Publish or perish just plain wrong

If one dairy cow ate a lot of grass and was thusly able to fertilize large tracts of land, but wasn’t able to produce the tasty milk that was its purpose to produce, and another produced milk that gave its drinkers superpowers but didn’t fertilize very much land, it should be very clear which cow should be rewarded. The U of C administration doesn’t see things this way. Instead of rewarding professors who are good teachers (or produce superpowered milk, if you will) with tenure, it opts to reward profs who focus more on research (shit everywhere).

That isn’t to say that research isn’t important. Universities are, at least partially, research institutions, and the publications that come out of them can, on one hand, be seen as a reflection of its professors’ competence. On the other, the university wouldn’t exist without the students, so there should be an obvious correlation between the quality of research and the quality of teaching. There isn’t.

The fact remains that great teachers that are only adequate researchers still find themselves tenuously balanced on the cuff of their faculty while professors published in the right academic journals could get away with not speaking english–not that they would. Furthermore, the administration doesn’t take into account the complaints of individual professors, instead standing steadfast by their system, claiming that anyone who doesn’t get tenure usually doesn’t deserve it. The worst part is that under the current system, they’re right. The quality of teaching needs to play a bigger part in the tenure process without losing sight of research’s importance.

In order for this to happen, however, the subjective nature of professors’ ‘teaching quality’ needs to change. The criteria it’s rated by includes the Students Union Teaching Excellence Awards, USRIs and the professor’s general reputation, but is still anything but quantifiable. Student apathy toward USRIs has swelled to the point of cataclysm since they went online, partly due to an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality, and partly because the website students can access them from appears to have been designed by a pack of concussed armadillos.

When it comes down to it, research is a quantifiable way to judge professors, but flat out ignores their other qualifications and ultimately undermines the administration. Until the university begins to address the feeling of discontent from some of its best reputed professors, they’re just breaking the legs of the cow that makes such a sweet nectar, and letting the one that shits everywhere roam free, fertilizing the land for crops, but not giving anyone x-ray vision.

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