"In Washington, it's dog eat dog. In academia, it's exactly the opposite." ....Robert Reich.

Commentary of the Day - October 29, 2012: Faculty Annual Report Guidelines.  Guest commentary by Herbert Jack Rotfeld.

[Ed. note: Our guest commentator works at a university, where faculty are required to submit annual reports of their activities.  These reports are common even for tenured faculty members at many universities and colleges across our fair land, including the IP's own Krispy Kreme U., where faculty members have to submit annual reports to their department Chairs for inclusion in the department annual report.  What follows is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek set of guidelines for such a report.]

To: Whatsamatter U. Faculty
From: Provost Ida Ratherbee Sleeping, Vice-President of Academics Having Affairs

RE: Annual reports and pay raises.

Our beloved Board of Trustees met Friday afternoon, as they do on the day before the first home football game of the season.  There was extended discussion of a policy statement found at the open access web pages of a university we repeatedly beat in football. It was noticed that they require all departments to honor an undergraduate grading policy, it says "The grade point average for all undergraduate sections should fall in the established range of 3.0 to 3.4.  The grade point average for [introductory] courses should fall in the established range of 3.0 to 3.25."  We expect our students to be better than that, so we will soon implement a grading policy of our own.

Of course, you are more concerned with our salary situation.  The Board members are aware of the hardships faced by reduced state funds in recent years, and I'm pleased to say that our budget situation has stabilized for the coming semesters.  No more programs are scheduled for cuts, no additional faculty lines will be deleted, and we have curtailed the misguided experiment of employing student workers in the electronic testing and printing center.

There is more good news.  The Board found the funds for some merit pay raises.  These are to be based on your annual reports for 2011 that you reported in January of 2012, and will go into effect for one or two pay periods before the start of 2013.  An efficiency expert hired by the personnel office determined that faculty spent an average of two hours per week filling out the forms for the annual reports.  We regret the difficulty, but it appears unavoidable, since your deans and department heads are clueless as to how you spend your days.  Maybe this can be reduced as you use the newly revised forms below that you are to use for all future annual reports.

On teaching, research, service and outreach, your department administrator will continue to rate you on a zero to 4 scale, using full or half points.  That score will then be weighted by your work requirement proportions in each area, and averaged for a summary score down to hundredths, which will then be rounded to determine what level of pay raise you get from this year's two percent pool of merit pay raise money.  Your standardized report form and guidelines follows:


A. Courses Taught: List all courses taught for the past year, with title, credit hours and numbers of students per class.  Scholarship, not body counts, are the goal, or so you are told, but you can't worry about academic standards and quality unless your course enrolls enough students, about 50 or so per section.

B. Student Evaluations: Attach all course evaluations for the year.  Do not attach student comment sheets or peer evaluations since numbers are all anyone reads.  For evaluations, on a typical five-point scale, "above average" means a score of 4.2, since that is the university-wide average.  To be evaluated as "meets expectations" the score must be above average.

C. Thesis and Dissertation Committees: Include name of candidate, student progress, date completed (if applicable), and degree.  Also indicate if you have dated the candidate, if the person baby-sits your children, painted your house or rode with you to a motorcycle rally.

D. Academic Advisory and Counseling Activities: Describe, and explain why you were spending time acting as if you care about students instead of writing research papers.

E. Participation in Special Programs and Seminars: Give title, name of organization, date, and type of participation.  The title itself should sound impressive so your administration can boast about the wonderful job you performed.

F. Textbooks Published: Indicate title, edition, date of publication, and your role as author, co-author, editor, contributing author, or plagiarist.  Also note your income from the project, amount kicked back to your department head, amount of free work squeezed out of graduate students and the amount paid to ghost writers.

II. RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS (as if they're the same thing)

A. Journal Articles: List all articles accepted for publication during the past three years.  The list is in terms of date accepted, not the date published because the important concern is that you did it, not that anyone read it.

            side note: A major journal in one department's field ceased publication three years ago, but the editor continued to send letters of acceptance of articles. No one noticed till last month.

B. Scholarly Books and Monographs Published: Indicate title, edition, publisher, date of publication, and your role as author, co-author, editor, contributing author or typist.  Also indicate number of pages, number of words per page and number of letters per word, with each divided by number of authors, multiplied by author's rank, and factored by any grant support it might have involved.

C. Papers Presented at Academic Meetings: Indicate title of paper, name of meeting, and its date, and if you attended the meeting, if you attended the session with your paper, and if anyone bothered to attend the session who was not on the program.

D. Other Published Works: Keep in mind that anything published in the popular newspapers or magazines counts as a negative, reducing the valued count of research.  After all, only non-academic people would read those articles.

E. Research in Process: List all ongoing work you are doing, thinking of doing, talked of doing with colleagues, could be doing, or might do if you think of it.  On this list, also note if work was stolen from faculty denied tenure last year.

F. Disposition of Prior Research: For all research reported "in-process" on prior-year report, indicate the progress or outcomes achieved in the current evaluation period.  Reference items appearing under "works completed."  If not completed, point fingers and lay blame.  It is suggested that you blame people who were recently denied tenure or who announced they accepted other jobs, since no one would defend them.

G. Research Funds Generated for the College: List contracts and grants, as well as proposals written and submitted.  Indicate dollar amount of grant and total funds claimed by university for overhead.  We tell faculty this is important for pay raises, but it isn't really. This just feeds added revenue to the university, for which we are grateful.


A. Committee Assignments: List everything, though the actual list is irrelevant since everyone is ranked as "average" or "meets expectations."  If you are to be rated higher, the administrators will assign you to more committees.

B. Special Institutional Assignments Not Reported Elsewhere: e.g., faculty or student recruiting, sponsorship of student organization, organizing special lecture series, etc.  You can list it, but the administration will ignore it.  It is hoped that you enjoyed yourself.

C. Active Participation in Professional and Honorary Organizations: List memberships, offices held, committees, editorial responsibilities, refereeing, and why anyone should care.

D. Honors and Awards: List name of award, conferring agent, and date received.  These are great since they make the university administrators look good. (Two or three administrators are probably in the reward picture, though they had nothing to do with your performance.)

E. Other: Indicate anything not included above which you believe should be considered in evaluating your performance. Remember, bilge, bunk and trivia should be maximized here, because you are just padding by this point, anyway.

  2012, Herbert Jack Rotfeld.
Herbert Jack Rotfeld is the Alumni Professor of Marketing at Auburn University.  He has been writing  essays on the state of  higher education for many years.

The Irascible Professor comments: The IP would like to assure you that Professor Rotfeld's essay is a major exaggeration of what happens in academia.  Unfortunately, he can't.  While the good professor may have exaggerated a bit, his points strike perilously close to what actually happens.


The Irascible Professor invites your  .

© 2012 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.
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