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Bill would require all UNC professors to teach heavy course load

Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) filed a bill last week that would require all UNC professors to teach no fewer than four courses a semester. It’s a move that, McInnis says, is an effort to make sure classes are not taught primarily by student assistants — but some are concerned it could hamper research and development at the state’s prestigious institutions of higher education.

“There is no substitute for a professor in the classroom to bring out the best in our students,” McInnis said in a statement, according to the Richmond County Daily Journal. “I look forward to the debate that will be generated by this important legislation.”

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Leonard. “Talented faculty would start looking for work out of state, it would be hard to attract junior faculty coming out of graduate school, and it would be impossible to attract senior faculty who bring a lot of resources to our institutions.”

Leonard says the most problematic consequence of the proposed law would be that the discovery and production of knowledge would grind to a halt.

“Which I suppose is okay if you don’t want to cure cancer, fix infrastructure or make new discoveries about manufacturing processes,” said Leonard.

SB 593 would tie professors’ salaries to their course loads—those teaching fewer than four courses each semester would earn less than their full salaries, determined on a pro-rata basis.

The legislation also allows for the salary difference to be made up by an individual campus’ endowment, should they determine a professor should take on a lighter course load in order to conduct research – but Leonard says that’s an untenable scenario for most campuses.

“Good luck with that,” said Leonard. “Almost all of the campuses that are not Research 1 institutions would have a hard time coming up with the funds to do that.”

According to the Richmond County Daily Journal, the bill would result in professors at big research universities like UNC – Chapel Hill finding their course loads nearly double.

The bill comes at a time when the state’s university system is undergoing considerable turmoil thanks to recent controversial decisions to raise tuition, close three academic centers and fire UNC’s widely-praised president, Tom Ross. The system has also been handed substantial budget cuts over the past five years by the state legislature, including a $400 million cut in 2011.

Sen. McInnis did not respond to requests for comment. Read the bill in its entirety below.

5 Comments


  1. Shanon

    March 31, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    They would also have to pay more of a professor’s salary. If a professor has a grant, they typically pay a large portion of their own salary through the funding.

  2. Adam

    April 1, 2015 at 10:33 am

    If we just look at the math
    A 3 credit course is 45 contact hours a semester.
    4 courses a semester is 180 contact hours
    For each class session, it takes about 8 hours to prepare so for 4 courses in a semester that 1440 hours – never mind the administrative time and grading time
    Total = 1620 hours

    If a semester is 15 weeks and we work 5 days a week for 10 hours a day that is 750 hours. Physically impossible.

    And we can forget about preserving infrastructure because there is no time for service
    We can forget grants, research, discovery, public outreach because also no time.

    You can’t change a system you don’t understand. Please stop.

  3. JWW

    April 1, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Time to start crafting an ‘NC legislators work load’ bill. It should include poorly expressed requirements that can’t be physically accomplished.

  4. hongtu

    April 1, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    All professors at UNC-Chapel Hill will quit their position and move to other states.

  5. Paul

    April 13, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Is there a petition we can sign to protest this terrible idea?

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