A Question

I was in one of my history classes today, listening to the lecture. The professor, a PhD, was discussing how some of the earliest colleges in Japan benefitted from instructors who lived beyond their means. Some top-of-the-line names in Japanese academia would work at Tokyo University, which was the only Ivy League-level school the Japanese had at the time, and then they’d moonlight at some lesser institution. This meant that those who couldn’t afford the big tuition could still get a top-notch education.

Okay, so far, so good. But I was wondering why he seemed so amused by it all. Then he reminisced about a colleague which had been caught doing the very same thing just a few years before. This fellow would perform his academic duties at Ohio State University, but then would get in his car and drive to one of the community colleges downtown so he could teach two courses there.

Okay, I’m still saying “So what?” The guy needs money ’cause he has a mistress. Or he doesn’t need to sleep more than 2 hours every day and wants to put his time to good use. Whatever the reason, what’s the difference so long as everyone he works for is satisfied with his performance?

But my prof then said that the axe came down as soon as OSU found out about his other jobs.

What the hell? Why did they do that?

The prof said that prestigious universities think that you should devote your time to them and that’s it! It’s considered a priviledge to work for them, and if you don’t spend all your productive time in their service then you’re stealing.

Hey, Ginny! You and your husband are academics. Is this actually true?

8 thoughts on “A Question”

  1. well… if you look at the job description for a professor, doesn’t it boil down to 4 hours a week in lectures, 1 hour for office hours, and maybe a few more for preparing, if that?

  2. That’s the norm for creative information workers. Everywhere I ever worked as an engineer, I signed a contract which forked over legal rights to all creative work I did, no matter whether it was formally during business hours or not. And as a practical matter that was as it should be, because “creativity” is a 24-hour-per-day effort. Some of my best engineering ideas came to me in the middle of the night. (One idea came to me while I was standing in line to get a flu shot.)

    What I’m wondering is the actual motivation for a professor to do something like that. I don’t think I believe it would be for the money. Perhaps for some sort of satisfaction he couldn’t get from his “prestigious” first employer?

  3. “Perhaps for some sort of satisfaction he couldn’t get from his “prestigious” first employer?”

    I have heard darks rumors, and this is only a rumor, I hasten to add, that some professors actual enjoy, well there is only one word for it…


    I am sure a shudder of horror just ran though many a faculty lounge.

  4. Shannon, that was exactly what I myself was speculating about. In fact, tenured faculty at “prestigious” institutions don’t spend a lot of time interacting with students, and even when they do it’s mostly grad students.

  5. Rummel,
    I will get back to you in a couple of days with the rules around here.

    den Beste is right, of course, but many do teach more than one place. This is especially true of the big names and those who are desired in both Europe and America (they may split their contract and do fall one place and spring the other). I suspect the difference with the example your teacher gave was that the teacher had not been up front and notified both parties or had signed a contract and not read the fine print nor bargained with them.

    This is long and partially, as usual, I got carried away. But I have this suspicion that the academic life is kind of a mystery. People don’t know how little – and sometimes how much – we work. I also suspect we end up with frauds like Ward Churchill because of that mystery – this is a place where a lot more transparency could help (and should – most of us are paid by taxpayers).

    Part of the reason neither my husband nor I know is because different collegs within a school differ and different universities have different rules.

    I do think there is a certain snobbery: a major research institution doesn’t want to think their faculty has the time or the desire to teach across town. They may well think it waters down the prestige. Of course, that is more than a bit irritating – freshmen and sophomores that come to our junior college are much more likely to be taught by a Ph.D.- and by one with a better reputation in that area than the research school across town awards; most teachers without Ph.D.’s are ABD. TA’s may be 1st year grad students.) If our students are accepted at the end of two years, their grades at the 4-year school are a fraction higher than those who spent the first two years at the research school. (Of course, they have some people who are barely hanging on and they only accept ours with a decent – high C or better – average, so that is deceptive. It is not, however, a sign that they are or have been taught in a second rate manner.)

    The class size of the 4-year school is likely to be in the hundreds; we keep ours around 20-25. And, of course, the tuition is higher as are the admission requirements. We take GEDs.

    As den Beste observes, creative work – no matter what time of day – can be considered university work product. But the university doesn’t “own” a book – even if most of the work has come from preparation for class. If you make much money from the book – that is, it is either popular (heaven forbid) or a textbook – it is not likely to weigh much for tenure, promotion, raises. But it is yours.

