In my department, our teaching loads are somewhat flexible depending on department teaching needs and other factors. Some of my colleagues in other departments/universities, however, have very rigid teaching loads, and the only way to get the load reduced is to buy out a class with grant money acquired for that purpose. My impression is that such buy-outs are more common in the humanities, but I do know some science departments that are organized that way.
One of my colleagues plans her course release requests for when she needs them most in the context of her research activities, but in her department, a class is canceled if faculty take a course release. This causes huge problems for students, so some faculty never take course releases. Departments with adjunct faculty can deal with this situation more easily than departments in which it isn't practical or possible to hire an adjunct to teach a course.
With all due respect to hard-working adjunct faculty, I will say that I don't think it is a healthy situation when teaching loads are organized such that faculty can't adequately balance research and teaching without buying course releases. This also sends the message (to students and others) that faculty only teach if they have to, and if given the chance, will spend more time on research. Yes, I know that is true of some faculty, but many faculty value both.
I realize it isn't practical for all departments, but ideally teaching loads are flexible enough so that when averaged over time (e.g., over 3 years or so), faculty teaching loads are about the same for everyone in a department, but in any given year, the load can be adjusted depending on various priorities (including faculty research activities). Visiting faculty and adjuncts can teach classes when faculty are on sabbatical, especially since most sabbatical arrangements involve faculty being paid 50% of their salary, with the rest reverting to the department or other administrative unit (which can then hire a short-term replacement to teach classes).
6 months ago