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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Number of Courses to be Taught

faculty handbook

Principles Guiding Teaching Load

Prepared by the Committee on Teaching Responsibilities and approved by the Department November 5, 2003. Revisions approved May 7, 2008; November 21, 2011.

Summary of Assumptions and Principles

The department has differential teaching responsibilities. Teaching responsibilities are determined each year. There are no permanent reductions. (Contractual agreements with the university regarding teaching responsibilities will be honored.) This document pertains to the teaching responsibilities of tenured and tenure-track members of the faculty. (It does not pertain to lecturers or to part-time faculty.)

In addition to fairness, openness, and transparency, the primary specific considerations guiding the assignment of the number of courses to be taught are:

  • The quality of the curriculum, both graduate and undergraduate.
  • The research productivity of the department.

In establishing teaching responsibilities, the department will honor the following guidelines:

  • In any given academic year, preservation of the curriculum can trump the consideration of course-load reductions. (That is, a faculty member can be asked to teach a needed course, even if that faculty member otherwise merits a course reduction.) When reductions are approved, which courses are taught and which are dropped are decided by the Teaching Committee.
  • The department will encourage voluntary teaching. Some members of the faculty already do this, and it must be recognized, honored, and respected.
  • The department will alert the members of the faculty to the needs of the curriculum.

Reductions in teaching responsibilities in a given year will be made according to general principles, including the following:

  • Teaching assignments allow for flexibility so that, for example, overloads one year can compensate for reductions in another.
  • Not everything that a faculty member does merits a reduction.

This document describes the system in place from the time of its adoption, but does not preclude future changes. The effects of these procedures are monitored and subject to review. In other words, these rules are not contracts that bind future department decisions.

Specific Procedures

Note: instead of speaking of, say, a 1-1 load, we sometimes define teaching responsibility in terms of courses per year, in this case 2, in order to emphasize flexibility. Thus 2 courses could be 1-1, but could also be 0-2 or 2-0.


Faculty members are encouraged to obtain fellowships and awards that include a teaching buy-out. Faculty members can also buy out of individual courses with grants and other means, but cannot use buy-outs to reduce teaching load below 2 courses per year. Procedures for buy-outs are explained in more detail in the next section, on Buy-Outs Courses through Grants. (Other than this, there is no minimum teaching load.) The Teaching Committee can grant exceptions to the 2-course minimum and will honor arrangements with the administration. The terms of any buy-out have to be negotiated with the administration.

Newly Hired Tenured and Pre-tenure, Tenure-Track Members

Non-tenured (but tenure-track) members receive the following teaching responsibility: 1 course in the first year; 2 courses in the second year; 3 courses in third and subsequent years until tenure. The department will also try to be maximally flexible. So, for example, if possible, the non-tenured member who wishes it could arrange to have 2-2 and 2-0 instead of 2-1 and 2-1 for two of the years in order to have one semester off. After the first two years (when the teaching load would normally be 3 courses), a pre-tenure tenure-track faculty member may enter Group E (2-course load) if the member desires and if the criteria are met. If the member desires, the numbers can be pro-rated to years at BC. Alternatively, the full 5-year window can apply.

Someone hired with tenure has a 2-course load the first year and no more than a 3-course load in the next two years, although this can of course be a topic of negotiation. After 3 years, the usual procedures apply.

Administrative Duties

Administrative reductions are: 1 course for the Graduate Director; 1 course for the Undergraduate Director; 2 courses for the Chair.

Point System

In order to acknowledge the work involved in independent studies, theses, and the like, a point system is established. Points, in turn, are used in setting criteria for course reductions. Points are awarded for courses offered in the previous 5-year window as follows:

  • One point for each independent study student per semester.
  • Three points for each thesis or Scholar of the College project per semester.

To illustrate: 80 points are achieved in 10 semesters with an average of 8 points per semester, which, in turn, can be achieved with 2 theses and 2 independent study students. Three theses per year for 5 years yield 90 points.

Special Reduction for Theses and Scholar of the College projects

The completed supervision of any combination of 16 completed theses/Scholar of the College projects can be used to substitute for one course, but this can only be done once every 4 years. Once these 16 completed theses/Scholar of the College projects are substituted for one course, the faculty member must start over again and supervise 16 more to earn another course off. Using 16 theses/Scholar projects for a one-course reduction means that these 16 cannot be used to earn points (in Section II.4) towards a publication. Nor can theses or scholar projects used in the past to earn points toward a publication be used later for this one-course reduction. The count of theses/Scholar projects starts with calendar year 2007.

Application for Reductions

A tenured member of the faculty (and pre-tenure after the first two years) requests to be in one of the following groups. Bear in mind that some members of the faculty in the past have volunteered to teach more than was required and that this voluntary activity is especially important in offering our undergraduate and graduate students a broad and varied curriculum. Therefore, one can request to be in a group with a higher teaching responsibility than specified by the criteria.

Group A. Persons in this group emphasize teaching in their contribution to the department. They teach 5 courses per year (5-course load).

Group B. Persons in this group emphasize a balance between teaching and research. They maintain an active research program and feel that they need a 1-course reduction in teaching in order to maintain that program (4-course load).

Group C. Persons in this group also emphasize a balance between teaching and research as their contribution to the department. They can use a half-course off so that they can co-teach a course, or they can bank the ½ course reduction to achieve a full course reduction the following year (3 1/2-course load).

Group D. Persons in this group are in the grant stream, and they therefore need even more time for research and administration of grants and applications for grants. Persons in this group feel that they need a 2-course reduction in order to maintain their program (3-course load).

