• College Ready Writing

    A blog about education, higher ed, teaching, and trying to re-imagine how we provide education.


A 40-hour week?

What if we only worked 40 hours a week in higher education?

April 8, 2012


I’m still thinking about last Monday’s #dayofhighered. Clearly, all of us are working hard. And I wonder even those who claimed that their work was “manageable” – their days were still full, but they managed to not bleed over into evenings and (conceivably) weekends. Has higher education gotten to the point where we have to work 50+ hours a week lest we appear internally, to each other, as not being dedicated enough to be re-hired/granted tenure?

I think I already know the answer to that.

How much, then, do we have a hand in our own demise? We set the standards for tenure, promotion, and rehiring. Mind you, we don’t have much say (it appears) anymore about the standards and conditions for adjuncts (which is another, but closely related, issue). But we do have a say in setting the standards by which we judge one another.

But then again, maybe we don’t. The decreasing number of tenure and tenure-track faculty means that we have an increasing administrative burden. How many of us have had forced overloads or course caps increased or removed all together? We have less and less say in how we do our jobs and how we are evaluated. Is it any surprise we have less and less say on how we’re portrayed in the media?

So I tweeted, What if we, in higher ed, only worked 40 hours a week? Some people actually took offence to the question, like I was suggesting that they neglect their work, or that it was a badge of honor that we work 50-60 hours. Others admitted that it would be just about impossible to get all their work done. We may, indeed, be salaried employees, paid to work until the job gets done. But the job never ends anymore, keeps expanding, keeps snowballing.

This weekend, in an act of absolutely useless defiance, I didn’t do any work. I read The Hunger Games trilogy. I planted my garden. I went swimming with my kids. I celebrated my husband’s birthday. I made cupcakes with my daughter for her birthday at school. I had a laundry list of things I could, no, should have been doing, but I didn’t even think about any of them.

But I funny thing happened. When Sunday afternoon came around, I actually read a little for my research with a clear mind. I made a plan for the week that I might actually be able to follow. I took a break. I can’t work everyday like it was #dayofhighered. And I can’t feel bad about taking a day where it was just a day for myself and my family. 


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