Faculty Workload Policy

The principal roles of the tenured and tenure system members of the faculty of the College of Natural Science are research, classroom instruction, other forms of engagement of graduate and undergraduate students, and leadership/service. The distribution of an individual’s effort among those roles can be different for different types of appointments and can vary over a career and among disciplines. These policies describe the normal expectations within the College. Departments and Programs should have comparable and compatible written policies. The overriding principle is that in all cases the assignments of a faculty member should result in a full-time effort. Criteria for reappointment, promotion and tenure are described in the Guidelines for Faculty Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University.

Tenured and tenure system faculty are expected to successfully undertake the full set of research, instruction and leadership/service roles with the distribution of effort dependent principally on research productivity, graduate student supervision and administrative assignments. For faculty with well-funded research programs and large graduate programs, the expected teaching load is dependent on disciplinary norms, the amount of external funding and the size of the research and graduate program. The expectations in each unit should be discussed and approved at the College level. For faculty without an externally funded research program but who publish at a moderate level and who undertake a normal level of effective committee work and other service to the university, the expected teaching assignment is two courses per semester. In cases where there is little or no scholarship and the normal level of effective institutional service is not present, the teaching assignment may be as many as three courses per semester. Exceptionally large courses requiring complex management can be the equivalent of one and a half or two courses depending on the amount of work. Advising or administrative roles may substitute for a course assignment, but the full set of assignments should result in a full-time effort.

In a few fields, individual external research funding may not be the expected norm. In these cases, the department should develop alternative criteria for evaluating the magnitude of the effort and contributions to research and supervision of graduate students. In extraordinary circumstances, a faculty member in an area with the potential for external funding may have an outstanding program in research and Ph.D. education that warrants reduced teaching responsibilities. These cases should be discussed individually at the College level.

Faculty who lose external funding should be given an appropriate time period to reestablish funding before being assigned increased teaching responsibilities. This requires the faculty member to aggressively pursue external funding during that period, which is typically two or three years in length.

Developing a prominent and well-funded research program is a critical task for untenured faculty members during the probationary period, and the university has high interest in their success. It is important that they also develop a strong teaching record during this time. Thus, normal teaching assignments during the probationary period should be equivalent to that of a research active faculty member. Some units also provide course releases during the probationary period to allow establishment of a research program.

It is important that all faculty members fully understand their workload and performance expectations. These should be described in the initial letter of offer and should be updated as they change during a faculty member’s career.

Annual evaluations should reflect these expectations, and Departments and Programs should develop salary review policies that reflect the individual’s workload distribution and quality of contributions to research, teaching and leadership/service. Proposals to the College for merit salary increases may be based on outstanding performance in any of these areas of activity.