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I am a new Instructor, started during the pandemic and am only going into my second year. I work for a smaller local college, full-time. The college is a located in the U.S. in the Mid-West (Ohio), it offers 2 and 4-year degrees.

When starting in 2020, I was hired with the understanding that I come into the college, teach, hold office hours and then I could go home. However, this year they have decided that all instructors must be on campus 40 hours per week, 8-5. I teach business courses, many times I have questions that come in after hours, plus I typically grade and do prep work after hours.

So my question is: is it normal to be required to sit at a desk (in this case a cubicle) 40 hours per week? Or, can one typically come and go as teaching requires, with scheduled office hours for students?

Being new to the industry I am trying to understand the norm.

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    Is this policy perhaps a bit of a backlash to remote-focused instruction during the pandemic? This might be something to discuss with a more immediate rung of the chain of command, as these rules might not come from someone who has any idea how academic instruction works, nor care that the specific rule is followed.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 18 '21 at 18:17
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    Are you represented by a union, such as the AAUP? If so, talk to your union representatives. There may be clauses in your contract about working hours, etc. If not they may be able to negotiate something mutually agreeable. If you are not represented by a union, and if other instructors at your college also dislike this policy, then perhaps this would be a good rallying point to start one.
    – Daniel K
    Aug 18 '21 at 23:38
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    Welcome to Academia.SE. I have edited the bolded question a bit; while we can advise about norms, we don't really take survey questions like "Does your university...."
    – cag51
    Aug 19 '21 at 1:26
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    Have you had a chance to ask long-timers about this? They can often provide some interesting history -- the phony-instructor scandal of '18 or somesuch Aug 19 '21 at 1:38
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    The admins at one school I taught at started talking about having the faculty punch a clock. They were taken aback when the faculty was supportive. The faculty never likes the stupid ideas coming out of admin, so what's the deal? "We'd love to work only 40 hours per week." No admin wants happy faculty so the idea was dropped instantly.
    – B. Goddard
    Aug 21 '21 at 12:54
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I find this unusual in the US, but you say you are in a smaller, local, college. I've taught in such places and the rules there seem to sometimes diverge from what you see in larger places, even private colleges and universities. Proprietary and for-profit colleges may diverge more from the norm.

The typical rule is that you need to spend a certain number of scheduled office hours per week and also be "responsive" to students. But not that it is considered a 9-5 job. That doesn't serve anyone very well. In the age of covid and zoom it is entirely possible to fulfill all of your non-classroom duties and never go to the office. Teaching, itself, is a more difficult proposition, of course. An additional constraint might be that you spend some time in the office 4 or 5 days per week.

A typical professor probably spends much more than 40 hours per week on things related to their employment: teaching, helping students, research, service to the college and community. In return for this, the professor is normally allowed to set their own schedule with only a few limiting parameters.

The issue with this scenario is that, like a worker in an auto factory, once the bell tolls you are free. You have no job related tasks at all. I'd hate to be a college president trying to make sense of that.

Intellectual work, in particular, requires breaks and not just five minute scheduled breaks. If you have to sit in your office, staring at the wall when you are suddenly stuck then you are wasting time and reducing productivity.

I can foresee that there are places with such rules. I predict they are rare. I suggest that you look for other opportunities if you have no influence on academic policies.

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    Cuts both ways, for sure. "Due to change in policy this year, I will be on campus from 9-5 M-F and have scheduled office hours accordingly. Also, I will be replying to all e-mail questions, etc., during that time. If you send an email after 4:55pm, it is unlikely that you will receive a response before 9am the next business day. Please try to begin work on assignments early enough to allow for delay in response to questions. (Note that assignments will be posted X, etc.) I apologize for the inconvenience to those of you who have job and have difficulty being on campus during those hours." Aug 20 '21 at 12:18
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    @user3067860 On the other hand, I don't think it's reasonable for a student to send an email at 4:55pm, and expect a response that evening, in ordinary circumstances.
    – Andrew
    Aug 21 '21 at 15:14
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No, it is not normal at all, in all my observation in the U.S.

The by-far-usual idea is that since class prep, grading, committees, and so on, take such irregular amounts of time, usually more than 40 hours a week after teaching (and research), the administration is happy to get the work done. That is, they're happier with people working ambiguous 50+ hour weeks than closely monitored 40 hour weeks, and necessarily in the office.

Occasionally, also, various administrations have had spasms of need-to-control faculty. Years ago, here in MN, a state legislator saw a well-known senior faculty person mowing their yard mid-day on a Thursday... which precipitated massive turmoil about whether faculty were earning their pay, what's the work-load, etc., etc. Seems that we recovered from that.

A few years ago, there was an administrative spasm which wanted to require that all faculty with grants paying summer salary should be present on campus M-F, etc. It was pointed out that this failed to make sense in several ways, and we recovered.

It is not hard to imagine that the tension of the pandemic has addled some administrators' brains to the extent that they want to "regain control" (rather than tolerate people "working" from home, sitting in their pajamas in comfortable surroundings, rather than crappy offices/cubicles...?)

So, as you suspect, this is a very hostile attitude, and is a very bad sign about the administration, if it really persists. All the more surprising/disappointing after the pandemic has shown that much work can be done remotely.

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    Sometimes people get inappropriately voted down for ranting. I voted this up because it's clear, reflects first-hand experience, and captures the frustration of dealing with admin idiots. Well done. Aug 19 '21 at 5:38
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    There’s a line somewhere between how present you should be vs how present you must be. Although some admin. are severely afflicted by “control-freakness”, some equally idiotic faculty are abusing the current situation. Of course reasonable people in the middle are the ones that have to pay for the excesses of others. Aug 19 '21 at 10:24
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You don't say whether your school is private or public, whether it's a for-profit school, whether or not you're represented by a union, or whether your employment contract addresses this issue. It's very difficult to say what is "normal" without this kind of context.

But no, in general, this is not normal at most schools in the US, and it doesn't sound like it's normal at your school either, since it was imposed on people who were already working there.

There have been some comments to the effect that administrators doing this kind of thing would have to be knuckleheads or obsessive control freaks. I don't think that's quite right. If the school is trying to maintain high quality of instruction and offer in-person learning during covid, then it's reasonable for administrators to be concerned about getting faculty to have a significant in-person presence. It's just a little extreme to make that into an absolute mandate for being on campus M-F 8-5.

I'm retired from a job teaching at a unionized community college in California, and during the time when I was at that job, before covid, there were ongoing tussles between the administration and the union over attempts to require faculty to be present on campus for a certain number of days per week and to be available for required in-person meetings. The union saw this as unreasonable, and many of my colleagues were angry about it, but I have to say that it didn't seem completely unreasonable to me. A certain percentage of the faculty were trying to do the absolute minimum possible amount of work without getting fired -- and that amount was pretty low if they were tenured. I overheard one of my colleagues bragging to his student in a health class about how easy his job was and how few hours a week he spent on it.

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