Summer Session Policies


As you know, a number of changes were implemented last year with respect to our policies regarding both faculty compensation and minimum enrollment requirements for summer session courses.  While I do not expect to simply return to former approaches, I do want to take some measure of the impact of last year’s policies, and to that end I invite your comments.

To express your thoughts, click on the words “read more” (below) or click here and then place your comments in the “leave a reply box.”  Commenting will remain open through Monday, October 7.

Return to this space periodically to read what others have said — click on “Read More” (or click here) and you will see all the contributed comments posted there. You can also access this discussion via the Provost’s web page by selecting the link for “Summer Session.”

I will also conduct a “Town Hall” forum on this topic, at which I invite further discussion and comment.  This meeting will be held next Friday, October 4 from 4:00-5:00 PM in Trinkle Hall, room 106-A.  The forum is designed to give anyone interested an opportunity to have a more thorough conversation on these issues with me and the others who come to the meeting.

I expect to determine soon after October 7 whether any modifications to the present policy are required.  You’ll be informed about my decisions before we start the process of building the next summer session schedule.

With thanks,

Jonathan Levin

11 Responses to “Summer Session Policies”

  1. Jodie Hayob says:

    Jonathan – thanks for asking for feedback. I understand the possible need to raise the minimum number of students (from 5 to 7 I think?), and to even possibly set a maximum (cap) on salaries. However, I think there should also be a minimum pay (for those on the lowest end of the pay scale) and most importantly – I do not think someone’s pay should be cut after a week has passed if some students drop. Some faculty have to commute a long distance to UMW (from Richmond or DC), and must arrange childcare in order to teach a summer course. If a faculty member doesn’t know for certain what their pay will be, I don’t know how they can make such arrangements.

  2. Chad Murphy says:

    Thank you for soliciting feedback from us. I would like to see the administration calculate our salaries as a function of total enrollment across classes rather than each class individually.

    As an example, I had a class last summer that had 14 students, and another that had 8. Even though my total enrollment more than covered my overall salary for the summer thanks to the full class, I faced the possibility of not getting full pay in the other class. The new rule seemed to be so the university wouldn’t lose money offering summer classes, and using combined enrollment across classes rather than each class individually would still follow the spirit of the rule.

  3. Werner Wieland says:

    Thank you for your willingness to revisit this policy. I can understand and agree with the need for the University to not loose money in the offering of summer courses. Further, the University certainly has the prerogative to set salaries for teaching such courses. A salary scale which requires a minimum enrollment for full salary is certainly reasonable. If enrollment does not meet some minimum level, the Instructor has the option of not agreeing to teach the course at a reduced salary.

    The current policy requires an instructor to commit to a contract for a specified salary and, should enrollment decrease by the end of the first week, be required to complete the course at a reduced salary. This policy places the entire burden on the instructor and is totally unreasonable. If there is a problem of summer classes operating at a loss I would suggest raising the minimum enrollment for guarantying full salary. Under the latter terms (higher minimum enrollment) at least the instructor knows what their compensation will be prior to agreeing to a contract. Such an approach recognizes that both the University and the Faculty have a stake in keeping the University solvent. I view the University’s current policy on summer school salaries as an Us vs. Them attitude when it comes to compensation.

  4. Steve Fuller says:

    Thank you for asking for feedback. Last year I submitted the following ideas for consideration, and I reiterate them now. I think that reducing the summer school salary of faculty members who have earned merit pay and improved their base salary is not in the best interests of faculty morale.

    Summer School compensation calculation method:

    On the second Monday of a summer school session a census will be taken of the enrollment of each class.

    Faculty compensation will be determined by the lesser of either a. or b.:

    a. The revenue generated by the number of students in the class (taking into account residency status).

    b. The faculty member’s base salary multiplied by 2.5%, times the number of credit hours for the course.


    1. There will be no lower limit to the number of students a faculty member can accept for continuing a class. If a faculty member wants to teach an under-enrolled class, he/she will be the person making the decision. One can look at the early enrollment and estimate the compensation before starting to teach the class.

    2. As the students’ cost per credit hour of summer school increases in the future, no adjustment will be necessary in faculty compensation, it will automatically increase for under-enrolled classes.

