Professors at Kean University in New Jersey are upset with a new teaching plan. Starting this fall, they will be required to be in their offices at least four days a week and to teach shorter but more frequent classes, including some on Fridays and Saturdays, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Wednesday.
Kean administrators assert that the plan’s purpose is to raise enrollment, get more mileage out of classrooms and buildings, and make professors more available to students on campus. However, the faculty union charges that professors were not adequately consulted regarding increased hours and that the plan is merely an attempt to micromanage professors and control their time.
While it is difficult to determine whether the disadvantages of spreading courses throughout the week outweigh the advantages, it is clear that imposing increased office hours on professors undermines their professional and academic freedoms while allowing students to continue drifting along in a sea of scholastic unaccountability.
Expanding courses to include days like Friday and Saturday that are typically deemed “the weekend” by students and professors comes with its fair share of drawbacks. Increased class meetings are inconvenient for students with outside responsibilities such as families or jobs. Additionally, as any commuter student at USF coping with the similar class time reforms enacted this year can attest to, attending more classes that last less than an hour seems downright unreasonable considering today’s painful gas prices.
There are benefits to reapportioning courses as well, including better utilizing classrooms, buildings and expensive resources such as heating, air-conditioning, lighting, electricity and water. For schools like Kean and USF that are experiencing budget cuts, saving on these costs while simultaneously opening up the possibility of adding time slots for more classes can prevent them from having to cut corners elsewhere.
The part of the plan that warrants much criticism, however, is mandating that teachers be more available to students, which at Kean apparently translates to sitting at a desk more often.
Requiring professors to physically be in their offices robs them of the flexibility that teaching careers traditionally afford and deprives them of the ability to perform other professional duties such as research and writing, which may require resources outside the confines of an office.
Moreover, professors are often readily available to students in myriad ways that do not include being in the office, including e-mail, call-forwarding services and alternative phone lines.
It should be up to the instructor and his or her students to determine the methods of communication that best suit them.
College is, after all, supposed to be a place where students enter a new realm of academic responsibility and learn to be accountable for their own educations instead of relying on teachers to hold their hands the entire way.