A Chinese Proverb: ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ or ‘That Which Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger’ — Faculty Roles and Responsibilities in the New Abyss

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A National Symposium

November 20–21, 2009

Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College
Atlanta, Georgia


Rapid and multiple societal changes appear to have demanded that faculty alter the traditional roles of educator, researcher, and community server into an expanded number of requirements and, in many cases, non-academic roles that put more time and resource obligations on faculty. While many of these new roles and responsibilities are directly related to the three traditional core roles of faculty, some appear to be either indirectly, tangentially or even remotely related.

After a review of the literature on current and future issues facing higher education, and discussions with faculty at various institutions, a number of new roles and responsibilities have emerged. This research has developed a listing of these new roles and responsibilities; and proposes a wider discussion of them by faculty at the National Symposium.

The implications of these new roles and responsibilities portend a new image of faculty by academic administrators. The purpose of this paper is to fully examine the duties and responsibilities of these new faculty roles, the impact of increasing roles on faculty and the implications of workload changes in academe. Thirteen new roles are identified and defined:

New Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Technical Wizard – The usage of IT hardware and software have required faculty to be knowledgeable and proficient in the use of Blackboard or WebCT, certification in Blackboard or WebCT, classroom instructional software, Digital Measures (which keeps vita, professional activities, assessment reports and developmental information online) and database management.
  2. Grant Writer – Increasingly, institutions (non-research schools) are requiring faculty to write grants and proposals that not only facilitate research, but bring revenue into the institution for general administrative costs. Some schools require that the grant not only provide monies for the faculty member’s research, but that the institution receives a larger portion of the grant.
  3. Ongoing Learner – Many new training programs by colleges and universities require that faculty attend these program in non-academic areas such as consensual relationships, sexual harassment, disability training, and software training.
  4. Admissions Worker – Many schools now require faculty to contact potential students by phone or mail, with some schools having faculty visit high schools for college day events.
  5. Non-traditional teacher – As more schools offer degrees through online programs, off campus sites, and evening/weekend scheduling; faculty are required, as part of the teaching load, to teach evenings, weekends, at off campus sites and online.
  6. Staff/Administrator Worker – Faculty are finding that many of the new assigned tasks deal with staff and administrative work which historically was not the responsibility of faculty, such as electronically filling out travel requests, leave forms, health requests, flex plans, and position postings.
  7. Decreasing role of policy maker – As many universities adopt the business model of administration, there appears to be less faculty participation in policy making.
  8. Fund Raising – Faculty are required to help support the school by raising money for schools.
  9. Sponsorship for clubs – Raising funds for speaker programs, scholarships, and travel monies to have students attend organizational conferences and competitions.
  10. Program Manager/Coordinator – Faculty are required to oversee, recruit, find resources and advise for their programs. Universities require faculty to develop schedules for their discipline.
  11. Counselor/Security Guard – Many students need extra advising about the things in life that affect them or ask for extra time to complete certain tasks because of their issues; faculty need to watch for students who exhibit unusual or threatening behavior, reporting them to campus security or the student affairs VP.
  12. HR/Supervisory – Faculty are required to take adjuncts through the hiring process and often to evaluate as well as mentor adjuncts. Faculty are required to be on Search Committees, both for full time and adjunct faculty.
  13. Institutional Researcher: Enrollment Statistics – Another requirement is for faculty to keep track of each class’s enrollment numbers; Feasibility Studies – Universities require faculty to conduct feasibility studies to initiate new minors and/or majors in their disciplines; Articulation Agreements – several different articulation agreements are required by the universities today. Faculty often work on these agreements and research what is being done at other institutions or by the system as a whole.