    Most administrators would like to argue that their staff is overworked when they are teaching one class a semester and they need every other second to spend on their publications. Another friend’s dept. chair was arguing that the tas in his department were overworked, but the fact she taught 3 courses with us weakened his argument. He took away her t.a.

    However, in engineering faculty often makes more on the side consulting (their university jobs are less important for the money than the credentials). The petroleum engineering department here is a good example of that, but they are not alone. Engineers were the best customers I had at my copy business. Some jobs were paid by government checks for research grants but often the billing and payment came from their consulting companies (some housed in attractive off-campus office buildings). A guy who did scheduling for an engineering dept said it was hell, because no one wanted to be on campus.

    Liberal arts faculty is less in demand. However, my husband “taught” an honors project for a student from another college, since she was doing a documentary and he is pretty much the only person with academic credentials in that area. He was paid (rather minimally) by that school and it didn’t bother his department. For twelve or more summers, he’s taught at the Polytechnic in Prague; faculty and grad students need tech writing help to submit their work in English-langauge venues. Obviously, this is far from the specialty of his upper level and grad student classes here in Victorian lit. I suspect many see that as not scholarly (it really isn’t) and the pay isn’t great; however, he likes it; it gets him to Prague once a year; and, he enjoys the acknowledgements on projects from CERN, etc., since his science is pretty much high school level.

    One of my friends bargained when they wanted her fulltime at our jr. college because she wanted to keep teaching the upper division course she, as a t.a., had taught across town. Another in the psych dept. does counseling. These are kept above board. The part-timers are often t.a.s as well. These are not (yet) major scholars and everyone accepts the fact that these are exploitable by all.

    There is a huge difference between my husbaqnd’s relation with his school and mine with mine. Many of his colleagues commute from fairly far away and get TR teaching assignments–teach one course most semesters, get semesters off fairly regularly. They can set their families up in locations they find more attractive. But then, he would long ago have not gotten tenure, not gotten raises, etc. if he didn’t turn out a book every couple of years.

    My life is comparatively salt mine labor.(And the reason I haven’t blogged much since September.) We are supposed to be in our offices 35 hours a week (and occasionally people actually check); we are supposed to keep at least ten office hours; we are supposed to assign and mark up 5000 words a semester per student in each of the five classes we teach.

    On the other hand, it is teaching: the classes are smaller; the students are truly diverse – in age and interests. The whole school sees itself as a “service business” – constantly trying to figure out ways to meet the student’s needs. While this may be true in theory at research institutions, this nurturing at a junior college is more tangible and less theoretic.

    I want to say I wake up every day thankful I’m doing what I’m doing. That is partially because, by our jr. college standards, I am lucky. I get to teach lit (there are few sections of it) and, frankly, even throwing in the 2-4 comp. courses a semester, the workload is a lot lighter than running a service-oriented business that is open 16 hours a day, seven days a week. And I love teaching in a way I didn’t when I was younger. I love the fact that you always refer to lit in the present tense because it continues to live–right there, in front of your eyes, as you stand at the front of the room with the book open before you.

    And a year ago, after a large party at our house, one of my husband’s colleagues e-mailed me commenting on how much fun the group of my colleagues seemed to have. I do think we are much happier than my husband’s department – we work harder and longer, we are paid less. But we are teaching – we feel good at the front of our classrooms. We feel needed and like we have a purpose. His colleagues often complain about how little time off they have or how little they are paid – they need those carrots to let them know that what they are doing has purpose.

    This is a long comment and doesn’t give you an answer. I’ll try to get back with one in a couple of days.

  6. It is true, and justification for the rule is
    pretty simple: a college Prof gets many perks
    in terms of reduced teaching loads and the like,
    to do his scholarly work, and using that granted
    free time to moonlight at another job is in effect stealing from one’s employer.

  7. Surely there was more to the situation regarding the OSU professor who was moonlighting. The nearby community college is frequented by both OSU faculty and students.

    OSU’s policy is quite clear and does not discourage this activity, but notification is required and the work should be done after general working hours. So teaching an evening or weekend class should not be of any concern.

    It would in fact be illegal to blanketly deny the instructor the right to work. Certain intellectual property restrictions are reasonable, but simply lecturing after hours is very common.

    You can read OSU’s policy here.

  8. Thank you kindly for leaving the comment, Bryan. I’m now sure that there must be more to the story, and I think I’ll have to discuss it with my prof to find out what that is.


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