These are two reports from teachers at AUD, recounting the experience of the teaching process in terms of classroom work, administrative work and the gendered nature of the job as well as the intervention of the AUD Faculty Association (AUDFA).
WORKING IN AUD
1. Sumedha is a permanent teacher who has been in AUD for over 4 years, having taught for 5 years before that, in a DU college and a university. Unlike DU, the department has to teach from BA to PHD. Harish has been an Associate Professor here for a number of years, having taught elsewhere as well. While in other universities the work load is 8 credits per year and 4 per semester, in AUD they are expected to teach two four-credit courses each semester.
2. Beyond classes, there is research, class preparation and other administrative work. Research supervision cannot be precisely calculated in terms of time. Some students require extra attention and out-of-class interaction. Quantitative calculations of all these aspects of work are very difficult, even though they are a large part of the workload. She finds an instrumental, ‘black and white’ calculation of workload by the university a problem, as it cannot include these aspects.
3. Technology also means that work doesn’t shut down when she gets home. She does much of her work when her daughter goes to sleep (such as reading, mailing etc.). Work is never-ending; it only stops when she goes to sleep.
4. Sumedha finds it very difficult to do her own research as it is seen as the individual’s own headache, and not made part of routine administrative processes by the university. Because of the time and effort it takes, the freedom to publish along with teaching and supervision work is not there.
5. She has been involved in a research project and wanted to take leave to carry out field work, but almost regretted undertaking the work because of administrative and her colleagues’ reactions. There is a false ‘bureaucratic mentality’ that research is done in one’s free time (weekends, holidays etc.), and it took her a month to get leave, leading to some bitterness as well.
1. Sumedha is also part of AUD Faculty Association (AUDFA), which has raised issues of workload and benefits like pensions for the teachers, and issues regarding temporary teachers. Ad hoc and temporary teachers can be and are part of AUDFA. For the past year, not many ad hocs are willing to be part of AUDFA, because of discouragement from the authority.
2. Harish points out that the time spent in administrative coordinating committees does not count in their teaching time and the position of ‘Coordinator’ is a non-statuary position, carrying no value outside AUD. This work load makes promotion difficult since criteria include publications and ‘being proactive’ in the institution. AUDFA and the administration reached an agreement to factor administrative responsibilities into work hours, yet this was done without a reduction of teaching hours.
3. Harish relates how the university is organized top down, with School deans rather than Department heads (each School having some departments). There are many posts within each of them such as program coordinators, the student faculty committee etc but decisions still rest with the School Dean. Given AUDFA efforts for greater involvement of teachers in the decision making process, the administration supports representation via nomination whereas AUDFA supports elections from within the Association.
4. Harish also points out that AUDFA has been struggling to moderate teacher workload and for recognition of class preparation time. The expectation is that a teacher is in a position to deliver a lecture without preparation. This leads to narrow overspecialization so that one can easily lecture on a chosen niche area.
5. The administration has agreed that two hours of preparatory time be allotted for every hour of class. Insisting that that AUD is equally a research facility as a teaching institution AUDFA demands that 12 contiguous hours be provided per week for the faculty to fulfill their academic research requirements.
STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND CLASS DYNAMICS
1. She has taught in both annual and semester modes, and found more time to teach and learn in the annual mode. The semester is much tighter in that there is less leeway that she can give to students; and less scope to help struggling students in such a short period of time.
2. New forms of knowledge and ideas come very fast, and there is not much time to explain them. Ultimately those who are interested will read up and others will not. The semester does not give time to mentor a student. So those who have advantages already can do better on their own.
3. AUD pedagogy and structures sometimes hinder students from weaker backgrounds. For example, a couple of her students left because of language problems. In one semester, she had said that if a student has a problem with English, she can explain in Hindi as well. A Hindi background student mailed her asking for extra help, but also asking her not to tell the rest of the class. The student dropped out after the first semester.
4. With four courses per semester, the number of assignments also becomes a problem. Factoring in other elements, like the travel time, and lack of facilities, these demands of work from students affect learning and performance adversely. In one course, she gave three rather than four assignments, and felt the students did much better. A minimum three assignments/exams is required as no assessment can be over 40 percent.
5. Her expectations of the job are not 100 percent fulfilled, but somewhere in the middle. It fluctuates from semester to semester and in different courses. In some courses, she gets what she wanted out of the job and some seem disastrous. She gets satisfaction and pride in her work when students do well, not the privileged students, but those who come from different parts of the country. They have to struggle more, with lack of facilities like hostels.
6. She feels a difference in how students from different backgrounds relate to teachers. Some hesitate more to come and talk, while others do not. As a teacher, being a person of authority, many students are hesitant to approach her, especially those coming from a ‘peripheral’ area.
7. She feels that there are different situations of students who are indifferent or unreceptive to the course. While considering some of them lazy, there are some who later approach her and tell her that they couldn’t come because of a particular problem, such as having to work and earn, which she understands. Students often not do well or attend classes because of legitimate reasons, there needs to be communication from both sides to resolve these problems.
8. Feedback forms are helpful to her in terms of changing readings and teaching methods. She does not know how effective the Student Faculty Committee is. It often becomes a nitpicking session. No common ground is reached in understanding what went wrong. A general meeting was organized once but not everyone comes to them. So the question of how to reach out to everyone is not resolved.
WORK, GENDER AND PARENTHOOD
1. Balancing work with parenting structures everyday life. While her partner also equally shares the household and parenting burden, he does not have as many responsibilities in the domestic space. She has to put in more (100 percent) and he is able to put in a little less than that. So teaching work is very different for a female parent who has additional responsibilities.
2. People see these responsibilities of a mother-teacher as an ‘essential part of her nature’, as she witnessed before becoming a parent herself with a colleague in her earlier university. Her colleague would leave meetings early to pick up her child, and many people would ‘smile knowingly’ that a female naturally has these responsibilities, without recognizing the balancing work it entails. She often misses AUDFA meetings because she would prefer to be with her daughter, who is too small to be left on her own.
3. There is no concept of leisure left anymore, because work is a constant presence. She reads non academic books for leisure, but gets the chance to do so mainly while on vacations, travelling or visiting relatives. Leisure is possible in this way only when she is out of Delhi.
4. She sees these problems for female research students in choosing their topic. She advises them at the outset to choose a field where they will be comfortable working, even though they might ideally prefer some other topic.
5. This need to balance work and the lesser degree of freedom/participation is considered a ‘personal problem’, rather than socially structured. If a student cannot come for a class/event which is scheduled late because she has to travel far, it is considered her own issue rather than gendered and structural. To ease their work conditions, some teachers had wanted a crèche in the university, but the university did not implement this, again indicating that the problem must be managed individually rather than collectively/socially.