Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Monday, March 26, 2012

Do College Professors Work Hard Enough??

David Levy, a former Chancellor at New School University, wrote an op ed article in the March 25, 2012 Washington Post where he basically argues that professors get paid too much for the work they do. As he states:

With the 1970s advent of collective bargaining in higher education, this began to change. The result has been more equitable circumstances for college faculty, who deserve salaries comparable to those of other educated professionals. Happily, senior faculty at most state universities and colleges now earn $80,000 to $150,000, roughly in line with the average incomes of others with advanced degrees.

Not changed, however, are the accommodations designed to compensate for low pay in earlier times. Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.

Paul Krugman responds by writing an op ed for the New York Times. Professor Krugman, who teaches a Princeton, take is that "the idea that faculty at big state schools, let alone community colleges, have it easy is just mind-boggling."

    My take on this is that anyone who thinks being a professor is easy because it only involves teaching 3 classes a semester does not know what most professors do. Teaching is only a small part of what they do. To teach 9 hours a week, the professor must prepare. They must also keep abreast of the latest developments in their fields. Many also spend a considerable amount of time doing research, meeting with students and serving on faculty committees. 

Are some professors dead wood. Of course, but some doctors, lawyers, accountants, journalists are deadwood as well. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

College Professors | Permalink


They must also keep abreast of the latest developments in their fields. Many also spend a considerable amount of time doing research, meeting with students and serving on faculty committees.

Posted by: sperm banks | Mar 28, 2012 3:54:04 AM

Sure, no one is really saying that law professors don't do other "stuff" - but little of that "stuff" is actual teaching. The majority of tenured law profs teach the same classes over and over again, mostly recycling their old material, which thus involves relatively little prep. Furthermore, most law profs have no real training in the art of teaching (which is an art), and thus, have very little idea of how to "prepare" and how to create a lesson or an engaging learning environment. Bottom line is, students pay tuition of $50,000 a year so that their professors can spend 6-8 hours on them in the classroom each week? Even full time professors are only part-time teachers. Sure, maybe a great professor with a great reputation due to his/her research brings notoriety to the school and indirectly benefits students... but, let's be honest: the majority of professors sit around coming up with esoteric research topics only to publish in 2nd/3rd tier law reviews that no one ever reads... especially not practitioners. At a time where tuition goes up and up and debt goes up and up, I think that we should start looking at professor productivity much more seriously. Students are paying for teaching, not just to "subsidize" research, pet projects, and meaningless school committees that make no palpable impact on student learning outcomes.

Posted by: John Jacobs | Mar 28, 2012 4:56:52 PM

I was an assistant professor at a NESCAC school. I did it after a seven year stint in management consulting, and before 12 years of running my own company, and before 20 years of practicing law. Preparing two hours for each hour of teaching was a breeze. Just how hard is it to stay ahead of (even very smart) undergraduates when you know your field cold? Keeping abreast of the latest developments in a field? My sister is a professor of French literature, her husband a professor of American History. Just how hard is it to keep abreast of fast-breaking developments in 18th century literature or 19th century social movements? The rest of the time, meeting with students (a great great joy), or working on faculty committees (a great great bore, unless you love "process"), is low stress -- and never requires you to board a plane at 0 dark 30, or walk into a firestorm. I weep not for academics.

Posted by: Fred Hopengarten, Esq. | Mar 29, 2012 7:56:51 AM

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