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Following Harvard Report on ‘Unsustainable’ Faculty Workload, FAS Dean Gay Solicits Professors’ Feedback

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay poses for a portrait in University Hall on Oct. 12.
Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay poses for a portrait in University Hall on Oct. 12. By Julian J. Giordano
By Ariel H. Kim and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

After a report found that Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences faces an “increasing and unsustainable” amount of non-research work, the school is holding discussions to collect feedback on the report’s recommendations, FAS Dean Claudine Gay said in an interview Wednesday.

“I’m eager to hear from more of the faculty as they dig into the report and maybe suggest some other ways in which we can follow through on the spirit and, in some cases, specific recommendations that came out of that report,” Gay said.

Gay shared the report, which was released by the FAS Faculty Workload Committee, with the faculty last month. The school convened the committee in fall 2021 as part of an FAS strategic planning initiative.

The initiative extends from the work of the FAS Study Group formed by Gay in November 2020 to examine the school’s “​​financial sustainability, organizational flexibility, institutional resilience.”

Published in spring 2021, the FAS Study Group’s final report pointed to a lack of channels for addressing faculty concerns related to the workload of providing student support, fulfilling citizenship responsibilities, teaching, and researching. It recommended the FAS initiate conversations on equitable workload distribution and “develop new mechanisms for more intensive review of the faculty activity reports.”

Based on the findings of the FAS Study Group, Gay charged the Faculty Workload Committee with examining the “non-research workload” of faculty at the FAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Non-research work includes instruction, mentorship, committee and administrative work, bureaucratic tasks, and diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, according to the committee. The term “workload” also includes research.

The report stated that “female or historically minoritized faculty members” bear a disproportionate “abundance of hidden labor,” adding that they are often sought out by students and other faculty who share similar identities.

“Unequal distribution of work engenders an environment in which some faculty benefit at the expense of others who sacrifice both their research time and their work-life balance,” it stated. “The current situation—both the growing amount of administrative work and the unequal distribution of this work—is untenable.”

The Faculty Workload Committee found three main trends in faculty activity reports from 2017 to 2020. First, the amount of non-research work varies across and within divisions. Second, female faculty members advise more graduate students and serve on more committees than their male counterparts. Third, faculty who serve on more committees tend to have more advisees than their colleagues.

The committee also found that Arts and Humanities faculty teach significantly more courses on average than faculty in Social Sciences, Sciences, or SEAS.

This year, the FAS is piloting changes to the faculty activity report. Rather than reporting their yearly activity during a set period in January, Gay said faculty will be able to access the portal throughout more of the year.

Gay said Wednesday that the FAS is also asking department chairs to examine any patterns in the distribution of workload across faculty in their departments.

“We’ll also pinpoint if there are issues that suggest, for example, that maybe tenure-track faculty are overburdened in some ways — I don’t know or think that’s the case — but again, encouraging them to bring that lens as they analyze some of the data about workloads within their own departments,” she said.

—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at ariel.kim@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ArielH_Kim.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.

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FASHumanities DivisionSocial Sciences DivisionSciences DivisionFAS AdministrationGSASSEASFaculty NewsClaudine Gay