AAUP–Penn Statement on the University’s Unilateral Increase in Teaching Time

As Penn faculty—members and non-members of the AAUP—we object to the proposed university-wide course schedule changes that add to the length of class meeting times. While we recognize the convenience of spacing out course blocks to allow a longer transitional period between classes, the apparent elimination of the existing ten minutes of “passing time” built into our current course blocks makes this schedule change amount to a tacit addition of ten minutes of teaching per class period. When faculty have asked whether the modified schedule indeed extends teaching time, administrators have not provided a decisive answer. This abrupt and unilaterally imposed change concerns us on three major grounds: 1) Its implementation is inconsistent with shared governance principles; 2) it represents a demand for additional instructional time without compensation; and 3) its impact will fall hardest on faculty members who do the most teaching, for instance language lecturers.

1. Shared Governance:  Changes to the manner in which faculty teach courses fall within the purview of those areas of governance in which faculty are meant to have primary responsibility. Yet in this case, as with other policy changes recently announced by the central administration, faculty were largely cut out of the decision-making process.

2. Additional Instructional Time:  The addition of 10 minutes of instructional time per class period for each session of a course is a non-trivial change in work expectations for all faculty. For an instructor teaching two courses per semester, each of which meets twice per week, this adds 40 minutes of classroom time per week, which translates into 9 1/3 hours of additional teaching over a semester (or the equivalent, in instructional time, of seven 80-minute periods added to the semester). We have not seen any indication that instructors will be compensated for this additional work time.

3. Hurting Those Who Teach the Most:  Those most affected, however, will be language lecturers and others who shoulder the highest teaching load at Penn.  A language lecturer who teaches three courses per semester, in five contact hours a week, will end up teaching an additional 35 hours per term. 

For standing faculty, increased teaching time directly detracts from the time available for other work obligations and professional activities, including research, advising, service, and indeed even preparation for the courses we teach. It thus pushes those work obligations further into our own already limited personal time on evenings and weekends. For non-standing faculty who are paid per course, and likewise for graduate instructors and TAs, the addition of instructional time without any change in compensation is, still more unambiguously, a form of wage theft.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), whose chapter at Penn was founded in 2020, is a national organization of faculty and academic professionals that has helped to shape U.S. higher education by developing standards and procedures that maintain quality in education, fair employment conditions, shared governance, and academic freedom. Penn’s AAUP chapter is concerned about a perceived lack of transparency in institutional decision-making at our university (of which this schedule change issue is only one example) and about working conditions for all those who teach at Penn. 

We call on the University of Pennsylvania senior administration, however belatedly, to initiate dialogue with faculty about the effects of these changes and undertake actions to mitigate their impact on faculty, including on those who may be excessively burdened by additional uncompensated teaching hours.