Expectations for faculty are expanding rapidly in this information age. As Dr. Carroll explains, “Professors must often balance schedules filled with teaching, service projects, and other duties, leaving little time for meaningful research” (2003). Outside stakeholders and public taxpayers are often demanding more value, greater economic oriented perspective and accountability from the teaching profession. In addition, external stakeholders hope universities will become “more performance-oriented by cutting costs and fostering innovations” (Harvey et al., 2006). Faculty roles are an obvious target for change since schools and universities are “human capital-intensive” where as much as “80% of cost is related to personnel” (Harvey et al, 2006). These outside influences in turn lead to greater “intensification” of faculty roles (Ballet & Kelchtermans, 2009). In addition to the sheer volume of duties and responsibilities of faculty, often professors face conflicting expectations at their colleges or universities.

In a recent study of the effects of the mission of a university on individual and organizational outcomes in higher education, it was shown that the mission that is most directly tied to the reward structure is the mission that motivates and influences what actually happens at an institution. Faculty seem to be more satisfied with their pay and the job as well as more attracted to positions at institutions that emphasize research overall or weigh research and teaching equally, according to Terpstra and Honoree (2009). In addition, their research performance is improved when research is given higher or equal weight to teaching than at schools that emphasize teaching over research. As an argument for equal emphasis on teaching and research, Guliuz and Hattie (2002) contend that strong researchers are more likely to know the “latest developments in their fields” and increase their teaching effectiveness by sharing this up-to-date information with their students.

In some public institutions, state legislatures have required professors to direct more of their time to teaching and less time to research. There is often a public sentiment that “teaching is of the utmost importance” but often this may be mere lip service (Cage, 1995; Milem et.al., 2000).

Over the years, much research has been conducted on the topic of business faculty evaluation, particularly on the relative importance of teaching and research productivity (Ehie & Karathanos, 1994). A national survey by the Carnegie Foundation found that 45% of business faculty felt that straight counts of publications are the chief indicator of research productivity at their institutions (Boyer, 1990). Bures and Tong (1993) surveyed 590 finance professors on the evaluation systems used to measure faculty performance and found that the number of articles in professional journals was the factor most affecting their performance evaluations.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the major accrediting body of collegiate business programs, takes a different view of faculty evaluation. Since 1991, AACSB has “advocated standards with a strong focus on the institution’s mission.” For example, if an institution positions itself primarily as a teaching institution, then teaching performance should count more heavily during faculty evaluations than scholarship activity. However, in several studies over the past 25 years, business faculty and deans of AACSB-accredited schools have consistently expressed the belief that publishing record is counted more heavily than teaching in faculty evaluations, regardless of the institution’s stated mission (Bures & Tong, 1993; Ehie & Karathanos, 1994; Tong & Bures, 1987).

In the 1989 Carnegie Foundation study, more than two thirds of business faculty agreed that we need better ways to evaluate scholarly performance (Boyer, 1990). Boyer asserts that “Standards must be flexible and creative … and innovation should be rewarded, not restricted” (1990).

Today’s classroom environment requires faculty to be very knowledgeable in the technology field. Faculty need to learn new software and be proficient in the use of it like Blackboard/WebCT and classroom instructional software. Blackboard/WebCT alone has had a tremendous impact on technology in the classroom. This technology change has been happening for more than four decades and has played an important role in universities (Sahin & Thompson, 2007). Faculty are also required to learn software, such as Digital Measures, that maintain faculty vita, professional activities and assessment reports.

With increasing competition between institutions of higher learning, there is more emphasis on campuses for all faculty, staff and administrators to take an active role in admissions from recruiting in the high schools and community colleges to attending college and graduate fairs at convention centers, local colleges and universities, and at corporate offices. Faculty are asked to play a strong role in attracting, enrolling, retaining and graduating students (Carroll, 2003). They may engage students in clubs and extracurricular activities, orientations, open houses, study abroad programs, high school camps during the summer and remediation/tutorial sessions. It is difficult for many faculty to find the balance needed to juggle all these roles. There can also be role ambiguity from the recruiting role to the teaching role, which may change from selling to telling, or coaching. With opposing goals, trying to increase enrollments as a recruiter versus limiting who is qualified to complete a program or course (i.e. screening for GPA, grade level, pre-requisites, entrance testing, minimum grade requirement) as a discipline coordinator or faculty member contribute to role stress (Gmelch & Burns, 1994). Stress is influenced by five factors overall: “time constraint stress” arising from administrative tasks and general duties like paperwork, meetings and interruptions; “departmental influences” such as knowing the evaluation criteria and what influences decisions; “professional identity stress” which relates to keeping current in the scholarly arena; “stress from student interaction” such as student evaluations, instruction and advising; and stress in “professional recognition or rewards” such as “inadequate rewards, unclear expectations and insufficient recognition” (Gmelch & Burns, 1994). Lee & Phillips do find in their research that “satisfaction with job autonomy and independence” can mitigate “stress from teaching load and research-publishing demands” (2006).

