Lecture positions valuable to students
When students make the decision to attend a research university like Washington University, they do so knowing that to gain the benefits of having professors actively engaged in their fields, they must make some sacrifices in the standards to which they can expect their professors to teach. While Wash. U. clearly ought to maintain its focus on promoting research, not re-hiring lecturers place too much emphasis on research, at the expense of students.
The discussion of how Wash. U. hires professors has been brought to the attention of the campus, specifically by the situation involving lecturer Jerome Bauer, whose position as lecturer will be eliminated in favor of a tenure track assistant professorship that involves researching responsibilities. Student Life does not intend to comment on this case specifically, because it involves expanding a department, which could ultimately be beneficial to students and the University as a whole. However, the elimination of lecturing positions in favor of research positions is troubling to us.
The University’s obligation is to benefit its students. Wash. U. obviously benefits students through its excellence in research. The contributions professors make to their fields help Wash. U. build a reputation that will foster respect for the degrees it gives to its students. A research climate also provides students a unique opportunity become involved and work with leaders in the different fields of their interests. Finally, making sure that professors research ensures that students are taught by those who are up-to-date with the changes and latest developments within their fields. For this reason, Wash. U. must give professors some incentive to research and requiring tenure track professors to perform research is not objectionable.
It is well known that the best teachers are not always the best researchers, and vice versa. While many lecturers do not research and cannot offer the school the same reputation-building resume or opportunities for students, the fact that their sole focus is on education means they often teach some of the best classes. Many research professors are so focused on the pressure to publish that their concern for the students in their classes is only secondary, and the classes they teach are not as good. For this reason, when deciding whether or not to retain or fire faculty, the University ought to make sure one of its foremost considerations is how that faculty member interacts with students.
Essentially, it is most likely that the best environment for students is one with a combination of professors who both teach and do research and lecturers whose primary focus is teaching. Wash. U. already requires tenure track professors to do research, so it should not consider research when determining whether or not to retain lecturers. Instead, the University’s foremost concern should be how well the lecturer conveys information and helps students relate to the material.
Wash. U.’s letting go of lecturers marks one more disappointing decision within an overall trend of decision-making that focuses on building the reputation of the University without much consideration for the well-being of the students currently enrolled. Though improving the school’s reputation is imperative to its future success, making choices while heeding greater consideration to the school’s standing and reputation than on the effect on current students runs contrary to the school’s most basic educational mission.
Wash. U. should not be firing popular lecturers who do a good job teaching simply because they believe another individual might contribute more to the school’s prestige. Such a mindset neglects the needs of present students in exchange for increased appeal to future students and breaks the trust between current students and the administration by not providing students the best education it can offer. The most important function of a university is to provide education, and this should be foremost factor in making decisions about who will be educating.
Popularity: 1% [?]