URGENT: Support Job Security for College Teachers
Response to article on South Asia search
i lend you my name

"put teaching before research"


On January 22, 2007 Student Life, Washington University's student newspaper, published a staff editorial entitlted "Put teaching before research," strongly endorsing the renewal of my Lecturer's contract.

As if in response, the new Washington University Arts and Scineces website puts "Teaching" before "Research,: on its sidebar, as if to imply that this school is a Teaching University, as it once was, and ought to be now. Under Faculty, my name is not listed under my Program, "Religious Studies" (although I am listed on the current RS Homepage, with a link to my personal website, this one). Many other Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, and Adjunct Professors known to me are not listed, putting the lie to the claim that we are not second class faculty..

The Teaching blurb reads:

"There is both an art and a science to the act of teaching. Classrooms, curriculum, and methodologies and technologies make up the critical "where, what, and how" of teaching. The resources presented here will facilitate the teaching experience, to keep it current, effective, and informed."

For the record, my teaching is, to the best of my ability, "current, effective, and informed," and quite innovative. Students are given maximum creative freedom, to explore their own interests, in a unique multitrack cooperative format, a robust mix of lectures, peer review, group study and presentation, creative projects, bibliographic advice, and individualized study. All my syllabi are open, and my students are my co-teachers and colleagues, keeping my courses current, while preserving a wealth of class tradition. This method of teaching is very labor intensive, and so is unlikely to be emulated (unless teaching really is put before pressure to "publish or perish" here at Washington University).

The Research blurb reads:

"One of the distinguishing characteristics of a great university is its ability to contribute new knowledge through research. The faculties of Arts & Sciences are frequently recognized around the world for their research leadership. In addition to faculty, both graduate and undergraduate students are critical to research, where they may play hands-on roles in projects that could be discussed by colleagues around the world."

Please note the emphasis on what makes a university great, and the reference to "projects that could be discussed by colleagues around the world." For the record, my conference papers have been well received, although I have not been to an academic conference since 2002, preferring to use my professional development fund to organize local conferences on behalf of student organizations, such as Sophia and the Washington University Cooperative. This is in line with my philosophy that my students are my colleagues, and my emphasis on local, grass roots organization, rather than high profile "colleagues around the world." We will be continuting this through the WashU Coop, Coop Library, Cervantes Free University, and our Multifocus Course and Multifocus Wiki, an open public syllabus for self-study and community outreach. Please keep checking for updates, as we launch these initiatives this spring and summer. What makes this University great is its community, not its public image.

I have taught a prodigious number of courses, including three new ones on spirituality and the environment, coming this summer, about twenty in all (not all are listed on this website). I have been working continuously since my arrival here in 1999, putting teaching and mentorship before self-promotion. My research has almost all been directed towards helping my students, not making a name for myself. I have had to work around a handicap, advanced glaucoma.Last semester I was hospitalized for emergency surgery, and lost the use of my right eye. This happened just before finals week. In spite of this, I was able to perform my duties, and I continue to do so, teaching four courses this semester. I do not have time to publish, without sabbatical. I cannot take time off without losing my job, and my health insurance. I will lose my health insurance unless my contract is renewed for next year.

Please, support Lecturer's Policy Reform, here and everywhere, so nobody ever has to go through this again. Please support improved grievance procedures and protection for whistle blowers. Washington University must treat all its workers, including faculty, as valued members of its community, not as interchangeable pieces of equipment. THAT is what makes a University great, not a vigilant PR department who apparently read Student Life and my website every day.

Put teaching before research, not just on the website.