    3. There will never be any classes taught which represent a loss to the summer school revenue stream.

    4. As faculty salaries increase the summer school compensation of a faculty member with a full class will automatically improve to reflect their added merit and cost of living salary increases in their base pay.

    5. The size of the summer school program will be maximized according to fair and just faculty compensation, potentially producing a more robust set of offerings for students, without the possibility of losses to the revenue stream for the University.

    6. The idea that summer teaching salaries should be limited because faculty are not responsible for committee work and professional development during that period is not supported by the facts. Some committees and task forces do meet during the summer, and faculty also do research. If faculty were paid at their regular school year rate, their summer salary would be based on 4.16% of their regular year base salary (two semesters of 12 credit hours: 1/24 of their base salary per credit hour taught). The 2.5% of base salary per credit hour already represents a reduction from full compensation.

    7. Comparing our summer program salaries to those at VCU and LU and not W&M is a means to an end which is not justified by our COPLAC comparisons.

    8. Applying Ian’s scenario to last summer’s salaries would have generated $15,810, which is about 1.1% of the total revenue. However, it would represent about a 10% reduction in my summer salary, and I assume near that for a number of other faculty. My class meets from 8 to 12:15 each day. I present two lectures and have a lab all days except on about 6 days when I present 3 lectures and have half of a lab. The SACS requirement that summer classes be equivalent to regular semester courses is being met.

    9. For the last four decades, six Presidents of this institution have stated that improving faculty salaries is a high priority. For about 10 years I interacted with the BOV as a member of the Faculty Affairs Committee, and as the Faculty Senate President. During that time the BOV supported this priority to improve faculty salaries. How can the University administration reconcile that priority with this policy, especially in the face of a $630,000 profit which will only be improved by 2.4% by docking the salaries of senior faculty?

  5. Doug Sanford says:

    I agree with a number of the previous comments. I think we all accept why there should be a given number of students in a class, which is democratic in its approach. We should avoid infecting the pay process with an artificial division between junior and senior faculty pay levels, pitting them against one another. We presume that senior faculty have earned their higher level of pay and when current senior faculty taught as junior faculty, they accepted the lower pay level and made more profit for the University. Steve makes a key point as to the summer school. We accept that it needs to cover its expenses, and even accept that it needs to generate a profit. But in past years the size of the profit has been substantial. The concerns were not about summer school paying for itself, but how much a profit was desired by the University, and for various purposes. In sum, there is more than enough money to pay the teaching faculty appropriately, rather than finding ways to gouge them to increase profit margins. Finally, faculty often supervise individual studies and internships during the summer, for which we are not compensated, but through which the University makes a profit.

  6. Angela Pitts says:

    There are two issues that warrant serious reconsideration:
    1. The late date at which faculty are informed that their summer salaries will be modified. By principle, faculty should be able to cancel courses in sufficient time for students to make other plans if the compensation is deemed to be insufficient.
    2. If a faculty member is teaching one course that is over-filled (25+, for example) and another that is under-enrolled, the number of students who are being taught and evaluated by one faculty member and in a single program is quite healthy. Sometimes faculty teach under-enrolled courses because a few students need them to graduate. If compensation is to be docked, perhaps it would make more sense to look at the total number of students assigned to a faculty member in each session to make the calculation.

  7. Steve Greenlaw says:

    In my experience, some faculty see teaching summer school as an entitlement, a way to boost their salaries. This makes no sense from an institutional perspective. Summer courses should be offered only if such offerings support either the department’s program (e.g. offering high demand courses which are difficult to satisfy during the regular terms) or the institution’s (e.g. general education). They should never be offered merely to pay faculty. I am not arguing against faculty pay raises, just that summer school is not the way to solve the faculty pay problem.

    The question, then, is how to solve the very real problem we currently have. I suggest that once a course has begun, it shouldn’t be cancelled since that hurts both students and faculty. Therefore, the decision whether or not a course will be offered or cancelled must be done before the term starts. I understand that summer school registration can happen at the last minute, but why not move that deadline forward a week or at least a few days? This might cause problems the first year, but over the longer term makes more sense.

