my students the very best?
There are other problems with Higa's suggestions. One idea is to offer 2,396 more classes. Where are we going to put the classes, under the trees? On the Manoa campus we already have a serious shortage of classroom space. That's one reason adding classes physically won't work.
Another suggestion is that additional classes will enable students to take more and finish their studies earlier. Higa needs to know that maybe half of our students work at least part time, some full time. Some students take a full 12-credit load anyway, in effect, working two jobs. Learning takes time and a lot of effort.
Is it reasonable to ask them to cram even more into their overworked schedules? I don't think my students can do any more than they are now doing. Some are already doing too much -- their grades don't match their talents. They say they have no choice. Maybe Higa should ask some of the students if adding a class or two is really feasible.
Perhaps I'm a bit unusual, but I can't be that different from other faculty members, even though my significant other does complain sometimes about my giving more time to my students than I give to her. Most of my colleagues invest just as much time as I, although they focus their expertise and skills in every different ways that are not obvious to legislators and the public. I believe all of us will be very pleased to tell them and show them what we do.
Clearly, Higa was not given all of the facts. I'm quite sure that when she gets them, she will make excellent use of them. I'm ready to cheer her on.
Ray Moody teaches in the UH Department
of European Languages. The opinions in View Point
columns are the authors' and are not necessarily
shared by the Star-Bulletin.