UNC Asheville Responds

(Editor’s note: This comment by the provost of UNC Asheville is a response to a paper by the Pope Center’s director of state policy, Jay Schalin. Schalin gets the final say here.)

In its report “A Common-Sense Look at UNC Faculty Workloads,” the Pope Center examines the teaching loads of four University of North Carolina (UNC) campuses, including UNC Asheville. With respect to UNC Asheville, the study methodology does not account for two primary types of instruction that are essential teaching responsibilities of our faculty. The first includes the teaching of laboratories and recitations. The second includes the teaching of interdisciplinary courses outside of the faculty member’s home department, a critical responsibility articulated in the UNC Asheville mission: “Students undertake concentrated study in one area while simultaneously developing an understanding of the connections among disciplines.” 

Based on the numbers provided in the Pope Center’s report, it appears that the Fall 2010 schedule was used for UNC Asheville and our analysis will focus on that semester.  


In 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly, interested in the productivity of UNC faculty, passed the following special provision requiring that the UNC Board of Governors report on faculty workload and use the Delaware Study Method to collect data:


*SECTION 9.2.(a)* The Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina shall conduct a study on faculty workload at The University of North Carolina. The study shall be done using the Delaware Study Method of collecting data.

It is important to note that the Delaware Study defines teaching load based on “organized class sections” which must have a regular day, time and meeting place and be assigned student contact hours.

Within the Delaware Study, a course, or an “organized class section,” is defined as:

an instructional activity, identified by academic discipline and number, in which students enroll, typically to earn academic credit applicable to a degree objective. It excludes courses that are not-for-credit, but includes course sections with zero credits which are requirements of or prerequisites to degree programs, and which are scheduled, and consume institutional or departmental resources in the same manner as credit courses. Zero-credit course sections are typically supplements to the credit-bearing lecture portion of a course. Zero credit sections are frequently listed as laboratory, discussion, or recitation sections in conjunction with the credit bearing lecture portion of a course (bold added).

Data and Analysis

The Pope Center’s reporting of the average teaching load per tenure-track faculty member as 2.4 in the Department of Philosophy and 2.4 – 2.6 in Environmental Studies is inaccurate, in part, because it does not reflect the information above which includes the teaching of laboratories and recitations, and also because it omits entire courses, interdisciplinary in nature, taught by our faculty members outside of their home departments. Our own data, below, demonstrate that the average teaching load per tenure-track faculty member is 4.4 – 4.8 in Philosophy and 3.86 – 4.29 in Environmental Studies. Our methodology, as defined by the Delaware Study, more clearly reflects the faculty teaching loads at an undergraduate institution whose mission includes teaching a significant number of interdisciplinary courses, laboratories and recitations.

The Pope Center report correctly states that, while faculty engage in scholarship and service, “the central purpose of a university is to teach” (p. 1). UNC Asheville, North Carolina’s designated public liberal arts university, manifests that very philosophy in our commitment to strong faculty mentorship of undergraduates and high quality faculty-student interactions in a liberal arts setting. Our professors teach all lectures, laboratories and recitations, while also advising students and mentoring them in undergraduate research, service learning and independent study courses. We do not employ teaching assistants (TAs). Moreover, laboratory sciences at UNC Asheville are most often open-inquiry experiences, rather than cookbook labs, and are therefore extremely instruction-intensive, with faculty and students working together in 2.5-hour blocks of time.

The methodology used by the Pope Center excluded nine laboratory sections taught by seven faculty in Environmental Studies in the calculation of the faculty teaching load. A typical science laboratory is scheduled for 2.5 hours per week – the equivalent of a three-semester-hour course. In addition, the Pope Center report omitted four recitations taught by the Department of Philosophy. Laboratories and recitations are important and traditional components of students’ learning. In accordance with definitions established by the Delaware Study used to count faculty teaching load, the work our faculty do to teach them should be counted in the calculation of their course teaching load.

Additionally, UNC Asheville is noted for and committed to an interdisciplinary curriculum, such as the required three-course sequence in the Humanities and our required liberal arts capstone course, Liberal Studies (LS) 479. Faculty across all disciplines teach courses in these and other interdisciplinary programs. The teaching of these courses does, and rightly should, count as part of their teaching load, even though it is outside their home academic departments.

In both the Philosophy and Environmental Studies departments, faculty contributed to UNC Asheville’s interdisciplinary curriculum by teaching courses in Humanities (HUM), Liberal Studies (LS), and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). Based on the counts provided in the Pope Center report, it appears that these courses were not considered in the calculation of faculty members’ teaching loads. For the Department of Environmental Studies, the undercount was one course and for the Department of Philosophy the undercount was six courses.


In summary, we believe our faculty members’ course teaching loads were undercounted by the Pope Center’s methodology due to two factors: (1) laboratories and recitations were not included in the workload count, and (2) interdisciplinary courses taught outside of the faculty members’ home departments were not included. Attached is a spreadsheet outlining all courses, both in and out of the faculty member’s home department (as indicated by prefix), laboratories and recitations that were taught by the faculty in the departments of Environmental Studies and Philosophy in the Fall 2010. The chart below summarizes the differences between the counts and averages published in the Pope Center study and the counts and averages that more accurately reflect our faculty’s teaching load.



Environmental Studies



Courses with at least 3 students


Courses with at least 3 students

Pope Center Report


Average = 2.4


Average = 2.4


Average = 2.86


Average = 2.43

All courses, both in and out of the department, including laboratories and recitations


Average = 4.8


Average = 4.4


Average = 4.29


Average = 3.86