Published in AMS Quarterly, vol. 3 (Spring 1999): 5
original manuscript; copyright retained by author
HJR main web page

Herbert Jack Rotfeld
Auburn University College of Business
Alabama, Alabama   U.S.A

Memo to Faculty
From: Professor Meg Lowmain E. Ack, Department Head
RE: Standards for Teaching, Research and Service
Purpose: Policies of the elimination of all faculty freedom, privacy and dignity

It has come to my attention that too many faculty have punctuality as a grade requirement, demanding that students arrive at the designated time and penalizing them for coming late. According to the student handbook, tenure track faculty may come as much as 15 minutes late and students are directed to wait that long for an instructor to arrive. I interpret this to mean that punctuality requirements violate university policy, so students can come as much as 15 minutes late without penalty.

At the same time, since our students pay tuition for a full period class, you can not dismiss before the end of the period. This has become more important since we are losing class days when the semester is shortened so students can attend important football and basketball games. If you run out of material for that day, talk about your wife, kids or dog. Students love this effort since you then seem more human to them. Or tell jokes. (I have a copy of the Milton Berle Joke File if anyone wishes to borrow it.) I once filled a open half-hour showing them how to make balloon animals and we had a lot of fun while conveying an important lesson they could use at sales meetings.

Aside from time requirements, I have received many student complaints that some faculty make an important part of the grade to be based on quizzes that are given before the faculty member tells students what they need to know. Pedagogically, this conveys to students that you do not care about how well they succeed in the education and causes difficulty for their self-esteem. Henceforth, there will be no assignments or quizzes based on material that you have not explained in class. All exams must be direct and objective, with little space for your opinions or subjective assessments of essay clarity.

While class sizes continue to creep upwards, we must continue to include writing assignments in our courses. This can be accomplished by group projects, so if you have five people per group it will lower your grading time. I do not believe that the phenomenon of social loafing exists among our diligent students and a group project has all people in the class writing something. Yet since this is not an English or Speech department, you may not lower grades for errors of spelling, grammar or basic writing skills. However, you may penalize students for using big words you don't understand since we are trying to teach communications ability. A marketing person who acts too smart often offends the clients and no one likes to use a dictionary.

How well faculty implement these directives will be taken into account in your semi-annual activity review. At that time, I will also assess how your student evaluation numbers fit with rest of the department. As before, all faculty will be rank ordered by numbers and assessed for teaching quality in terms of their number of standard deviations away from the department means. Last year, our department average was 4.2 on the usual 5 scale and, unfortunately, half of the teachers in the department were below average.

Our research productivity continues to be mixed, with some faculty starting to write in journals I have not approved or on topics that I consider less that optimal. This must not continue. As before, evaluations will ignore data on a publication's impact, citations or other such factors. We are a business and our productivity goal is that we must have the desired number of articles per year accepted in the administratively approved academic outlets. Some faculty carry the quota for others and we need to keep up those numbers. For a list of optimal journals, check my vita which is on file with the secretary in the department office.

Rank of journal quality will be divided by number of authors, multiplied by the word count, subtracting self-citations and words deleted, times the circulation, with the total divided by the cost of a subscription. The resulting number will be entered in the state lottery.

Co-authored work is encouraged, especially with faculty who otherwise have "trouble" getting published. Informally, if you feel a colleague needs another line of work on a report for tenure or promotion, place their name on an article. If I am notified in advance, I won't divide their contribution in the above formula, so it doesn't cost you anything and it places them in your debt.

Any discussion of undesirable writing must address those of you who have been writing essays. These activities are misleading and inflammatory. As you know, no one in our department received any equity adjustments during the past few years and I believe this to be a product of our negative image with the higher administration. What causes a negative image? Having opinions!! One faculty member even had the audacity to upset the university president with some recent newspaper commentaries and I will start assigning him to teach classes he does not like at hours he can't tolerate.

Some of you avoid service activities while others have solicited work other that which I assigned you to do. This is not a country club and it is my job to assign you to service work. If you are uncertain as to whether a job is appropriate for you, contact me first. Most recently, the members of the department technology committee refused to repair the broken VCR (even though I had the screwdrivers) and they ignored me when the secretary directed them to check light bulbs in all of our overhead projectors. This does not help our image.

If you work very hard doing what is directed by this memo, our department can be a dystopia of which I can be proud.