Policy on Faculty Responsibilities and Obligations

November, 26 2018

Preamble: Per UB’s Faculty and Staff Handbook, “each academic unit must develop and adhere to written guidelines that define faculty responsibilities within that unit.”  We have not in SEAS so far uniformly accomplished this objective.  While some differences exist between the academic departments that comprise SEAS, my observation is that the faculty work assignment and obligations are strongly similar between the departmental units.  For that reason, I have sought herewith to codify existing practice into written guidelines that can be utilized by all SEAS units, with review and comments from all SEAS faculty.  In developing this policy, I have followed the structure of, and incorporated passages and phrases from, other AAU schools (especially USC, which seemed particularly applicable perhaps as a result of us having shared President Steven Sample), as well as from related SUNY and UB documents.  -  Liesl Folks (Dean of SEAS)

1.0 General Principles

In this section:

1.1 Work assignment

Each SEAS faculty member, whether tenured / tenure-track faculty (hereafter referred to as T/TT faculty) or qualified title faculty, i.e., teaching faculty, research faculty and professors of practice, (hereafter referred to as QT faculty), must have a well-defined annual faculty work assignment.  Faculty work assignment profile refers to the percentage of effort the faculty member will devote to activities in the three areas of obligation, being teaching, research and service. 

1.2 Default work assignment profile

The default work assignment profile varies by appointment type (T/TT or QT) and by appointment level (Assistant, vs. Associate or Full).  T/TT faculty are expected to devote the majority of their efforts to scholarly research and teaching, roughly in equal amounts and to a lesser degree to service (with the exceptions noted below). Thus, the default work assignment profile for T/TT faculty is 40% research, 40% teaching and 20% service, except that tenure-track faculty (i.e., Assistant Professors) should initially have reduced teaching obligations, minimal service obligations, and enhanced research expectations in order to establish robust research programs. The default work assignment profile for QT teaching and practice faculty is 80% teaching and 20% combined service / research.  The default work assignment profile for QT research faculty is 80% research and 20% combined teaching / service.  Actual QT faculty work assignment profiles are defined in their appointment letters.  If an individual faculty member has been performing more or less teaching, research or service than is typical in the school, the department chair, after consultation with the individual, may adjust the profile so that total effort amounts to full-time work assignment.

1.3 Research effort

Groundbreaking research and generation of new knowledge defines the mission of a research-intensive university and is the responsibility of its faculty.  While T/TT faculty and QT research faculty hold special responsibility for performing high quality and high impact research, all faculty, including teaching and practice faculty, are actively encouraged to contribute to the research mission.  Advisement, including thesis supervision for graduate students, supervision of research experiences for undergraduate students, and other directed-research, is counted as part of the research effort, as is grant activity.  Likewise, technology-transfer efforts, including patent submissions and start-up activities, are counted as part of the research effort.  All faculty members should be allowed the necessary time to engage in high-quality scholarly research within their discipline, in accord with their individual work assignment profile. The ‘40% research effort’ cited above refers to the effort required to comply with the UB Faculty Responsibility Policy of 1993 which states that all T/TT faculty at UB are expected “to be publishing scholars or to be otherwise actively engaged in creative activity, to make significant attempts to obtain external support for their work.”  The specific research responsibilities for QT faculty are, in general, described in their offer letters.

1.4 Research direction

Faculty members have the freedom to establish their own directions of research enquiry, in accord with their interests and expertise, provided the research is within the broad discipline boundaries (including new and emerging topics and interdisciplinary topics) as agreed upon by the department faculty and consistent with AAU peer institutions.  In all cases, there should be recognizable peer-reviewed scholarly output generated by the research activity.  T/TT faculty members must make significant and meaningful efforts to secure extramural funding to support their chosen research directions, including support for PhD students.  QT faculty are also encouraged and supported to secure extramural funding to support research activity, including support for students.

1.5 Teaching effort

Similarly, provision of transformative educational experiences is the responsibility of faculty, consistent with UB’s mission.  All faculty engaged in teaching should be given the necessary time and resources to provide high-quality teaching to the students of SEAS.  In the context of faculty work assignment profile, teaching is associated with credit hours and must be performed in a satisfactory manner.  As a guide, ‘40% teaching effort’ refers to the effort required to teach three typical 3-credit hour SEAS courses per year, and ‘80% teaching effort’ refers to the effort required to teach six typical 3-credit hour SEAS courses per year.  However, actual teaching assignments are determined by the department chair based on the department’s workload policy, needs, and resources.  Satisfactory performance is not based merely on time expended, but rather is also measured in terms of outcomes and performance.  The actual teaching effort for QT faculty is in general described in their offer letters.

1.6 Teaching assignment

All faculty members are expected to teach courses as assigned to them by the department chair, who has considerable flexibility to adjust the teaching assignments to best meet the of the department, school and university.  The actual teaching assignments should be made in consultation with each faculty member.  The teaching load of all the classes is considered the same, provided that appropriate instructional support is provided for larger classes, and it is the role of the chair to balance the workload between faculty appropriately when non-typical situations occur.  Instructional support for each course is determined each year by the chair within the constraints of the budget.  Department chairs should monitor the frequency at which an individual is asked to teach new courses. In particular, faculty members should not be required to teach so many new courses in quick succession as to interfere with establishment of their research or teaching programs.  On average, the teaching load of a T/TT faculty member should be distributed between undergraduate and graduate courses. 

