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Faculty Workload Equity Resources

Deliberative Decision Making

Workload equity discussions can surface existing tensions around how work is currently distributed, recognized, and rewarded.

We suggest for these conversations that you consider using deliberative decision making (DDM) interactional norms—equalized speaking time and randomized speaking order. 

Thanks to past Senate President Darrin Hicks’ scholarship, we know there are several simple, proven strategies that you can use to create more fair processes: 


Equalize Speaking Time 

We suggest a process where each person is given an equal allotment of speaking time, for instance 2-3 minutes each during each round of talk on a particular topic (you can have as many rounds of talk as needed). You should use a timer, making sure that it rings when the allocated time is over, and move directly to the next speaker. Moreover, you may find it useful, especially in contexts with clear power differences, to ask people to use their time to simply articulate their own thoughts on the issue, without refuting the points others have made or using their time to cross-examine prior speakers. The point is not to limit debate, but to facilitate all members having an opportunity to share their thoughts without fear of being attacked. Most people will adjust their thinking so as to accommodate the thoughts and feelings of others, and those who will not should not be allowed to dominate the deliberation. 


Randomize Speaking Order 

In any group a defacto order of speaking emerges over time, with some always speaking first, and others waiting to have the last word. This may even form in relation to the seating order in the room, which while not assigned typically falls into routine patterns. These patterns create and sustain the distribution of power in the group, so, we would suggest breaking these patterns by randomizing turn-taking. This can be done by drawing names out of hat, by using birthdate order, or any other (even funny) methods. Do this in each round of speaking, so that the patterns are constantly disputed. 

Potential Guiding Questions

As you engage your department/program/school or college constituencies in workload equity discussions and actions, we have prepared some guiding facilitation questions to support these conversations:

  1. We know that research and instruction is an incredibly important part of faculty work. There is also other expected and essential work necessary for departments, programs, units, and the university to function and thrive.  

  2. What work do we as faculty do outside of research and in class teaching that is essential for the operation of the commons (e.g., advising, mentoring, promotion, tenure, and reappointment decisions, curricular planning etc.)? Develop a list. Here we are not including compensated roles or roles with course releases. 

  3. From your perspective, how is this work distributed among us?  

  4. Right now, what are the ways you understand or know who is doing this work? 

  5. For you, what methods do you have now for making sure this work is accomplished (volunteer, direct asks by supervisor, departmental/program decision) 

  6. What are the mechanisms by which you know what work we all/each are doing? 

  7. What are the blind spots for making visible the work? What work, if any, does not currently get captured? 

Additional Resources