A bill to increase minimum UNC faculty loads to four courses per semester and eight per year has caused a huge backlash among faculty members. The Pope Center, particularly our director of policy analysis Jay Schalin, has advocated for such increases, although maybe not in the form this bill took. In a Chronicle of Higher Education piece today (behind a paywall), Schalin explains that the current bill is not as realistic as a potential final product, yet to be introduced (emphasis mine):

It’s not yet certain what the final piece of legislation will look like. In fact, the bill’s key supporters have floated two options.

Mr. McInnis was not available for an interview, but last week he told the Salisbury Post that he would alter the bill by taking into account how much research each institution conducts. Under that model, professors at institutions like North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would have a smaller required course load than their colleagues at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Asheville, for example.

But Jay Schalin, director of policy analysis for the conservative John William Pope Center for Education Policy, said a substitute bill, to be put forth in committee, would increase course-load requirements only at North Carolina’s research institutions. That proposal would hold professors in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to lower course-load standards than professors in the humanities or social sciences, Mr. Schalin said.

“That’s a more realistic look at the way the world works,” he said, adding that professors in the STEM fields often get grants to do outside research, which provides a benefit to the local economy.

The goal, he said, is to recenter the university system on education: “Too often undergraduate education is given short shrift.”

One argument posited by opponents of the bill, introduced by Sen. Tom McInnis, is that fewer graduate students will be attracted to UNC institutions, particularly those who want teaching experience. Schalin counters that this is actually an argument for the bill:

Professors also said they worried that the proposal would hurt their ability to recruit graduate students. Chapel Hill’s graduate stipends are low, Mr. Brundage said, but the fact that graduate students get opportunities to teach is a major selling point.

Mr. Schalin, however, said that argument actually worked in favor of the bill.

“The universities are simply producing too many Ph.D.’s who intend to teach,” he said. “This will help address that. If there are fewer graduate programs, or graduate programs are smaller and fewer Ph.D.’s are produced, there won’t be quite such a glut.”

With tenured and tenure-track professors teaching more courses, he added, universities would have less incentive to hire faculty members into low-paying, less-secure adjunct positions.

Part of what ails the ivory tower is its endless cycle of academics who produce esoteric research at taxpayer expense, only to be replaced by new academics who do the same. None of this is to say there is no room in the world for such research, or that professors should only teach and not do research, but when work is done on the taxpayer’s dime, it is the prerogative of the legislature to control how the money is spent. Furthermore, the primary mission of the state’s university system is to teach students, and those students should, as far as practicable, be taught by actual professors.