Leaving Academia

I stumbled into university teaching back in 2008. I was three years out of my last corporate job, a year out of managing the pharmacy in Dumaguete, back in Davao bouncing around with no real plan, and I finagled a part time gig at Ateneo which a year later became full time, master’s degree included.

I stumbled out of university teaching back in 2015. If I trace it back to its proximate cause, I stronglyu suspect it was when they asked me to become OIC assistant dean of computer studies the summer prior. Silly me, I accepted.

If it hadn’t been for that year-long stint as OIC assistant dean, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take a paid semester off. One doesn’t equate to the other, of course, and I certainly never planned it that way. But this is how it happened:

The objective business relationship between faculty and the university is defined by the teaching load. A faculty member with a master’s degree is required has 18 units teaching load per semester, corresponding to 18 contact hours per week with students. A faculty member with a PhD has 15 units. The load reduction is to give the professor more time for research and engagement.

However, some faculty might take overload teaching units, which translate to equivalent additional contact hours. Around the time I left, the official maximum overload would take the semestral load to 23 units, but it was not unheard of for some professors to hit 30 units.

Why go for overload? Overload units are paid at a higher overtime rate, about double the usual load rate. In lieu of the higher rate, a professor might parlay the overload units into deload the following semester; so for instance, if I have a 3-unit overload on top of my usual 18 unit load, I could opt to teach only 15 next semester.

But wait! There’s more! Administrative positions also have a corresponding deload. This is so they can attend to administrative duties. Deans and assistant deans are fully deloaded, which means they technically don’t have any classroom contact hours; any classroom contact hours then count as overload.

At this point, all this counting units is liable to leave the uninitiated a little cross-eyed. But trust me, as I said, it’s at the core of the business relationship between faculty and university, and therefore a sticking point with the union and the administration.

So there I was in 2014. I was OIC assistant dean of computer studies. But since two years prior, I was also with the research council, another administrative position, which entailed a three unit deload. And since the year prior, I was concurrently OIC director of the publications office, which entailed a six unit deload! Stacking these administrative loads, that placed me ahead by nine units.

In hindsight, I think that should not have been allowed, not if the university counts hours the way they do, certainly not with the original intent of the system of loads and deloads for the purpose of research and engagement. But no one was complaining and I was certainly happy for the activity.

Did my work suffer because of the overlapping duties? I don’t think so, or at least I like to think that it didn’t. As OIC assistant dean, I attended meetings, decided on difficult faculty and student cases, applied for government grants, advanced the cause for new programs, encouraged participation in industry events, and designed new curricula. As OIC publications director, I put out three books that year, set up a framework for book promotions, and found my permanent replacement. As research council member, I evaluated research proposals and defined policies; I also set up a document management system and a survey system.

Oh, and I lost a teacher somewhere along the second semester and I had to take an additional six units teaching load. What can I say? I was a busy man that school year.

The upshot of all this was I ended up with more overload units than could be converted into overtime pay as per university policy. Convert it into deload for the following semester? Sure! But with how much I had accumulated, I would still have a nice round number of 18 units deload.

I didn’t need to teach, I didn’t need to attend meetings, I didn’t need to publish books — not for an entire semester — but the university would still pay me? Sure! Sure!

The thing is, I’m sure I could have spread out that deload over a longer period and continued doing all those things at a reduced pace. Unfortunately, my stint as OIC assistant dean — attending all those meetings and seeing the internal politics — all that gave me a look into the sausage factory, so to speak.

So took the semester off, intending to decompress, maybe apply for a PhD program, but even that seemed just following the preset course, when in reality I wasn’t too happy with anymore. And then a local IT company heard that I was available for consulting….