My institution requires a Scholarly Activities Report every year, which includes subheadings for research, teaching, and service. There is no heading for pastoral work — indeed, pastoral work is so unrecognized officially that I don’t know if there is a word for it (“pastoral” is the word they use in Britain; I think ‘mentoring’ is the nearest equivalent in the US, but, for example, the only official recognition of ‘mentoring’ for undergraduates my institution has is an award for mentoring undergraduates specifically as researchers, which is not what I’m talking about here). But pastoral work is an essential component of keeping the enterprise moving — helping prevent students from dropping out, helping them deal with the stresses that inhibit their learning, or distract or demotivate them, and just sometimes being a friendly supportive presence at the edge of their lives.

Of course at American universities over time faculty outsourced a lot of pastoral work to student services professionals. And some of the work – mental health counseling, financial aid counseling, and some academic advising – is so specialized that it would be inefficient for faculty to learn the relevant knowledge and skills.[1] But faculty still have a lot of pastoral work to do – typically, on a residential campus, a teacher is the main adult that a student regularly interacts with, and is the best placed employee to notice if something is going wrong, at least when it is affecting academic performance. And teaching is an intimate activity: successful teaching requires a certain level of individualization and mind-reading that inevitably requires and results in getting to know the student somewhat, and in healthy relationships of that kind students are at least somewhat liable to seek support beyond the academic. If this wasn’t happening at all something would be seriously wrong. And if it is happening, it is time-consuming.

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