Group E. Persons in this group are, like those in Group D, in the grant stream and are especially productive. They have an extra course off (2-course load).

Criteria for Reductions

There are many activities that faculty members do—from committee work to giving public lectures to ad hoc reviewing for journals—that are unacknowledged here. Each member of the faculty is expected to serve on committees of the department, university, and government; to advise undergraduates; to mentor honor students and scholars of the college; serve as members of graduate student committees; to prepare new courses from time to time; and so on. We make no attempt to take such valuable and time-consuming activities into account.

Some Definitions

  • We define a publication as one article in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, a scholarly chapter in an edited book, and each substantive chapter (up to a maximum of 5) in an authored scholarly book. An edited scholarly book or edited special issue of a journal is credited as one publication. Someone who authors a scholarly book with 5 substantial chapters receives credit for 5 publications. By scholarly book, we refer to a book such as a research monograph or review of the research literature; it is aimed not at the general public or at students but at fellow researchers and is marked by references and by being published by the appropriate publisher or division of a publishing house. This definition of publication excludes epilogues, prologues, book reviews, errata in journals, textbooks, books for non-scholars, committee reports, manuals, conference abstracts, posters, presentations, colloquia, workshops, prefaces, etc. The publication, as defined here, must be out: that is, it must be in print-- not in press, on-line, under revision, under contract, promised, accepted, hoped for, etc. Future publications will presumably contribute to future windows.
  • We define a grant as funds received from an external agency as PI or Co-PI for purposes of research. The grant must be held at BC or subcontracted to BC. Research is defined broadly but does not include simply training of students or simply travel to a conference. By PI or Co-PI is meant someone with primary responsibility for the proposal and research. A major research grant is one that funds a series of studies over several years; it can be from NIH, NSF, private foundation, etc. A minor research grant is one that funds pilot research for a short period. The major grant must contribute at least $50,000 per year to research (total cost), and must provide support to a graduate student (minimum of the $6,000 summer salary). The Teaching Committee can waive some of these details when there is good reason, such as the funding agency does not allow graduate student salaries or the PI’s graduate students have their own funding. The Teaching Committee cannot, however, waive the spirit of this rule, which is to support large research programs that secure adequate external funding.
  • Receipt of and administering a major grant substitutes for 3 publications. Receipt of and administering each minor grant substitutes for 1 publication, up to a maximum of 3. This substitution applies only during the operation of the grant and one subsequent year.
  • In each group, an application or re-application for a research grant (defined above) submitted in the current calendar year substitutes for 1 publication, up to a maximum of 1 publication.
  • To be in the grant stream means being a PI or CoPI on a research grant at BC (contracted or subcontracted) or having applied for such a grant (funded or not) in the current calendar year.
  • Points also are relevant to the criteria for reductions: 80 points substitutes for one publication, up to a maximum of 2 publications.
  • Co-taught courses earn 0.5 credit each.
  • The first time one teaches a large section of Intro Psych (200+ students), it earns 2 credits, thereafter 1.5.
  • Course credits from an overload can be carried over to the next year.
  • A five year window means a five year calendar year window.

Criteria for Group Membership

Criteria for being placed in Groups A through E are determined by past productivity. Evidence for productivity must occur in a 5-year window. Applicants must have an up-to-date CV posted on the department’s website listing all relevant evidence.

Criteria for Group A: For those with a 5-course teaching load (3-2), the Teaching Committee can ask for additional contributions such as supervising of theses, Scholar of the College projects, independent studies, new course preparation, high enrollment courses, courses with an extensive writing requirement, additional advising, heavy committee work, or university contribution. What contribution is requested is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Teaching Committee.

Criteria for Group B: For a 4-course teaching load (2-2), one must have, in a 5-year window, 6 publications.

Criteria for Group C: For a 3.5-course load, one must have, in a 5-year window, 8 publications.

Criteria for Group D: One can achieve a 3-course load (2-1) in either of two ways:

  1. while serving as PI or Co-PI on an externally funded research grant at BC; or
  2. having, in a 5-year window, 11 publications plus being in the grant stream.

Criteria for Group E: To achieve a 2-course load, one must fulfill both of two criteria:

  1. one must be in the grant stream, and
  2. one must have, in a 5-year window, 16 publications. Those in Group E teach 1-1 or 2-0; thus, buying-out one of those 2 courses would be unusual and subject to negotiation with the teaching committee.

Adjudication Procedure

To apply the criteria to individual cases:

a) A member applies for a specific teaching responsibility. Evidence for reductions is on the CV and summarized in the application.

b) The Teaching Committee considers each case each year to determine the number of courses that person will teach. The Committee follows the explicit guidelines stated in this report completely. The list is made public.

c) An Appeal Procedure. A faculty member can appeal the outcome of the process. Grounds are narrow in the sense that they must be consistent with the guidelines. An appeal, for example, might be based on a claim that the Teaching Committee made a clerical error (miscount of publications or an overlooked contribution).

d) The Teaching Committee has the additional power to consider and grant requests based on grounds of subjective quality. That is, in the original application, a member of the faculty can make a case that although the criteria were not quite reached, the quality of the work justifies a teaching reduction nonetheless. Both the application and the ruling of the Teaching Committee are to be in writing and made public.

e) The Teaching Committee has the additional power to consider and grant requests based on special circumstances. Prototypical case would be someone who has especially promising pilot data, or someone who wants to get back in the saddle after a period of inactivity. A person would ordinarily get only one shot at this “special exception”, however. Both the application and the ruling of the Teaching Committee are to be in writing and made public.