Academic Duty

We are finishing up the Roles and Responsibilities of Faculty module this week.  This course topic has been presented to us in the form of 4 questions. What is academic freedom? What is academic duty? What are the roles and responsibilities of faculty? How can higher education build community and provide quality mentoring?

Last week, we opened the topic by listing and talking about all the different types of faculty positions. Faculty are not just Academic (tenure/tenure-track/non-tenure-track), there are also Library Faculty, Extension and Outreach Faculty, Administrative & Professional Faculty, and Research Faculty. Each of these can be broken down into finer-grained descriptions of expectations, ranking, and duties.

We talked about what it meant to be a faculty member at each of these levels. Specifically, we talked about professorship and academic freedom. The spirit of academic freedom says academics and scholars should be free to choose their research and to not be punished or in danger for radical, progressive, or divergent theories and opinions. The political climate of today, suggests there’s a fine line to be walked between what is and isn’t “allowable” for academics to research, what to say (or not say) about research, and other ethical conundrums.

Dean DePauw began tonight’s lecture and continuation of the discussion by showing a slide with a list of 8 roles and responsibilities1 that define academic duty: to teach, to mentor, to serve the university, to discover, to publish, to tell the truth, to reach beyond the walls, and to change.


Here are keyword highlights from what our class discussed about each of these 8 responsibilities:

To Teach

Welcoming, Instruction, Assessment, Evaluation, Inclusive and Friendly Environment, Self-Evaluation, Staying Current, Giving/Receiving Feedback, Inspire Curiosity, Foster Sense of Wonder

To Mentor

Guidance, Advising, Sharing Experience (But Not Too Much), Peer/Colleague and Advising, Develop Relationships, Mutual Respect, Vulnerability, Honesty, Openness, Listening

To Serve the University

Work, Research, Representation of University (Conferences, Presentations, Guest Speaking Opportunities…), Acquisition of Grants & Funding

To Discover

Research, Ethics, Honesty, Innovation, Responsibility, Curiosity, Growth

To Publish

Ethics, Criticism, Review, Sharing (Written, Verbal, Instruction, Installations, Gallery, Presentations…), Research, Honesty

To Tell the Truth

Seek the Truth, Tell the Truth, Report the Truth, Ethics, Responsibility

To Reach Beyond the Walls

Extension Work, Outreach, Engagement, Connection & Communication with the Public & Industry, Service

To Change

Preparation for the Future, Evolution of Contemporary Pedagogy, Evolution of Methodologies, Personal Growth, Press for New Techniques, Innovation, Openness


In addition to these 8, the class came up with a few more concepts to add to the duties: Service to the Community, Accountability, Time Management, Kindness, To Learn, and To Be a Good Departmental Citizen.

To me, I think most of these additions are part of the 8 duties and responsibilities already listed. I believe Service to the Community could be part of To Publish and To Reach Beyond the Walls because service to/in the community is a form of sharing knowledge (publishing) and reaching beyond the walls (outside the university). I see Accountability as being “understood” parts of To Teach, To Mentor, To Publish, and To Tell the Truth. In these responsibilities, one must be accountable for their work, their impacts, and their behavior. Time Management and Kindness are key to the success of each of the other 8 duties and responsibilities. To emphasize the importance of Time Management goes without saying. Finally, To Be a Good Departmental Citizen means working with the other personalities in the office, to be ethical, and to be part of the culture and community of the school or program. And last, but not least: Being a Good Departmental Citizen. This means taking your job seriously, being an active participant in the growth and development of the department or program, and being (at least) pleasant to work with.

So to answer the last question: How can higher education build community and provide quality mentoring?

There are both basic and innovative ways higher education can effectively build community.  It can help define the community by reaching out and providing opportunities for education and social interaction. Institutions can support their faculty so they have the resources they need to perform their duties and develop projects for communicating knowledge.  Communities are also built through charettes which give power and a voice to the community and gives them the tools to refine/redefine its goals and values.

Higher education can provide quality mentoring by supporting faculty so that they are well, balanced, and fit to be mentors and advisers. This high caliber of mentoring can also be achieved through the continuing education and training of faculty on techniques in contemporary pedagogy. Continuing training could also mean helping them to develop interpersonal and communication skills through workshops or through other training vignettes.


What I have come to better understand through this lecture series is that there really are a bunch of hats that faculty members in higher education must be able to wear. The duty of a faculty member is to be a champion for their work/research, their students, their community, their discipline, and their school. To me, it seems like it is both extremely challenging and equally rewarding at different times.

1 List of 8 roles and responsibilities were cited on the lecture slides: (Kennedy 1997)

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