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Next Steps and Resources for Faculty Workload Equity

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Office of the Provost

Letter  •

Dear colleagues, 

For the past few years, DU has explored the importance of “Advancing Equity in Faculty Workload and Rewards.” It is critical that, while acknowledging the diverse responsibilities of our faculty, the University of Denver supports an equitable system of distribution and reward for faculty workload. Workload equity is comprehensive in scope, including research, teaching, and service; therefore, it is essential to the advancement of DU and maintaining our trajectory of R1 Our Way.  

As recommended by the 2021-22 Workload Equity Committee report and with the support of the deans, I am asking each school or college, under the leadership of their dean and following shared governance principles, to share with me a school or college plan, guideline, or policy addressing a dimension of Faculty Workload by the end of 2023.  The goal is not to “fix” everything, but to start small in areas of collectively identified need.  Any school and college faculty workload equity plans, guidelines, and/or policies  should be seen as guidance offered in conjunction with the Appointment, Tenure, and Promotion (APT) document.  

My office is committed to supporting ongoing institutional efforts to address these issues. For example, the Faculty Senate Workload Equity Committee is working to create templates that chairs and directors, or committee chairs, can use to identify high, medium, and low intensity service opportunities so that faculty understand the level of effort expected, the general time commitment, and the expected activities/outcomes. These templates can be adjusted as necessary, but will better equip faculty, and their chairs or directors, to assess the impact of the service expectation and reward the service with a more accurate understanding of the workload. They can also form the basis for department or unit level workload dashboards, a key strategy to increase transparency.

The school and college plans, guidelines, and policies should follow guiding principles elaborated in the Workload Equity Committee report as well as in the American Council on Education’s Equity Minded Faculty Workloads: What We Can and Should Do Now, which builds on the Faculty Workload and Rewards project, an NSF Advance-funded project. These principles are key to the establishment of equitable workloads:

  • Transparency: Departments/programs have widely visible information about faculty work activities available for department members to see.
  • Clarity: Departments/programs have clearly identified and well-understood benchmarks for faculty work activities.
  • Credit: Departments/programs recognize and reward faculty members who are expending more effort in certain areas.
  • Norms: Departments/programs have a commitment to ensuring faculty workload is fair and have put systems in place that reinforce these norms.
  • Context: Departments/programs acknowledge that different faculty members have different strengths, interests, and demands that shape their workloads and offer workload flexibility to recognize this context.
  • Accountability: Departments/programs have mechanisms in place to ensure that faculty members fulfill their work obligations and receive credit for their work.

Within this framework, each academic unit should develop school and college faculty workload plans, policies, and/or guidelines that may include procedures for assigning academic workload and receiving credit for workload in annual and consequential reviews. As we move forward, in concert with the 2023 Faculty Workload Equity Committee, we will attend to accountability processes and procedures to make sure policies, processes, and practices align to support equitable outcomes.

As you proceed in your collective endeavors, here are some resources to support your work: 

Lastly, it would be wonderful if you might join me on Friday February 3 from 12:30-2:30 for a keynote talk and luncheon to deepen our learning on workload equity, entitled:

Yes, And . . .: Sustainable and Scalable Approaches to Equitable Workload Reforms

Dr. KerryAnn O’Meara, Professor of Higher Education and a Distinguished Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland- College Park  

Here’s a short description of Dr. O’Meara’s talk:

Often when we begin conversations about changing workload policies and practices, we find we have to balance a set of dynamic tensions. How can we add clarity to what is expected without reinforcing a one-size fits all system that does not recognize differences in context? How can we bring relevant and different contexts into view as we assign credit and improve consistency in how work is assigned and rewarded?

In this talk, Dr. KerryAnn O'Meara rejoins us to continue thinking about issues such as invisible labor and/or DEIJ labor as well as transparency and accountability. She shares what she has learned over the last 7 years working with campuses on such reforms. She also shares what workload reform can help us learn about our overall systems for hiring, retention and evaluation that could create more inclusive workplaces.

Thank you for all of your work on this important matter.  I look forward to seeing what we develop together in furthering our commitments to equitable workloads.


With warm regards,

Mary L. Clark