Is it OK to email a dept's admin assistant or the search chair to ask about the teaching load for a position? If not, how do you find out what the load of the position is? Are all Cal State's 4-4?
Date: 26 Sep 2014 20:27
Number of posts: 23
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Such a good question! I don't know the answer, but I'm glad you asked. I have a job but my eye is on the market. Applying takes time (on my end, my recommenders', and the search committee's). So I don't want to consider any jobs that have a higher teaching load than what I have now, because I wouldn't take an offer from one! I realize that loads are tricky because in some places it is easy to get releases for doing other things, but it would be a HUGE help if job descriptions would have some vague sense of the load. I really appreciate the schools that do mention how much teaching there is.
I think most SLACs and Master's level places have 3-3, and most primarily undergrad state schools have 4-4 or higher. Don't assume places that have phd progrms have 2-2 or lower (although it is true most of the case). I was once interviewed at a place with a phd program and i was stupid enough to ask if their teaching load is 2-2; they were a little awkward and told me that it was 3-3.
Ask. Departments want you to be an informed applicant so you'll make a happy colleagues. If for some reason your think the interaction will be awkward then look at CVs and possibly contact their recent JF hires.
There are other ways to find out about teaching load (and other things) without asking. Search for the faculty handbook online; it will usually have policies about teaching load, office hours, and tenure, all of which will important to consider, especially if you're looking to move into a better situation than you're in (all institutions I've worked at had them online for anyone to see). Many colleges also have the course schedule for the current semester online. You can go and look at the department and see how many courses everyone is teaching, how many adjuncts, etc (you would have to do more legwork to figure out whose tenure-track and who's adjunct). At my previous institution, it was a 4-4 load, but faculty were regularly expected to take overloads, which they probably would not eagerly disclose if you asked, but that information would be apparent on the course schedule (look, that guy is teaching 5 courses and is the department chair, yikes!).
I have tried the method suggested by grass_is_greener (looking at course catalogs and cross-referencing with faculty names/roles), but it is hard to tell from place to place what "counts" as a course. For instance, my load now at a pretty well-ranked SLAC is a 2-3, but research supervision and honor's projects are on top of the course load. If you look at our catalog, it looks like the chair teaches a ton, but it's really just an administrative placeholder for independent study courses and the like. The faculty handbook is a good idea though; I will look into that. Thanks everyone else for the replies!
There are schools that give double credit for teaching a large section and give credit for supervising undergraduate and graduate students. At my institution the teaching load is technically a 3-4. I only teach a 1-2 because the of the double section and supervising of thesis and graduate students.
I would just email the search chair and ask before you apply. Honestly, having been on both sides (as a candidate and a search chair), it is probably better not to waste your time (or the committee's time) applying for jobs where the teaching load does not fit your expectations.
Not all CSU's are 4/4. I am at a CSU and our load is a 3/3 BUT are 4 unit classes, which equates to a lot of time in the classroom. And any research supervision/labs are on top of this class load. I run a lab of 9 undergraduates and there has never been an opportunity for release time.
I offer the following based on my experiences as an applicant (ultimately successful in one search cycle) and search committee member…
1. Do homework. As others suggest, look-up the course schedule for a semester or two at the institution you're applying for and compare that to the faculty roster. You can usually quickly identify the teaching load from this. It also often provides insight into whether independent study projects, honors theses, or other student-centric research/intern credits count toward the load.
2. Ask during a phone interview. Don't ask about teaching load in an email. We search committee members are juggling our own teaching, research, service, and life (with life usually dumped badly for the former). When someone emails a question that could be fairly easily answered with Google, it just seems less than professional to me. If you're serious about working at my institution as one of my colleagues, I expect that you're interested enough in the place to spend some time on my institution's website. During a phone interview, it's good to bring up a question about load - e.g. "I had a chance to review your course schedule. From what I gather, you teach a 3/2 load? Can you tell me more about this and how the teaching load is computed?" — Ask that during a phone interview and I instantly think that you're a serious candidate who has professional savvy.
3. Don't email a question about load & honors/independent studies The exception is if you're applying solely to R1 positions. As a search committee member, a candidate asking about this will strike me as someone seeking a research career. I'm at a well-ranked SLAC and want to believe my colleagues love quality research but also love working with students. Outside of an R1, you're probably giving up some of your own time for research (and at many R1s, you will be doing that too). So, expect to give up some time to work with the best students, too, since these undergrads are part of the focus.
This said, if you're applying for some SLAC positions but would find a 3/3 load and having to supervise 2 or 3 independent study projects or the like each semester unbearable, by all means ask about the load in detail. But, if you don't want to risk a committee member dismissing your application before the phone interview, hold off.
Hope this helps!