I am a tenured professor in a public university in USA, with 9-month salary. This Summer, I have been assigned to teach a Summer class, and I just found out that I will not be paid to do that (yes, 0% of salary).

Will it be reasonable to refuse to teach this course in such a situation? Will such refusal be sufficient reason for me to be disciplined?

  • 4
    Does your faculty have a union? What do the terms of your contract say in terms of teaching load? If you are on a 9 month contract then the summer is not a period of obligation. Is summer teaching going to offset teaching in the fall/spring?
    – Spark
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:08
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    @Timmy If teaching is the way most of your colleagues get Summer income, why does this particular teaching assignment not result in you getting paid a Summer income?
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:12
  • 4
    I guess you can argue that you aren't obligated to teach in the summer then, at least not without being paid. The fact that others get paid to teach in the summer and you don't seems really strange.
    – Spark
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:12
  • 4
    If you are only paid for 9 months then you are not obligated to do anything for the university in the summer.
    – Spark
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:13
  • 7
    BTW, it's pretty common that summer courses without a baseline enrollment just get cancelled, and you don't get paid. You need to figure out if that's what is being communicated to you poorly. Some people, myself included, do not participate in summer courses because of that chance. This may or may not be OK with you. There is no way that you should actually teach any summer course with no compensation. Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:35

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is reasonable to turn down summer teaching assignments if they do not benefit you. This would be doubly true if you were not being paid.

Your situation sounds sufficiently unusual that I wonder if some institutional norms are in play. I would suggest “refusing” in a way that seeks to gently clarify those norms. Something like “I have just learned that the summer course is to be offered without pay. Is this correct, or have I misunderstood? If that is the case, I will unfortunately be unable to teach it. I am happy to discuss teaching this topic when I am back on contract and the course will be counted toward my teaching load. ”


Generally, a 9month Tenured isn't obligated to take summer classes without compensation. Also, typically a Tenured would not take more than two consecutive summer classes. It tilts towards illegality.

However, it is not uncommon for some universities or school or department to include a clause in their policy along the line of ... Summer classes will be assigned based on the best interests of the university/school/dept. What is 'best interest' is left imagining!
PS: even at that, not that the Tenured can just be bamboozled or compelled with recourse.

Kindly check your institution policy and take it from there. If you have union, get feedback from there: they might want to take it up for you.
If your policy has a resolution clause, explore the route provided.

If you're being singled for 'no pay', raised it firmly with facts yet respectfully. It might sit on #discrimination leg.

[Edit] Might be worthwhile scanning through the #reddit post The legality of Requiring Work Over Summer for 9 Month Contracts.
NB: any advice/comment bothering on law on a faceless forum shouldn't be construed as legal advice.


Unethical, wrong, exploitative from the university? Yes. Grounds for disciplinary action against the professor? Hmm. Maybe. It really depends on your contract. Do you have a union? Ask the grievance officer. As others have said in comments, it really depends on the exact language of the contract. Most people think that tenure is some generally-agreed term, akin to a constitutional right, but in reality it's just a specific contract between the university and you. In general, it protects you from firing due to speech inside of the classroom, but tenured professors have been fired for all sorts of reasons, large and small, including classroom speech. Some contracts have enough loopholes to drive a truck through. So yes, bring up the issue, but tread carefully.

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