Changes proposed for college teaching release policies

CAS and, I believe the other colleges are currently revising their teaching release  policies. I’ve asked the deans for the current drafts, and will add them below as I receive them.

Info request:

From: UO Senate President <>

Subject: course release policy
Date: October 1, 2016 at 2:31:09 AM PDT
To: Andrew Marcus <>, Bruce Blonigen <>,, Terry Hunt <>,, Adriene Lim <>,,,
Cc: Chris Sinclair <>, Senate Executive Coordinator <>, Office of the Provost <>, Mariann Hyland <>

Dear Deans –

I’m writing as Senate Pres, to ask that you provide the Senate with a copy of the current draft of your college’s course release policy, so that I can distribute it to the Senate before our October 5 meeting.


Bill Harbaugh
Senate President
Economics Professor
University of Oregon

CAS response:

From: Karen Ford <>
Subject: Fwd: course release policy
Date: October 1, 2016 at 3:57:50 PM PDT
To: William Harbaugh <>

Dear Bill,

I’m responding to your request below for college course release policies. Attached are our proposed methodology and metrics in CAS, which we’ve drafted after discussions among the CAS deans and with the Wise Heads. We will be discussing the proposal with Academic Affairs and United Academics before it’s final.

All the best,

AAA response:

From: Christoph Lindner <>
Subject: Re: course release policy
Date: October 1, 2016 at 11:48:25 AM PDT
To: Senate President <>
Cc: Senate Executive Coordinator <>

Dear Bill,

I’m sorry to say that A&AA does not currently have a draft school policy on course releases. We are currently working on developing/drafting such a policy, which will be available to share and circulate in due course.

best wishes,

Christoph Lindner
Dean and Professor
School of Architecture and Allied Arts
University of Oregon

4 thoughts on “Changes proposed for college teaching release policies”

  1. From today’s NYT story about the Nobel Memorial Prize:

    In an influential 1986 paper, Dr. Holmstrom and Dr. Hart — writing together for the first time in their careers — also underscored important limitations on performance-based pay. The two men observed that contracts are generally much simpler than theory might predict. Companies do not try to write down a complete set of expectations. The reason, they suggested, is that specific instructions can be counterproductive, encouraging too much focus on whatever happens to be easily quantified.

  2. The formula for calculating course releases takes into account only two “metrics” of “excellence”: 1) student credit hours taught by TTF and 2) the ratio of PhD students to TTF faculty. Here’s an academic question as commonly understood:

    Are these the (only) metrics we want to reward departments for?

  3. Policies like this are clearly academic in nature, and while CAS isn’t the entire academic enterprise, enough people are covered to argue that these academic decisions should be made in consultation with the Senate. I’m not sure how to push back on this, but I think the Senate should.

  4. I was sent this document – not sure who wrote it – laying out some of the good and bad points of this policy:


    • Transparent, simple, and easy to understand.
    • Preserves past practice while making reasonable equity adjustments.
    Doesn’t make invidious distinctions among disciplines. Uses a metric applicable to all.
    • Provides a mechanism for departments to move up by putting TTF in front of students.
    • SCH/TTF metric discourages departments from seeking replacement instruction when
    they can instead redeploy existing TTF.
    • Provides departments an incentive to limit course releases for administration in order to
    free up releases for research.
    • While departments have an incentive to offer courses that are larger on average, they
    may combine small classes with large crowd-pleasers to maintain or even enhance
    pedagogical quality. These tradeoffs are best managed locally.
    Departments have an incentive to let their faculty teach in nondepartmental programs
    with high enrollments (e.g. HUM).
    • This scheme is, in theory, self-correcting and self-limiting: gaining a course release by
    increasing SCH simultaneously takes a TTF out of the classroom, re-depressing SCH. It
    captures existing practice, in other words, and is resistant to being gamed.

    • Departments with large numbers of externally generated releases (e.g. for university
    service, sabbaticals and leaves, retention offers, or new junior faculty) lose SCH for
    reasons beyond their control. This disadvantages the remaining faculty in their access to
    internal releases. Even 3-year averages cannot smooth out all volatility in TTF-SCH.
    • Disincentivizes the teaching of small classes and may make it even harder to recruit
    faculty for small Honors College or (rebooted) College Scholars courses.
    • Use of the SCH/TTF ratio may disincentivize departments from asking for TTF in critical
    or strategic research fields that may not happen to generate undergraduate SCH.
    • Departments may game the system by shifting TTF to large classes, if they can.
    The incentive to increase average class sizes in order to teach less may reinforce an
    imbalance quite apparent in the Delaware study data for many departments. This may
    degrade educational quality and adversely affect key AAU metrics.
    • By following SCH only, this system does not necessarily reward releases to departments
    that are research-productive, or that have large amounts of graduate instruction, or that
    have complex administrative needs.
    • Does this address the President’s concern that TTF are not teaching enough?

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