“Why can’t we just get along?” – Rodney King
Seems like a silly question on the surface, but on closer inspection there is absolutely no doubt that research is held in higher esteem than teaching among faculty-and-university-administrator thought leaders on today’s American college campuses.
Guess that means that “Research 1” is more than just a Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designation; it is a dominant mindset.
Keep in mind: basic, applied and predictive research are critical ingredients for discoveries to conquer horrific diseases, to devise better ways to manage our planet, and to produce new-and-always-improved bits, bytes, bells and whistles. All of these Carnegie Research 1 universities afford higher priorities to research, graduate 50 or more Ph.Ds, and secure $40 million or more (usually much more) of federal research funding every year.
And certainly, private industry and governmental agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation or NSF) pour millions into universities for research. In turn, universities form “advancement” departments to entice these research grants as well as alumni and friend donations. Yes, there is a huge link between university research and the legal tender, which in turn leads to the prevailing research über alles mindset.
It was notorious robber Willie Sutton, who once said about banks: That’s where the money is.”
Does research reign supreme? Does that mean that good old-fashioned teaching and student mentoring are relegated to second-class status? Both answers trend toward the affirmative … but should they?
Winners and Non-Winners
“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” – Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and 15-year Harvard University Professor
This is not the first time that Almost DailyBrett has cited this particular Kissingeresque quote. There are certain sayings that just keep-on giving.
There are some poor souls, who sincerely do not believe there are warring camps on college campuses between those who generally align with research and academics and those who favor teaching and professional experience. For most, the two are generally regarded to be mutually exclusive with one clearly dominant and the other sadly, subordinate.
If you believe that the research/academic crowd holds sway on the vast majority of campuses, particularly Research 1 facilities, you would be correct. Let’s ask here and now: Is that the way it should be?
What Do Parents and Students Really Care About?
Has anybody thought about the opinions of the parents, who pay the tuition, or the students, who are mortgaging their future to years of staggering debt? Are these our customers? And the customer is always right. Right? Or wrong?
Students may actually appreciate learning something they can use in their coming careers and throughout their respective lives. But do the majority of academics really give a rodent’s hindquarters about teaching and mentoring?
Isn’t that why the university evolutionary process relegates low-paid and underappreciated adjunct instructors to perform the rudimentary and mundane task of teaching undergraduates?
Before you ask, Central Washington University is NOT a Research 1 university. Way back in 1891, the university began as the Washington State Normal School with a dedication to teaching the instructors of tomorrow.
In the spirit of radical transparency let me proclaim the author of Almost DailyBrett served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon (a Research 1), published ghost blogging research in PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, and now researches and teaches/mentors public relations and advertising students at Central Washington University.
Now that the consumer warning has been issued, let’s ask a pivotal question: Can there be a balance on university campuses when it comes to research and teaching/mentoring?
Sure it makes sense for adjuncts rather than full professors to teach English 101, but if parents and students are paying top dollar to attend university shouldn’t the majority of the classes be taught by assistant, associate and full professors?
If not, are universities dropping the ball in teaching and mentoring students in their preparation for the life-long learning jobs of tomorrow?