Faculty fatigue - burned out faculty turn down committee ‘busy work’



Professional development, advising, teaching, creating lesson plans, attending meetings and completing service are a few of the main responsibilities that a typical DePauw University faculty member holds.

Along with all of these responsibilities, faculty members are also required to stay professionally active.

“We also have to do research so we have to stay professionally active in our field, so going to conferences and writing papers doing research with students,” Douglas Harms, department chair of computer science, said.

These many responsibilities often lead to “faculty fatigue,” which has been one of the main reasons why only 13 DePauw faculty members have agreed to be nominated for the 33 vacant positions on faculty committees. The faculty meeting held two weeks ago failed to meet quorum.

“I think sometimes faculty get burned out and get tired of investing a lot of effort and then to be told well ‘we’re [the administration] going to do what we want anyway,’” said Department Chair of Communication and Theatre Melanie Finney said.

Along with all of the faculty’s responsibilities, they are strongly advised to serve on committees. Certain committees require outside busywork, such as reading files or having meetings throughout the week.

“In fact, like the review committee, they have to read everybody’s folder and some of these are hundreds of pages long,” Harms said.

Some faculty members say that commuting to work could also be the cause of vacant committee positions.

“I think it’s [committee work] an issue for people who commute, I’m not real sympathetic about that. I think people who live out of town have made that choice and they still need to do their jobs and service is part of that job,” Finney said.

The review committee requires more outside work than other committees and, therefore, decreases incentive to join, Howard Brooks, faculty chair said.

“There will be some arm twisting for review, I mean, I can argue my arm got twisted a few years ago,” he said.

Although faculty members take on many responsibilities, Finney thinks there might be a way to solve the problem of committee vacancy. “If we can eliminate that idea that it’s just busywork or that it’s an illusion of shared governance,” Finney said, “if it really is actual shared governance, then faculty need to be able to work on projects that they want and things that they would like to see changed.”

Finney also said it would help if the administration informs faculty of what they believe to be a priority.

Brooks also credits the failure to meet quorum and fill committees as the inability for some committee members to make a change.

“Sometimes I think the frustration arises when committees spend a long time and a lot of effort developing something” Brooks said. “Some plans, some proposals, something and then when it moves forward maybe to the faculty as a whole then they say no.”

For faculty members, especially new faculty members, it can be difficult to manage all of the different obligations. “So I mean, yeah, it’s a balancing act, and sometimes I do get really tired,” Finney said, “but this is my 23rd or 24th year and so I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to balance and juggle things.”