1.7 Service effort

All faculty share in the responsibility of university service and governance and are eligible to be appointed to committees in accord with relevant University policies.  However, the tenured faculty share a particular responsibility for the service and governance functions of the University.  When serving in university service roles, all faculty members are expected to perform the requisite work in a timely manner and to contribute in a positive and collegial manner to the collective objectives.  Tenure-track faculty should have minimal service obligations and a higher research expectation.  QT faculty may have a reduced role in service activities, depending on the specifics of their work assignments.  Faculty activity in public service, or service to a relevant professional community, may also be considered as part of the service effort, provided that it relates to the disciplines covered by SEAS departments.  For example, service may include prominent leadership and service roles within a relevant professional society, journal editorships, and the like.

1.8 Service assignment

All faculty members are expected to perform university service and governance roles as assigned to them by the department chair, after consultation with the faculty member, on the basis of department, school and university needs. 

2.0 Annual Work Profile Assignment

In this section:

2.1 Normal process

The work assignment profile for each faculty member is generally set every year during the early part of the spring semester, following the annual review evaluation by the department chair and the dean. It is formulated between the department chair (or the department chairs, in case of a joint appointment) and the faculty member. All faculty work assignment profiles are subject to the approval of the dean. Changes in the profile from the default case may be dictated by a number of reasons, including administrative appointments, prior agreements with the dean (e.g., as described in employment offer letters), course “buy-outs”, changes over time in the faculty member’s interests or effort in a specific area, and special responsibilities, as described below.

2.2 Annual review

Individual faculty performance is measured based on the annual review materials that are required to be submitted by the faculty member, along with teaching assessment data, and available data on research productivity and research impacts.  These same inputs will also be used to determine norms for faculty activity within each department, in conjunction with data from AAU peers.  The relative annual performance of each faculty member is considered in accord with the individual’s actual work assignment profile for that year.  Faculty members whose activity falls significantly below department norms will be required to meet with the department chair, the associate dean for faculty affairs, and the dean to develop professional development plans to increase success in scholarship, teaching, and service.  Persistent under-performance in research, teaching, and / or service may result in work assignment profile adjustment.

2.3 Exceptions

Department chairs may recommend exceptions to the usual faculty member workload profile, based on extenuating circumstances, to the dean, who has the final authority.

3.0 Adjustments From the Default Profile

In this section:

3.1 Work assignment profile adjustments

If a faculty member has been performing more or less teaching, research and / or service than is expected, the chair, in consultation with the faculty member, will adjust the profile for the subsequent academic year so that total effort amounts to full-time service. Thus, a faculty member with low performance in research, as evaluated from the annual review, will have their work assignment profile changed towards a larger teaching or service percentage, depending on the particular case and the department’s needs. The possibility of variation in the profile provides a concrete recognition that faculty can often better serve the department and the university if flexibility in focus is allowed over the course of an academic career.  Workload profile adjustments are not expected to be made for tenure-track faculty members prior to tenure evaluation, but may be considered in unusual cases.

3.2 New appointment adjustments

It is customary for newly appointed faculty in all ranks to have a somewhat reduced teaching effort and / or somewhat reduced service effort as a result of agreements reached with the dean at the time of initial appointment.  The initial appointment letter establishes the work assignment profile adjustments.

3.3 Course buy-outs

Highly research-active faculty may “buy-out” one or two courses per year in accord with the policies and procedures established within their departments.  However, such faculty may not “buy-out” of all teaching in a given year and may not reduce their undergraduate teaching work assignment to zero, in recognition of the importance of undergraduate students, in addition to graduate students, having meaningful contact with the faculty.

3.4 Service adjustments

A profile different than the default profile may also be arranged with the dean if a considerable service or governance commitment is assigned to a faculty member, e.g. appointment as a department chair or an associate dean.

Related Information

Faculty Responsibility: Policy and Process - Memo promulgated by President William R. Greiner in consultation with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, March 17, 1993

A great public university must teach and train students, both undergraduate and graduate; add to the body of knowledge and art through research, scholarship, and creative activity; and provide public service through a variety of programs and activities that extend and apply its teaching and scholarly missions in aid of public needs and interests. Collectively, the faculty are primarily responsible for discharging these several missions of a great public university.

Individual faculty are expected to be publishing scholars or to be otherwise actively engaged in creative activity, to make significant attempts to obtain external support for their work, to contribute effectively to the instructional programs of the university, and to participate actively in university, professional, and public service. The precise balance among these aspects of each faculty member's responsibilities will vary from one program to another, among individuals within a program, and even from time to time in a particular individual's career.

In accordance with Article IX, Title C, Section 4 of the Policies of the Board of Trustees (1990), it is the chairs and unit heads who are responsible for allocating duties among the faculty in their programs. Each academic unit must develop and adhere to written guidelines that define faculty responsibilities within that unit. These guidelines should be consistent with the norms in the relevant discipline at leading institutions, and especially at leading public universities.

Faculty members are required annually to submit a report describing in detail their professional activities and accomplishments, for review by the chair and the dean. Based on this report and in consultation with the faculty member, the chair should ascertain that the performance of the faculty member is consistent with departmental guidelines and with the current needs of the unit. As needed, the chair should make efforts to assist the faculty member toward suitable professional development. The dean, in evaluating a chair's performance, should emphasize the extent to which the unit is playing its proper role in the university and the extent to which all members of the unit are contributing appropriately to that role.

Current as of Mar 17, 1993.

Updated 12/03/2018