Originally published Oct. 31, 2013

Co-written with editorial board

Faculty research requirements have come into question at Grand Valley State University, as noted in Ryan Jarvi’s front-page story. Administrators are working with professors to determine what should be considered “service” and how to monitor the number of hours each faculty member has performed.

We at the Lanthorn think professor volunteerism is absolutely essential to the university, and here’s why.

Remember that GVSU professors have different obligations than their counterparts at other universities. While Research One employees organize their time by putting research first and teaching second, those at GVSU have reversed priorities. Thus, they need to do something extra to elevate their status and allow them to stand out (or at least among) those professors leading research in their fields.

To make sure that our faculty members remain up to standard, we think they should be taking part in service opportunities off-campus: putting their skills to use in the field to better the community. This would not only enhance professors’ experiences/teaching abilities by ensuring that they have fieldwork under their belts, but it would show the academic and local communities that GVSU is a university that cares about something greater than itself. We’re convinced that off-campus service is necessary.

But this isn’t to devalue on-campus service. We certainly need professors to be involved in the campus community to foster good relations among departments, show students what it means to be responsible GVSU citizens, and contribute to the overall development of their workplace. However, there are problems with on-campus service opportunities, and they need to be addressed.

There are many ways that faculty can escape true service opportunities: they “double-dip” obligations, count office hours or join committees that hardly ever meet. Meanwhile, other professors help with a service project every week and are a part of committees that meet much more frequently. While making the faculty service requirements stricter would be better to keep professors more accountable, precautions should be taken to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

For example, if office hours no longer counted as part of the service requirements, then many professors would cut back on the time they are available—no matter how much they care about their students. The end result of this action would be hurting the students, not the faculty, in their studies.

Regardless of whether office hour requirements change, we think it’s important that professors devote time to committee activity.

The university should offer a list of committees and activities that faculty could join or take part in and how many hours of service each of these would count for. So, for example, one committee that meets more often could count for five hours while another that meets once a month could count for one. This way, there would be a set way for faculty to know how many hours they’ve completed, and professors who are more involved would benefit.


Original publication (on A4): https://issuu.com/grandvalleylanthorn/docs/issue_21_e01d647a791fb9