# I imagine that would be silly

Suppose there was an imaginary university. (is that statement redundant?) Let me call this TIU (The Imaginary University). Also, suppose TIU offers summer courses. Further, suppose there is an instructor teaching 2 sections of lab during the summer. Here is a communication that instructor might have received.

Dear Person Teaching a Summer Course:

It appears you are teaching 2 sections of lab. One lab only has 13 students enrolled in it. We have determined that it is not financially appropriate for us to give you a full course pay for this partially full lab. We are going to pay you 13/15th of the previously agreed on payment for this course. Have a good day.

Wouldn’t that be silly? Let us just pretend that this was actually true. Why would this be silly?

• The biggest problem is that this is penalizing (financially) faculty for something that is really out of their control. Might as well reduce their pay if it rains also.
• I think this sets a really bad precedent. I can see what will be next, pay scales based on your grade distributions – more A’s = more pay.
• Suppose this instructor’s other lab section had 25 students in it? Would this instructor get 22/15th for that course? Because if that was the case, I guess this wouldn’t be so bad. Note that the normal lab has a maximum enrollment of 24 students.
• If there are only 13 students in the lab, will there be significantly less work?

Well, what would The Imaginary University say in response to their policy? I imagine it would be something like this:

• Don’t you understand we are serious budget issues? We already tried turning off the lights to your building on Fridays, but you keep on working there.
• This is your own fault. You should make sure that your classes have full enrollment.
• Why do you want to work during the summer anyway? Don’t we pay you enough?
• How can you have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Really, I only see one solution for an instructor in this position. The instructor can insure that next summer the enrollment is high. I wonder how an instructor could do that. Hmmmm……let me see if I can think of a way to encourage students to register for classes during the summer.

Good thing this is just an imaginary university or I would be really pissed.

1. #1 Elf Eye
June 15, 2010

My university has a policy that if a summer course does not reach an enrollment of fifteen, the instructor may be offered the choice of either declining the course or teaching it at \$ 300 per capita. However, the decision to send out such a letter is not made until after the course is already underway. In fact, this year contracts were not issued until the beginning of the fourth week of the summer term. This means that instructors teaching five week sessions were past the midway point of their courses. What kind of choice would that be: to teach at less than full pay or to walk away from one’s students after committing three weeks to the course (more when preparation time prior to the course if factored in)? Worse, instructors teaching in a three week intensive term had completed teaching their courses before receiving their contracts, leaving open the ludicrous possibility that the instructor of an under-enrolled course could be given the choice of teaching a course per capita or declining to teach a course that had already been taught! Now, to be fair, when the contracts were issued, everyone in my department did receive full pay, even for under-enrolled courses, but there is no guarantee that this will always be the case, and I find it infuriating that instructors should be expected to begin a semester without being certain of their compensation.

2. #2 Jason Buell
June 15, 2010

You have no one to blame but yourself. Instead of wasting your time going on cnn, you should have spent your time putting flyers in windshields.

3. #3 Fran
June 15, 2010

I imagine that the instructors at TIU might decide to unionize. Unions (imaginary ones, anyway) are very good at negotiating better work rules for their members.

4. #4 Rhett Allain
June 15, 2010

@Jason,

Flyers! I didn’t even think of that. It could go something like:

“enroll in Dr. Allain’s summer course. He was on CNN.”

5. #5 Eric Lund
June 15, 2010

Read the contract language carefully, and be ready to hire a lawyer if you think TIU is trying to do something the contract says they can’t do. Sometimes a nastygram from a lawyer gets the desired result.

IANAL, but I suspect Elf Eye’s scenario of the university unilaterally reducing compensation for a course already completely taught is likely to be actionable.

6. #6 coldbilly
June 15, 2010

Isn’t TIU also considering eliminating its physics degree? Should it, I suppose we won’t have to suppose that its TIU. It will be TIU.

7. #7 The Phytophactor
June 15, 2010

Our not imaginary institution has a crazy summer pay scale that basically says 1 three hr course is 1/4th of your fulltime equivalent so we’ll pay you 1/4th of your salary for teaching this one course. Now here’s where you bend over for the soap. Since it’s a summer course you teach it in two months, at twice the number of hours per week, rather than over 4 months, so you get half as much money to teach the same course in the summer as in a regular semester. And some faculty have never figured this out and others are so needy they teach anyways. When they ask me to teach in the summer I open the salary negotiations by saying my time is at a premium in the summer, and the offer always goes away. Good thing I can afford to turn them down.

8. #8 spork
June 23, 2010

>>Flyers! I didn’t even think of that. It could go something like: “enroll in Dr. Allain’s summer course. He was on CNN.”

Have you considered that your appearance on CNN may help explain the low enrollment? Are you on the hook when students ask for a refund?

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