III.5. Scheduling Classes

One of the most sensitive and complex of the chair’s responsibilities is the assignment of faculty teaching loads. It is also one of the few tasks over which the chair has final responsibility, balancing the needs of faculty to have time for scholarship on the one hand, and the student demand for classes on the other. Because faculty workload is a complicated issue, and despite the chair’s “final responsibility” for assigning teaching loads, it is wise to include the department collective in a discussion of general guidelines to follow, especially if the outcome is likely to be less than ideal.

For each semester, the process of constructing the schedule of classes begins several months in advance to conform to NIU’s registration and enrollment deadlines. Several considerations will shape the schedule of classes. If the department has a regular rotating curriculum for its majors and minors, its requirements will influence the frequency with which courses need to be offered and the number of sections required. A starting point is to look at earlier semesters to determine necessary patterns of courses to be offered. Projected shifts in student enrollment will also need to be part of the equation and may require a conversation with the college’s advising dean. Characteristics of the student body have an effect on when classes need to be offered, especially if a large portion of likely students are juggling employment or family demands. In addition, many departments have centrality obligations to other departments and colleges in which one or more of courses are required or recommended for students in other majors.

Faculty expertise and preferences and an overall fairness in assigning workload become part of the equation, which will be further shaped by instructors’ collective bargaining agreements and part-time versus full-time teaching appointments. Finally, laboratories, independent study, thesis and dissertation supervision, and negotiated course reductions will all be part of the workload distribution. Irene Hecht and associates (1999) point out that, in addition to the familiar workload dilemmas facing chair, new questions and employment models are changing the face of the professoriate; these, in turn, complicate the chair’s task of completing the teaching schedule.