Faculty try to balance busy schedules

GW students are not the only ones on campus who balance busy college schedules. Between public speaking, conducting research and teaching classes, professors also perform a balancing act with their time.

Professor Steven Livingston, who serves as the director of the political communication program and teaches journalism and international affairs classes, also engages in public speaking and has two upcoming books. Livingston said his outside projects heighten the clarity of the topics he teaches and accomplishing them all requires working seven days a week.

“Right now I’m grading masters’ theses and preparing for a lecture,” Livingston said. He writes research papers, parts of his books and lectures on the weekends.

Livingston is just one of many professors at GW who multitask. The busy schedules of professors lead to advantages and disadvantages for students and the University as a whole.

Professors who are active outside the University bring invaluable experience to the classroom and prestige to GW. But some say professors’ demanding schedules draw too much of their time away from the classroom.

Sociology professor Amitai Etzioni pointed out the pros and cons of professors who work outside the classroom in a recent USA Today editorial.

“Students may gain inspiration from professors who also have public voices, and they benefit when their teachers can draw on their true-life experience,” Etzioni wrote in the Jan. 14 article. “However, every day spent on the road is one a professor is not using to labor in the stacks, keeping up with the learning of his discipline and being available to his students.”

The key, according to Etzioni, is balance. He said in an interview that it is possible for professors to teach while pursuing public lives “to the degree that people can do honest academic work and not allow the public side to dominate their lives.”

Journalism professor Carl Stern tells his Media Law, Broadcast News Reporting and Covering Court Decisions classes he is there “just to teach.”

“It enhances the reputation and vitality of the University when professors pursue scholarly projects, but they can’t do it at the expense of their classroom responsibilities,” Stern said.

Stern said he has chosen to concentrate solely on teaching after he came to the University for reasons other than pursuing a career in teaching.

“I’ve had my career,” said Stern, who worked as a television reporter for almost 30 years. “I’m just here for the interaction with students.”

Stern notes that it would not be fair to expect all professors to devote all their time to teaching because some people choose teaching at the University level as a career, and outside work comes with the territory.

“For those who want to become tenured professors, proving yourself by completing outside work, like publications, is necessary,” Stern said.

Economics professor Robert Dunn, who writes editorials for the New York Times, said it is important for faculty to participate in research efforts in order to keep up to date in their subjects.

“The main thing is there is not really a conflict between teaching and research if you want to keep your faculty up to date,” Dunn said.

He said it is especially important to keep faculty up to date and active in fields such as economics where technology is moving fast.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman agreed that it is necessary to distinguish between the different types of professors at GW when discussing their academic obligations and their public lives.

Regular, faculty members with active status are hired to do three things, Lehman said: teach, research and do service. The service may be done within the University or externally and might include participating in national scholarly organizations.

Some of the part-time professors are paid for teaching a single course, while others are paid for teaching a course in addition to doing research.

The largest number of limited-service faculty fall into the professorial category and are hired to teach on a per-course basis.

Lehman said many of these professors have other jobs or outside projects, but they are able to balance their tasks because they focus on teaching only one or two classes. In this position, a professor’s outside experience is an asset, Lehman said.

“They can bring their experience back into the classroom,” he said.

Adjunct professors are a second type of limited-service faculty member at GW, who are hired to teach a course but also to advise students or collaborate with other professors in doing research, Lehman said.

“Adjunct professors are hired to do different things, but it is all intertwined,” he said.

Students also see both sides of the issue. Many students, like Meaghan O’Keefe, an international affairs major, said that they enjoy when their professors bring their experience to the classroom or write books.

“I saw one of my professor’s books in the store once, and I thought it was great,” O’Keefe said. “It gives the University a good reputation, too.”

Junior Kristin McLeod questioned whether the demanding schedules of busy professors leave students short-changed. She said she had a class canceled five times one semester but in general her professors seem to manage their time well.

“It’s very uncommon for professors to cancel a lot of classes,” McLeod said. “In most cases professors can balance their schedules to avoid conflicts.”

-Trevor Martin contributed to this report.

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