One school that has been very successful at teaching non-traditionally to students and teaching online is Phoenix University. “For example, online programs offered by institutions such a Phoenix University have become successful, at least in terms of enrollments, by focusing on the distribution (design and delivery) slice of the chain to grant their degrees” (Sasse et al, 2008). “Is technology turning college teaching into a 24-hour job? The growth of e-mail, course Web sites, instant-messaging software, and online courses has forced many professors to rearrange their daily routines and has made them more accessible to students than ever before” (Young, 2002). This shows that professors’ responsibilities are almost 24 hours a day. One Troy University requirement is that professors have to be online at least once every 24 hours during the week and every 48 hours on the weekend.

Faculty continue to be asked to increase their responsibilities and share in the governance of the university in implementing academic policies and following human resource guidelines. With the advent of technology and economic downsizing, human resource and academic affairs personnel at both the system and university level are finding that they can eliminate some of the workload in their offices and streamline processes by requiring faculty to fill out forms and requests electronically such as leave, sick leave, vacation, or change of grade forms; IRB reporting, computer repairs, or travel request forms, and travel reimbursements. Software like People Soft, ADP, SAP, Digital Measures, Chrystal Reports and Medical Option signups have made these tasks doable by the consumer and thus increased the workload of faculty. Similarly, students can fill out override requests, internship forms and other course-related forms electronically, which may be sent to faculty for their approval either digitally or by printing off the transmitted forms. In addition, faculty can be given administrative duties through titles such as coordinator, program manager, or department chair which exponentially increases their paperwork and administrative responsibilities. Some administrators are often not very cognizant of the implications of overloading faculty when it is not in their best interest, such as new faculty who need to concentrate on their tenure which puts more emphasis on teaching and research. These faculty members are not given credit for the administrative tasks they are being asked to add to their plate (Harrison, 2001) and may jeopardize their career success. In fact, Medina and Luna (2000) identified this issue as a particular problem for minority faculty. Junior faculty may think that if they comply with an authority figure in accepting administrative tasks, that they will be given “credit toward advancement but that assumption is not necessarily correct.” As mentioned previously this is one of the leading dimensions of stress for faculty in the area of professional rewards and recognition (Gmelch & Burns, 1994).

Because of shared governance, “decision making involves both the central administration and the faculty members of a campus” (Rowley & Sherman, 2003). Faculty are engaged in leadership roles since it is important to have expertise in particular disciplines to guide academic programming and not necessarily because they have sought out these roles.


  1. Find ways to connect research to other professional responsibilities to “increase engagement, enthusiasm, connectedness and overall productivity” (Carroll, 2003). Try to find research topics that are related to subjects taught or service projects that are being conducted in the community.
  2. Manage the resources of faculty members who are “outstanding in their behavior and organizational citizenship with financial rewards and non-financial rewards” such as reduced teaching or enhanced research support (Harvey et. al, 2006).
  3. Use perks such as conference attendance, better office space, graduate assistants or placement on key committees as a way to motivate senior professors to continue their involvement after tenure.
  4. Be transparent about how each faculty role activity will be evaluated and count towards tenure
  5. Give faculty autonomy and independence to choose their favored roles and concentrate on areas of passion.
  6. Don’t overload junior faculty who are on the tenure track. Carefully select their duties in collaboration with the faculty member. Assign faculty mentors to junior faculty.


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