The second formal grievance hearing in Cal Poly’s history, which focused on excessive workloads given to professors in the electrical engineering department, was held Nov. 16.
Electrical engineering associate professor Bryan Mealy said he was subjected to an excessive workload from Winter 2010 through Spring 2011. Mealy asked for fair-weighted teaching units and compensation for the nine laboratories he taught during that period.
Before a settlement can be reached, Mealy and the university, represented by Michael Suess, had time to present their case to a judiciary committee made up of David Mitchell, John Lawson and Lynn Moody.
“This is not a rift between (Mealy) and the university,” Suess said in his opening statement. “It is an issue between the lab facilities and the number of students in each lab.”
According to Mealy, there are two categories of electrical engineering: analog and digital. Mealy, who specializes in digital, said his workload is more than that of an analog professor’s, due to the larger number of laboratory benches in his classes.
Each digital laboratory has 16 benches with two students per bench. This differs from analog classes with six or eight benches in each laboratory and three students per bench.
“I started in 2003, and it wasn’t until 2007 that I noticed I was teaching twice as many students and benches,” Mealy said. “I proposed that they either make scheduling fair or give me some help.”
In reply to Mealy’s claims, Suess focused his argument on Mealy teaching “studios,” which are lecture and labs combined into three two-hour meetings per week. Analog courses have three meetings a week consisting of an hour-long lecture and meet once a week for a three-hour lab.
Each analog lecture has a maximum enrollment of 36 students and is joined with a lab that can hold a maximum of 24 students, and each digital “studio” holds an enrollment maximum of 32 students. Suess said a professor in the analog sector gives separate grades for lecture and lab while digital gives a single grade for the “studio” course.
“In the 32-student laboratory format, we expect professors to be utilizing all available resources, such as graders and assistants,” Suess said. “With the these resources available, this considered an acceptable workload.”
Besides having more students, Mealy also claimed the larger class sizes diminish the quality of education the students receive. To support this argument, he brought in first-year electrical engineering professor Bridget Benson as a witness to explain the differences in large compared to small classes.
In Benson’s testimony, she said the quality of instruction is different. She has a larger workload with the bigger classes because there are more students to teach and more laboratory reports to grade.
“My smaller classes are a lot more interactive,” Benson said. “Larger classes with 32 students seem more timid. I think they are a little lost. This is just what I’ve noticed in my classes.”
Each side debated and discussed the issues at hand for more than seven hours, allowing the committee to ask questions so they accurately understood the information. After all the information was presented, Mealy and Suess gave their concluding statements.
“All faculty have difficult workloads,” Suess said. “It is what it is and I think we demonstrated that (Mealy) has not been treated unfairly.”
No decision was made at the hearing, but within 21 days the committee must reach a decision on whether Mealy had an excessive or acceptable workload.