02 May 2011

Want us to teach more?

Ronald Trowbridge, writing in the Texas Tribune, thinks public universities in Texas should be teaching more and doing less research.

Our universities have shifted priorities to research first, students second. “The ultimate source of this cultural shift,” writes Harry Lewis, a former dean at Harvard University, “is the replacement of education by research as the university’s principal function.”

But Trowbridge doesn’t examine the reason for that shift. I suggest that this shift may have occurred because there is money to be had through research. Successful research programs are a revenue source. If Texas politicians and taxpayers want more teaching, they should be willing to pony up the cash that will replace the money that will be lost as less research is done.

Trowbridge also bemoans the number of adjuncts and graduate students teaching introductory classes. I agree; I’d love to see more tenured and tenure-track faculty teaching such classes. Again, who’s willing to pony up the cash for those more permanent positions?

Trowbridge argues that professors teaching two classes a semester is normal, when this is only true at the two major institutions in the state. He also apparently doesn’t consider working with research students “teaching,” when it is arguably some of the most important teaching at a university.

I’m for transparency and accountability, but “accountability” is not a license to allow you to demand the outcomes you’d like.

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