  8. Robert S Rycroft says:

    I second or third or fourth just about everything that has been said here. In particular, I don’t think someone’s pay should be cut a week into the session if a few students drop unless the faculty member is given the option to stop teaching the course. Also I think a faculty member’s total summer load, including internships and individual study, should be taken into account before classes are cancelled or pay cut. I also don’t think there should be a cap on compensation. It seems wrong in principle. If salary differentials, a large portion of which are based on merit pay decisions and experience, are acceptable during the regular session why are they unacceptable during the summer? It also seems wrong in practice. The difference between the capped pay and what pay would be without a cap is only a few hundred dollars. The monetary savings would appear to be miniscule compared to the damage.

    On an unrelated note, I think something should be done to clarify what is meant by the “make-up” day (always a Friday) during both sessions. If the make-up day is used then students get about the same amount of contact time in the summer as in the regular year. If not, then they get less in the summer. Yet teaching on that day is problematic and hardly anyone does it. Is the make-up day in there for “cosmetic” reasons only or should faculty expect to teach that day?

  9. Eric Gable says:

    One of the problems with the decision made the administration was that it was poorly articulated in two senses. One it failed to make convincing the budgetary rationale. Two, it did not address at all any pedagogical issues that would be involved. For these reasons it came across as arbitrary, capricious.

    In summer of 2012 the CAS made 589, 000 dollars that could be used to shore up budgetary shortfalls elsewhere. It may be that 589,000 in profit was not profit enough because in previous summers CAS made more. But by no stretch could it be said that the summer program (at CAS) lost money. Moreover, had the summer 2013 plan been in place in 2012 the difference in income generated would have been very little. So, if profit is the goal, then a benchmark of what profit is expected should be set and a range of potential plans for meeting that benchmark should be explored. There may have been better ways to assure more profit than by editing out a handful of classes from the array offered.

    Also it seems at least commonsense that the array of classes offered allows students with a variety of needs in their effort to graduate on time to find the appropriate class. If pedagogical concerns take precedence, or are at least an explicit concern, then the array itself–not whether one class makes or loses money–should be the goal–especially as money is being made in the bargain.

    To be a viable liberal arts institution requires solidarity. By focusing on the money rather than pedagogy we run the risk of sending the message that there are some kinds of things that we teach that make money and some that lose money as if the whole were not anything more than a sum of haphazard parts.

    This said, I’d offer some suggestions for changing the program in the long run. It might be a good idea to flatten salary differences. Summer is not the same as the regular school year and it can be treated differently. There is precedent at other schools. So flatten salaries to better reach a profitability benchmark, but announce this two years ahead of enacting it, so that faculty who have come to count on summer pay for their household budgets can plan ahead. Two, raise summer stipends for research to be close to the level offered by teaching. Three, do not allow a faculty member receiving a summer stipend to teach. Four, do not allow faculty to count summer teaching as part of report on annual activities. Five, earmark some large portion of the profits generated by each college to their research budgets.

    A more flat salary will discourage faculty with relatively high salaries from summer teaching because it is lucrative while helping mid-range faculty who might currently feel shortchanged. A closer fit between research stipends and summer teaching compensation will encourage more faculty to apply for research stipends, especially untenured faculty and early career associated professors. Earmarking summer profits for summer research college by college would induce departments to think more strategically about what is on offer in the summer and, if times get better, might allow for a more generous budget across the board.

  10. Eric Lorentzen says:

    Hi Jonathan – thanks very much indeed for revisiting this important issue here at UMW. I am in support of what many of my colleagues have already suggested here, but I will add my perspectives based on the experience I had this past summer.

    Last summer, I had 6 students registered for a new English course until the very last minute, when someone dropped the course and lessened our total to 5. At this point, I had already put more than 20 hours of work into the course construction, writing of the syllabus, research, and preparation. So, my choices came down to either teaching the course for approximately $850 less in terms of reimbursement (for doing essentially the exact same level of work), or doing those 20+ hours of pedagogical work free of charge, when I could have instead been working on my own research or scholarship. Every course I have taught in my previous 4 summers here has turned a profit, including the English 327 course I taught during this summer’s first session, with 13 students enrolled, or my other class during the same session, which included 9 students. In that light, having me teach the new course at the reduced rate did not make sense considering the “big picture.”

