Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 — Houston, TX

Professors' research should not be prioritized over teaching

By Cody Shilling     9/28/11 7:00pm

Universities should focus first and foremost on educating their students. Ensuring that students receive the highest quality education possible should be the fundamental goal of the administration. Unfortunately, as things stand right now, this is not the case. Promotions are given out based on a faculty member's research and the number of times he has been published and referenced in journals without much consideration as to how effective an instructor he or she is.

The quality of the professor as an educator is secondary to his or her relative prestige and fame within his respective fields of research, and this needs to change.

I can certainly understand why the culture of the administration emphasizes research; it brings in money and prestige for the university, something everyone wants. Students want to attend a school that is considered elite, and faculty members want to work and stay at a school that is considered elite. Students who attend elite institutions tend to become highly successful and donate generously as alumni, something both the administration and students would want, since this lowers the amount each student needs to pay relative to total cost of attendance. The reasons go on and on, but a university that does not focus on what should be its primary concern is forsaking those whom the university should be focused on: the students who are there to learn, not to be a professor's minor consideration after worrying about and working on his or her next journal article.



There is no doubt that Rice does have better faculty than most other universities, especially public universities, using either criteria (research success or teaching ability). But the fact of the matter remains that we have much room for improvement. Obviously, professors do not have the time to sit down with students one or two at a time and teach them whole courses as if they were tutors, but expecting professors to do more than simply give a one-hour lecture that is taken straight out of the textbook is not an unreasonable expectation from those at the top of their fields. Three hours of class time and one or two hours of office hours is most certainly not enough.

Of course, this is likely to happen in large, underclassman lectures; there is no way to get around the need to have three or four hundred students in one common class. But hearing a story of a professor in a 300 or 400 level class of how the professor doesn't actually teach anything should be more than uncommon. It should be beyond the outlier, not something people shake their heads at and say "I feel for you. I had one of those last year."

The focus of the school should be on the students, not on the professors. The point of the university is not to give jobs to research professors, but instead to educate and teach the students. This is not some entitlement that the students have had taken away from them. Rather, this is a shift in the focus of the university that should be corrected in order to ensure that students are equipped and prepared to become more than academics.

Cody Shilling is a Will Rice College junior.



More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 5/12/22 4:05pm
The Wellbeing Center should be transparent about its true confidentiality policies

Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:11pm
We’re in student media to learn

This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:02pm
Philanthropy doesn’t excuse slavery

In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.