Like many professors in the US, I am paid a 9 month salary. In the past week, I’ve received several emails that have prompted me to think about my institutional responsibilities during the summer: one that requested feedback on revising our Biology curriculum, one that requested comments on the research statement of a spousal hire, and one (from our Provost!) expressing concern that many faculty in my small department were unavailable to meet with some upcoming candidates for an external position (a position where the person would be affiliated with my department, but where no attempts were made to consult faculty in our department about preferred weeks/dates for scheduling interviews).
I fully expect that these requests and many others will be the norm rather than the exception- students will want to meet with committee members and perhaps defend their thesis or take their qualifying exams, there will be administrative positions to be filled where they need a faculty representative, there will be the occasional faculty meeting, etc. And, I also realize that all requests aren’t equal- in my case, I’m going to put in time for that potential spousal hire and student requests, whereas I’m less inclined to put effort into other kinds of requests. But as a newish faculty member, I’m unsure about my responsibilities to my institution in these cases.
Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of attitudes towards summer service work. I’ve encountered faculty members with a blanket policy of no committee work over the summer and I’ve also seen faculty who do quite a bit of service over the summer. My attitude is mixed. In some ways, summer is a nice time to fulfill some of these types of requests because my schedule is more flexible and I find it difficult to focus productively on research for all working hours of the day. If I can use these activities to offset school-year service, then it would be a win-win situation. (But who am I kidding? There are no offsets for these kinds of activities.) But at the same time, I am always vexed when these kinds of requests come across my desk. The summer is when I finally have blocks of time in front of me with very few appointments, and those are usually research and lab-related appointments. I can put my head down and focus on one thing at a time, without all of my other responsibilities crowding my brain.
So I’m putting my question to you, or at least those of you with 9 month salaries. I know that each institution will have their own cultural norms and expectations for summer service work, but how do you handle these duties? Which ones do you prioritize?
(Note: Besides writing this post and getting feedback from TSW readers, I am also soliciting advice from my own department mentors.)