Tenured Radical has an excellent piece on the need to say no (or yes) to service work, as a departmental colleague (h/t Radio Free Newport).
She notes, as a child-less academic, that,
if you have a child and I don’t, and we get paid the same salary, why am I doing your work for you? I didn’t have children because I wanted the time: instead, I got no child and I got no time. You get someone to help you navigate the nursing home, I’ll end up with a big bottle of Klonopin mixed in a bowl of ice cream.
Most of the post is devoted to offering techniques by which an academic doing an over-load of service work can determine just when to “say no”. For example, about teaching:
Meet with your chair to establish a reasonable cap for your class that also bears some reasonable relationship to average enrollments in the department.
Ask your department’s administrative assistant how many majors there are in the department, or in your field within the department, then divide by the number of faculty available to serve them that semester.
Committee loads are slightly harder, since TR notes,
Demonstrating one’s supposed incompetence is a strategy masked as involuntary helplessness: the incompetent establish their potentially Kryptonite contributions to any enterprise by being late, by missing meetings without explanation, by failing to do what they said they would and generally by demonstrating in word and deed that they are not to be trusted. However purposeful this behavior is, being incompetent assumes the kind of naturalness as a category that Foucault so eloquently introduced us to way back in the twentieth century.
Since the incompetent are both gaining the advantage of having you do their share of committee work, and the advantage of having more time on the research “that really matters,” she offers an entirely reasonable solution:
A special effort might be made to teach tenured faculty who are doing their jobs poorly to do them better, perhaps by assigning a peer to work with them who would convey by example and instruction the standard that needs to be met over time. People who resist raising their standard might be asked to undergo career counseling to help them transition to another line of work that would encourage them to — well, come to work and do work when they are there.
This involves a training course during a first year semester in which the teaching demands are less, and a skilling-up course after tenure, to prepare scholars for the next order of contribution. A good set of ideas to address an evergreen problem.