Maybe it stems from my own lack of intelligence, or maybe it’s an insecurity issue, but, for one reason or another, I have always disliked teachers. I’ve come across a few in my journey through education that I’ve liked, but even they had to work to dig themselves out of the pit of resentment created from years of worksheets and dioramas.
Because of my bias, I admit I’m not a good indicator of what the consensus is on professors at UW. I assume most feel the amount of good experiences with professors probably equals the amount of bad experiences. What we can all agree on, prejudices aside, is that when those bad experiences do arise, all we students can do is pathetically leave an angrily written sentence or two on the bottom of the Scantron for the professor’s evaluation; which, to a tenured professor, is about as threatening as Sarah Palin is eloquent.
And while I meagerly await my chance to “voice” my stifled opinion of a couple of my current professors come May, the University Competitive Workforce Commission, along with some counseling members from the private business sector, is ostensibly preparing to raise faculty wages throughout the UW System.
According to The Badger Herald’s Feb. 15 article, “UW System Workforce Commission examines faculty compensation,” to determine whether or not UW needs to adjust faculty compensation to remain competitive, the commission will evaluate the wages of faculty at comparable schools, and, as I understand it, adjust salaries accordingly. The commission is working with members of the private sector because they feel the quality of education and the quality of employees are closely related. Also, the commission believes that individuals from the private sector could present unique ideas on how to deal with a weak economy.
This is all well and good, but meanwhile, the collective voice of the student body, the consumers, remains ignored. And without our voice represented in some way, the quality of the professor, meaning his or her ability to profess — or teach — is also largely ignored.
Well, please allow me to sound off:
I have seen faculty parking lots clear out at 2 p.m., office doors closed and locked for days at a time, and professors who seemingly care more about referring to their useless research and countless petty awards than they do about teaching. Until the impracticality of their knowledge is realized, I will challenge their salaries, seeing as I contribute to them, because some have yet to show me that they have earned them.
Ah, I feel better.
I do realize the flaw in my logic, however. Without good salaries to entice good professors, work ethic and teaching abilities on the whole will only decline further. Compensation needs to be competitive, while professors need to be held accountable for providing students with a quality learning experience.
To appease both my ire for teachers and the need for quality instruction, in an ideal world I would suggest that professors’ salaries be determined by commission (not the commission). Their salaries would be a factor of the amount of credits taught and research conducted — quantified by grant money earned, for example. The commission rates would be high enough to entice quality professors but strict enough to dissuade all academic freeloaders.
Of course, this isn’t an ideal world and this solution will never happen. The teachers union would create an uproar; the tenured professor that hasn’t been seen in his office since 1997 would be picketing in front of the administration buildings. It would be chaos.
Perhaps a more reasonable solution would be to put more emphasis on the otherwise toothless professor evaluations. Serious consequences, meaning more stern than the virtually non-existent consequences in place today, need to be constructed to ensure that professors are in fact earning their salaries. Not just earning what some professor at Penn State is earning.
The fact that the commission is discussing raising salaries in the midst of a recession shows that we probably shouldn’t hold out for an intelligent decision to be made as a result of these meetings. But regardless of its final decision, professors should rethink their commitment to their students and really ask themselves if they feel they are in desert of their earnings.
If my voice is again not heard and my ideas not considered, hopefully this sentiment will at least provide professors some insight on what exactly is behind those blank stares they get during class.
David Carter ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in forestry.