The Anthropology of the College Professor


Anthropologist John Ziker (Boise State) applied the tools of his trade to the species homo academicus and reports the first of his findings on how professors use their time. Some excerpts:

On average, our faculty participants worked 61 hours per week. That is 50 percent more than a 40-hour workweek. It’s a good thing they love what they do. They worked just over 10 hours per day during the workweek and just under 10 hours on the two weekend days combined…

The most surprising finding of our analysis of practices was that faculty spent approximately 17 percent of their workweek days in meetings. These meetings included everything from advising meetings with students (which could be considered part of teaching or service depending on the department) to committee meetings that have a clear service function. Thirteen percent of the day was spent on email (with functions ranging from teaching to research and service). Thus, 30 percent of faculty time was spent on activities that are not traditionally thought of as part of the life of an academic. Twelve percent of the day was spent on instruction (actual lectures, labs, clinicals etc.), and an equal amount of time was spent on class preparation. Eleven percent of the day was spent on course administration (grading, updating course web pages, etc.). Thus, 35 percent of workweek days was spent on activities traditionally thought of as teaching. Only three percent of our workweek day was spent on primary research and two percent on manuscript writing… On the weekend, faculty spent 23 percent of their time on class preparation, 13 percent on course administration, 10 percent of their time on email, nine percent of their time at workshops/conferences, eight percent of their time in professional conversations, seven percent of their time on professional travel, four percent of their time on manuscript writing, and four percent of their time on what we termed housekeeping, which included cleaning up files, straightening offices and labs and updating computers, among a myriad of other more rare activities.

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