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December 5, 2013

Faculty worry over future of research at CSU

Credit conversion has professors concerned about scholarly pursuits

By Joshua Hoover

Cleveland State University is known for the extensive amount of research being performed here, even ranking in the top twenty percent of all universities in the United States despite being a mid-sized school, according to the National Science Foundation. However, many faculty members are concerned that may no longer be the case in the upcoming years.

Due to the changes in course load being brought about by the switch to a 3-credit hour standard for classes, the amount of classes that professors will be teaching may increase. Currently, most professors that do research are on a 2-2 or 3-2 schedule, where they teach two classes each semester, or two one semester and three the next. This allows them time to do scholarly activities, such as research and publishing, or do service projects around the campus, including serving on various committees.

Once the credit conversion happens, however, many professors are worried they might be forced into a 3-3 or even 4-3 course load. While the amount of credit hours they are teaching won’t increase by a significant amount, the added classes will require more time spent preparing and grading papers, cutting into their time to do projects outside the classroom.

The university administration maintains that there has not in any way been a reduction in research support, either in terms of internal funding or graduate assistance.

Dr. Richard Perloff, a professor in the School of Communication for 34 years that is known for his work in both persuasion and political communication, is concerned about the implications of the changes, as mentioned in a recent article about the Cleveland State teachers union he wrote in Academe, a magazine for the American Association of University Professors.

“It would be devastating to not be able to research and write as much,” Perloff said.

A second concern Perloff has deals with Cleveland State’s ability to draw in new, young professors. Perloff said that one of the drawing points of Cleveland State is the course load, as it draws in high quality researchers who want to make sure they will have time to pursue their passions.

“We won’t be able to draw in young professors with this kind of program,” Perloff said.
Dr. Jeff Karem, a professor in the English Department, shares many of Perloff’s concerns.

“There seems to be more of a goal to extract as much teaching as possible rather than find a balance between research and teaching,” Karem said.

Karem is also the president of the Cleveland State branch of the AAUP. Karem said that the union’s discussions with the university don’t ever seem to result in more time for research. He explained that only 50 percent of faculty members will be able to meet the requirements to have a lessened course load in order to research, and compared that concept to a professor telling students that only half of them can possibly pass the class.

Karem believes that the university is moving towards a one-size fits all type of model, and that isn’t what Cleveland State is known for.

“The people that are going to be hurt the most by these changes are the students,” Karem said. “Commuter students will be really hurt because schedules are going to be so tight.”

Echoing Perloff’s beliefs, Karem also thinks that the uncertainty behind all of the changes is going to be a major recruiting problem for Cleveland State as well. The lack of focus on service for faculty is concerning as well, especially because it seems to contradict the contract between the union and the school. The contract states that “Service contributions constitute an expected component of all faculty members’ workloads...”, yet there have been instances of professors who have been given a workload for a semester that leaves them no dedicated time for service.

Dr. Albert Smith, an associate professor in the Psychology department, explained that there is an astonishing amount of committee work that faculty members have to do.

“If people are going to do the work conscientiously, it is going to take time,” Smith said.

The one point that the faculty seemed to agree on is that Cleveland State relies on its strong research programs to attract both students and high-quality faculty members. If research begins to take a backseat to other things, the appeal of Cleveland State University may suffer.