    When I met initially with my 5 students in this new course, to explain the state of things, and the institutional dilemma which we six would-be scholars were facing, they were all desperately enthusiastic for the course to be taught still. Almost all of them had been adversely affected by these new summer directives; many had classes cancelled, some had lost job opportunities due to these cancellations, others had their graduation dates delayed, and all of them were angry. Can we seriously question that these types of policies, along with the challenges to a liberal arts identity we have faced recently at UMW, and the increasing corporatization of our supposedly democratic mission as educators, do not play a major part in our diminishing student applications, acceptance rates, and academic standards? Both our students and our faculty members have been profoundly disillusioned with these policies, so, even when one makes the corporate model the bottom line, as it were, how is this possibly good for business?

    These policies are already becoming problematic in more extensive and diverse ways. The social Darwinism which our new policies have inspired results in pitting professor against professor, in a free market competition for student consumers. Unfortunately, this inspires a war of attrition, as academic standards and rigor fall. These policies discourage summer courses with difficult or demanding subject matter, as students search for syllabi that seem to offer opportunities for the easy A, rather than authentic intellectual endeavor. Rather than studies on Dickens and Dostoevski, we can offer courses on “Twilight,” or basic skills. When students become customers who are always right, grades become the product for purchase, rather than knowledge. The quality of written assignments and other requirements for summer course completion also diminish correlatively, in the quest to have one’s course sufficiently populated.

    In addition, many professors like to use the summer session to “test drive” potential new courses for future implementation during fall and spring semesters, which adds to the diversity of our offerings and makes UMW a better, more desirable institution of higher learning. I myself have done this on multiple occasions. During the previous summer, I taught a course called “British Novel: Visions and Re-visions,” which worked so well that I offered it during the academic year proper. Close to 50 students enrolled in this course last year, and it became an important contribution to our academic landscape. If I had declined to teach my next new course this past summer, English 376ZZ (19th- & 20th-Century British Feminist Novel), with my 5 students, that would have adversely affected not only those students who might miss out on a potentially profound academic summer experience at UMW, but also the quality of our breadth and depth as a department overall. There are no other classes in ELC that are doing quite what we hoped to do in 376ZZ. The potential loss of a meager institutional profit here, with this one course, seems counter-balanced with so many more areas of potential profit to UMW.

    I hope we will do the right thing with regard to summer teaching, and do it soon. Thanks again for soliciting our perspectives as a faculty.

  11. Jo Tyler says:

    Thank you for providing the opportunity for feedback. I am writing about the impact of the summer policy on faculty with 12-month contracts. There appears to be an inconsistency in the policies posted at$file/D.6.5.%20UMW%20Summer%20Session%20Teaching%20Compensation.pdf

    On page 2 of the document, under the heading “MINIMUM ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS,” it says the following, which appears as a blanket statement, no specification of whether it pertains to 9-month faculty and/or 12-month faculty:

    “The minimum enrollment for a summer session course to remain on the schedule is SEVEN. Courses with fewer than seven students will be canceled. For all courses, the cancellation date is the Monday two weeks prior to the start of the summer term. Courses not enrolling seven students by this date will be canceled.” (p. 2)

    But on page 3 of the document, there is an apparently different policy pertaining specifically to faculty on 12-month contracts:

    “6. For faculty on twelve-month contracts, all summer courses taught are part of the faculty member’s annual teaching load. A course approved for offering is considered as a full part of that person’s required summer session teaching load regardless of enrollment revenue generated.” (p. 3)

    From this it is unclear whether a course taught by a 12-month faculty member is supposed to be cancelled if there are fewer than 7 students, or if it is offered, is it supposed to be counted as part of the 12-month teaching load?

    I think the lack of clarity in these policies caused a problem for my teaching schedule last year. In the summer of 2013, I was assigned to teach 3 courses (the equivalent of 9 credits), instead of the normal 2. One of the courses I taught had fewer than 7 students on the cut-off date, but it was not cancelled. I taught that course in addition to 2 others, but I do not believe I received any “overload” compensation for it. I realize that the policy I have quoted above was revised on 6/5/13. I do not know if the parts I’ve quoted were revised at that time or what the wording of the policy was in May of 2013 when my situation arose.

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