Punching In at Kean U.

February 15, 2011

Kean University's administration is not exactly beloved by its professors. There have been fights over the years over walking on the grass, a plan to replace department chairs and a proposal to eliminate many departments.

Now the university has once again angered faculty members -- requiring them to fill out time sheets reporting how many hours they have worked each day, to demonstrate that they are working at least a 35-hour week.

Union leaders say that this requirement is inappropriate and insulting for faculty members. But the union sought legal advice and was told that the university was within its rights to impose the system. At that point, the union negotiated some details about the time sheets, eliminating an early version of the document that would have required reporting on daily lunch hours.

The final sheets have numerous categories (teaching, class preparation, advising, service and so forth), but faculty members are required to list only total hours per day, with dates, and to turn in the form every other week.

James Castiglione, president of the faculty union at Kean (an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers), said that the time sheets "degrade the professionalism of faculty by treating them as if they were 19th century workers." He said he did not know of other colleges that require all faculty members to fill out such forms. Several higher education experts agreed that this is not the norm (although some faculty members do have to track time if they are documenting obligations to private funders or government agencies paying shares of their salaries).

A spokesman for Kean said that, prior to this semester's new rule for faculty members, non-faculty full-time employees were already required to fill out time sheets. "Filling out time sheets has been the norm on campus for the vast majority of our staff and it’s not an onerous task. We have a responsibility to ensure that we are delivering services to those whom we ultimately serve -- our students," he said.

Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, said he had heard about the threats to impose time sheets at Kean. "The real problem with faculty time sheets is that no administration can cope with the reality of accurate reporting," he said via e-mail. "Many of us work 12 or 15 hour days, seven days a week. If it became clear how many hours we put in, there'd be an unimpeachable argument for better compensation and more faculty positions."

While national data don't suggest many working those hours, they do show most faculty members working well beyond 35 hours. A 2006 study found that full-time faculty members worked an average of 48.6 hours per week, up from just over 40 in 1984. Further, the study found that the proportion of full-time faculty members who work more than 50 hours a week has doubled since 1972 -- reaching nearly two-fifths.

Castiglione said that Kean faculty members who report hours that exceed 35 a week are not receiving any extra pay as a result.

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