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Editorial: Rice must commit to undergraduate teaching

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Photo credit to Charlene Pan

By Thresher Editorial Board     8/29/18 12:54am

The Thresher editorial board stands with over 400 students who have signed the petition for Julianne Yost to remain at Rice. While there are statements in the petition that are incorrect – Yost is an instructor, not a lecturer, and due to the limited terms of instructors, her contract cannot be renewed – the chemistry department should hire her as either a lecturer or teaching professor.

The petition, Yost’s stellar student reviews and her receipt of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, which is voted on by recent alumni, offer overwhelming evidence that Yost’s focus on teaching has improved the learning experience of her students.

One of the main goals of Rice’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade (V2C2) is to “provide a transformative undergraduate education.” To achieve this goal, the V2C2 document elaborates that Rice “must continue to implement evidence-based innovations in teaching and learning and support teaching improvement.” To let go of Yost despite resounding evidence that she helps Rice to provide its students with a transformative undergraduate education contradicts this goal.



In the “Why Does My Teacher Suck?” panel last spring, History Professor Lisa Balabanlilar said having tenure-track professors teach courses allows Rice to maintain its status as a top research university. While we understand Rice is a research university, we believe this label should not come at the expense of effective and popular instructors like Yost. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rice No. 3 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” World-class research certainly attracts some undergraduates, but we believe teaching is a far more valuable aspect of the undergraduate experience.

Every year, students fill in course reviews about their classes and wonder whether their opinions on courses will be taken into account. It can often feel as though issues in the way a course is taught persist despite years of critical feedback. Rehiring Yost as a faculty member in the chemistry department is an opportunity for the university to demonstrate it is listening to student feedback on teaching. The chair of the chemistry department, Anatoly Kolomeisky, said hiring decisions are based on the needs of the department. We at the Thresher believe there is always a need at Rice for dedicated teachers like Yost.

This editorial reflects the consensus opinion of the Rice Thresher editorial board. Any responses to this piece can be sent to thresher@rice.edu.



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