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CHS Grant-Funded Teaching Release Policy

This memo establishes the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS) grant-funded teaching release (course buy-out) policy and leaves for a fellowship, effective for the AY 2020-21.

Faculty members in the CHS have historically used grant-funded teaching release to reduce teaching in order to provide additional time for advancing their scholarly work and research endeavors. College faculty should bear in mind that teaching reductions are a privilege rather than a right and that approval is left to the discretion of the unit chair/director and associate dean for research. Moreover, reduced teaching does not release a faculty member from their professional obligations to the university, including service and student mentoring responsibilities. A faculty member using grant-funded teaching release to reduce teaching of a course will be expected to participate fully in service and administrative duties and to be actively engaged with non-classroom teaching including the supervision of students’ scholarship activities; unless otherwise explicitly arranged, grant-funded teaching release is strictly for teaching and must not be construed as approval for a full-time appointment to do research or to take scholarly leave.

The unit chair or director must assess the impact of the proposed grant-funded teaching release on the department/program’s curriculum. A grant-funded teaching release will only be considered if the department/program’s curricular needs can be met. The chair or director has authority to approve or deny buy-outs based on overall departmental needs including continuity of course offerings. However, if a unit chair/director denies a buy-out due to teaching needs, the buy-out should be provided the subsequent semester. The chair/director should consider department/program needs, curriculum schedule, number of faculty on leave or other course releases, and the availability of suitable teaching replacements in making decisions.

It is challenging for chairs/directors to ensure that all teaching needs are met, and this process is typically completed months prior to the start of a semester. For this reason, faculty must request grant-funded teaching release as soon as possible upon receiving the award notice, understanding that requests close to the start of a semester may not be possible to accommodate. Conflicts between faculty and chairs/directors over course buy-outs should be brought to the attention of the associate dean for research.

Definitions

Course release
Release from instruction granted by the unit chair or director and/or dean to an individual faculty member. Course release does not involve financial reimbursement. Instructional coverage may or may not be provided by other faculty or temporary faculty and typically, funding from the college is not provided to support coverage.
Grant-funded teaching release (course buy-out)
Grant-funded teaching release in order to reduce teaching responsibility. It is granted to individual faculty members by the unit chair or director and approved by the Associate Dean for Research in exchange for external funding. Typically, grant-funded teaching release applies when a faculty member pays a portion of their salary from a grant, contract, or external source. The replaced course must be determined through a discussion with the unit chair/director, and is ultimately the chair/director’s decision based upon teaching needs.

Calculation of Grant-Funded Teaching Release Cost

The historical buy-out percentage in the CHS has been 12.5% of salary (including fringe). However, teaching course loads in the CHS range from 1:1 to 4:4. Accordingly, the percentage of teaching effort each course represents varies depending upon load. For this reason, the percentage to buy-out of a course is adjusted based upon course load. Teaching load refers to the standard load for faculty in that unit and does not include course releases.

1:1 Teaching Load

The cost of each one course buy-out can be determined by multiplying the sum total of a faculty member’s nine-month base salary (to include applicable fringe and health benefits) by 15%.

1:2, 2:1 or 2:2 Teaching Load

The cost of each course buy-out can be determined by multiplying the sum total of a faculty member’s nine-month base salary (to include applicable fringe and health benefits) by 12.5%.

2:3 Teaching Load or Higher

The cost of each course buy-out can be determined by multiplying the sum total of a faculty member’s nine-month base salary (to include applicable fringe and health benefits) by 10%.

Special Circumstances

Prestigious Grants That Do Not Cover Sufficient Effort for Grant-Funded Teaching Release

There are occasionally prestigious grants that do not allow salary coverage and/or require significant effort to implement but the majority of grant funds go to direct research costs. In collaboration with the chair/director, and with approval from the associate dean for research, a course release may be offered. This negotiation must occur at the time of the grant submission.

Applying for Multiple Grants Where Calendar Months Covered is Capped

Some agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation) cap the amount of effort that can go on a grant (e.g., NSF = two calendar months). In those cases there is limited incentive for the faculty to submit and receive multiple grants from that agency (i.e., once two calendar months are covered). In collaboration with the chair/directors, and with approval from the associate dean for research, a course release may be offered. This negotiation must occur at the time of the grant submission. Factors to be considered would include the size of the grant and the indirect return rate given that funds would be needed to cover the instructional costs.

Salary Cap

For those faculty members with salaries over the Executive Level II salary cap a cost-share is required—that is, a portion of the salary dedicated to the grant effort is paid by the university (instead of the grant). In such cases the percentage used to calculate course buy-out will be the percentage of salary paid by external sources plus the cost share amount, which will then be equivalent to the percent effort committed on the grant and included in the effort reports.

Teaching “Term” Faculty

Teaching faculty typically carry between a 3/3 and 4/4 load and are not expected to pursue research grants. Current promotion guidelines for teaching faculty focus entirely on excellence in teaching. Occasionally, teaching faculty do pursue and are successful with grant funding. This policy is intended to be inclusive of both tenure-track and teaching faculty, and the 10% per course rate would apply. In these cases, it is important for the teaching faculty to discuss the implications of pursuing funding and buying out of courses for annual effort allocation and promotion.

This policy does not apply to 100% grant-funded faculty in the CHS and does not apply to fellowships.

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