Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Free" Time

Just this week I was marveling that I had not yet been asked to do any departmental work this summer, then wham.. I got 'asked' to do two things: read an undergraduate honors thesis (by tomorrow, because the professor who was supposed to do it is away) and serve on a grad student committee for an exam. Professors are not paid by the university in the summer, but we are expected to 'volunteer' for these activities because [select explanation from menu of options below].

#1: It's not the students' fault that faculty don't get paid by the university in the summer, yet student schedules for exams, theses, etc. don't always fit into the academic year.

#2: We get paid enough during the other 9 months, so we should work for free during the summer.

#3: We have lots of free time in the summer, so we might as well spend some of it doing administrative work.

The best explanation, at least in the case of faculty who are active year-round in research, is #1, but I've heard the other two expressed. I don't mind doing some student-related work in the summer, but I do mind the situations in which I am asked to do something just because I am here in the department and some of my colleagues are not. Some of my out-of-town colleagues are out of town for research-related reasons, but some are taking the summer off. That's fine, they can do that because they aren't being paid by the university or by grants, but it means more summer 'volunteer' work for the rest of us.


lost academic said...

It sounds like maybe some of your other colleagues may have wised up and taken themselves out of town for the summer when they felt the need to work on certain projects, or if they just felt that they didn't owe any time to the department or university for this season.

Ancarett said...

I'm glad that my university pays me year round. Especially given the month and a half of slogging I put in last summer to prepare a report for the administration. Faculty ought to be on year-round salaries everywhere, since these extra duties always come up and suck away your time.

Anonymous said...

Do any of your grants allow you to take summer salary? From what I understand, we in the biomedical sciences are pretty lucky because NIH allows us to recover a large fraction of our salary from grants. Of course, this is a double-edged sword, because med school administrators now EXPECT us to recover most of our salary from grants, thus allowing them to expend very little of their own money. When funding is tight (like now), this can be very painful.

Female Science Professor said...

Yes, I have some summer salary from NSF grants. My department/university doesn't care whether I'm paid or not in the summer, though. It would definitely be hard to cover academic year salary from grants routinely, though some people do it.

Jessica said...

Our university has professors on nine month appointments but most are on twelve month appointments. I've heard that those with nine month appointments don't get paid over the summer but they have the flexibility to travel and do research on their own. Many faculty will go overseas for short sabbaticals. A few have grant funded projects which cover their summer pay but that is rare.

It's amazing they expect you to work for "free" during the summer. What crap.

Ms.PhD said...

Since when is helping students "administrative work"?

I think you should be willing to do it for free. I do.

I read and edit theses, I help students work on their practice talks, and I give all kinds of suggestions to help with their projects and what they need to do to graduate. Do I get paid to do any of that? No. I actually like that part of being in academia. I'm surprised that you're complaining about it.

It's usually not the student's fault if the timing worked out not to fit with your 9 month cushy schedule.

And I'm kind of disguested that all these other commenters seem to agree with you that these two examples, both involving helping students do science, should qualify as 'administrative'. Are you my future colleagues? The faculty who wouldn't help me out when my advisor was ill?

This kind of attitude is exactly what's wrong with academia.

Female Science Professor said...

In one case I mentioned, the student asked me to read the thesis the DAY BEFORE it was due because one professor who was supposed to read it didn't. And no, I'm not a nice enough person to do that without complaining, though of course I read the thesis and signed the form. The other case I mentioned is similar -- I'm filling in for someone who isn't going to be around. Perhaps I didn't explain that well enough. I spend a lot of time, willingly, in the summer working with my own and other students.

Ms.PhD said...

Okay, so the other people are flakes. That sucks for the students AND for you.

And it sounds like the students should have just asked you in the first place to be on their committees, instead of treating you like a runner-up.

I guess since I'm not a PI, I always consider it a compliment when someone asks me to read something for them. It means they actually want my intellectual input.

I didn't quite understand that they wait until the last minute and then ask you just because they have to have a PI sign off on it.

Personally, I would always rather have someone whose expertise is really meaningful to me, so I would ask them sooner, and really value their feedback.

The only times I've had to ask someone whose opinion I might have considered less important (but whose signature I needed) was for some stupid departmental requirement that you have X # of people sign off (stupid administrative rules!) or if someone on my committee disappeared suddenly due to health problems or a delayed flight.

But in those cases, I was really afraid they wouldn't let me continue if I didn't get the support from someone, so I was always really grateful.

Hopefully the student will at least buy you a bottle of wine to say thanks.

But I think I know this type of student all too well, and they think they deserve to have everything handed to them, no matter how inconvenient it is for everyone else that they're doing it at the last minute.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Is my school odd that we have a 9 month teaching committment but can opt to be paid over 12 months? It seems as if these kinds of non-paid expectations are par for the course and if your annual salary isn't 25% -33% less than others in your department or field then when you get paid isn't exactly a reason not to do some summer stuff...

or, am I reading this wrong?

Female Science Professor said...

So, if my 9-month salary is paid out over 12 months, I should do unpaid administrative work? I don't get that reasoning. Nevertheless, some - but my no means all or even most - of my colleagues and I do some department work in the summer, but as I wrote, it's the active faculty who get asked to do these things because we are around the department in the summer. And in fact I am paid >$10k less/year than my closest peer (male) colleague.

Anonymous said...

This conversation is just a reminder that the rules are different in different faculties.

I don't know if it's generally true, but certainly many medical school faculty are paid on a 12 month schedule. They also generally recover >50% of their salaries through grants (reference base = R1 medical schools). It is also the case that at a major R1, 50+ percent of those called faculty are at the medical school.

ms. phd, people are concurring with FSP because professors get _paid_ to do research, teach students (including advising), and do administrative housekeeping. We may love a lot of what we do(most love research and teaching, to different degrees at different times, fewer love admiinistration). But that doesn't change the fact that we expect to be paid for the work we do.


Chic Scientist said...

Just found your blog and LOVE it. I could not agree more with your posts, and "working for free" is the biggest source of dissatisfaction for me with this job.

Why is it unreasonable to expect to be paid for the work we do? That I do not understand!

Anectodally I will share that I sat next to a woman minister on a plane once. Her husband was the parish pastor, and I asked her if that meant that she was also a parish pastor "defacto". She replied, "Of course not, I expect to be paid for the ministry I do!"

Why should science be any different!