Much has been made of the recent and future increases in tuition. In addition to this burden, the students of the University of California, Irvine have also dealt with strikes by lecturers and teaching assistants. For the most part, we have taken these hardships in stride, at times even jeopardizing our education in favor of securing ethical working conditions for those entrusted to instruct us. However, I feel it my duty to unite my fellow students against a threat more perilous than four years spent on the Top Ramen and Kool-Aid diet in order to pay for tuition: Bad Professors.
One of my classes this quarter, which I will call \”Useless 101\” for the sake of protecting my grade, is headed by a professor so incompetent that my classmates and I have come to the conclusion that watching paint dry is more educational that actually attending class. Each day, our ‘professor’ strolls in and asks a few general questions along the lines of, ‘Did anyone do anything interesting this weekend?’ After about a minute of blank stares, we are broken up into groups and assigned busy work. While the professor sits comfortably at the head of the class, consumed in other matters, we are left to teach ourselves and to struggle through difficult concepts.
Not a single lecture has been given, homework is returned weeks after submission, quiz scores are low, and our class average is around a C+. Although the readings are abstract and difficult to follow, we must rely on each other, rather than the individual being compensated, for discussion and clarification.
Most students have had a class like this at one time or another, justifying the continued employment of its instructor to financial desperation or a sadistic rite of passage. Whereas such rudimentary classes might traditionally occur at the lower-division level, Useless 101 is in fact an upper-division course, composed predominately of seniors. The class enrollment exceeds 12 students and is neither a discussion section nor intended to be taught in such a manner. As you may have guessed by now, this ‘professor’ is not tenured, and hopefully never will be!
Please do not accuse me of being biased against lecturers and TAs, as I understand that any group is bound to have its share of bad apples. I believe that lecturers and TAs tend to both be easier to relate to than tenured professors. Many of my classes have been taught by non-tenured faculty members, and I am in no way seeking to isolate this particular group for ridicule.
My grievance is with the lack of security students have when it comes to the high price we pay for our education. Why is it that an inverse relationship exists between the cost of tuition and the quality of instructors? Does no one else mind paying the $5,000-$6,000 fees for incompetent professors? Should I continue to purchase outrageously expensive textbooks with contents that are never examined? In what other field would such behavior be tolerated by an employer or its investors? Why does UCI condone the swindling of its benefactors?
My solution to the problem is this: Reviews of instructors, tenured or otherwise, are to be conducted more than once per quarter. Those with poor evaluations or that fail to meet the rigorous standards demanded by tuition costs are to be disciplined up to and including termination. If students are dismissed for poor performance, why should those assigned to guide students be any different?
We pay their salaries and therefore have the right and responsibility to ensure that we are getting what we pay for!