Senate halts UNC teaching load bill

Posted April 28, 2015

Old Well, landmark at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

— Senate leaders have put the brakes on a proposal to require University of North Carolina system professors to teach more courses per semester.

The original version of Senate Bill 593, sponsored by freshman Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, would have doubled the number of courses professors on the system's 16 university campuses are required to teach, even those who are primarily researchers.

McInnis rolled out a less Draconian version of the bill Tuesday in Senate Education Committee. It would have left the teaching load for professors in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math) at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University at its current level of four courses per year, while adding a fifth course for non-STEM professors.

For other schools in the system, STEM professors would have gone from five to 5.5 courses a year, and non-STEM professors from five to six.

McInnis said he believes the university system would find itself with "an excess of 547 professors" at its current level of course offerings. Eliminating them, he argued, could save between $60 million and $80 million.

"There is no substitute, ladies and gentlemen, for a quality professor in the classroom of every college class in the UNC system," he proclaimed. "The student is the most important customer that we have in the UNC system."

McInnis said he had heard complaints from parents and students that they were having to borrow tuition money for courses mostly taught by "student teachers" or teaching assistants. He said he had spoken to one student who said she has not yet met the professor in her course, four months into the semester, "and that is a deplorable act."

However, committee Chairman Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, quickly announced that the bill would be pulled from the committee agenda and would be turned into a study by the Legislative Research Commission. That means the proposal will not make a key legislative deadline Thursday and so is likely dead for the remainder of the 2015-16 session.


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