New President and the Idea of a
Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Associate Professor of Art
History and Faculty
and the Art of Education
Geoffrey Broocker, Walthour Delaperriere Professor of Ophthalmology
A Fresh Perspective for Perennial Problems
David Carr, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy
a Top-Tier Research University
Lawrence W. Barsalou, Winship Distinguished Research Professor of
Psychology, and Elaine Walker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of
Psychology and Neuroscience
Diversity, and Teaching
David B. Gowler, Pierce Professor of Religion, Oxford
Corey L.M. Keyes, Associate Professor of
from the Lighter Side
Vicki Powers, Asssociate Professor of Mathematics and
One of the first things Emory's new president
should do is read the report of the Commission on Teaching at Emory
and compare it with the forthcoming report from the Commission on
Research at Emory, especially their respective recommendations.
The former is a matter of record, and the latter committee has released
a close-to-final draft of its report for faculty response and suggestions,
so that it's a fairly safe guess as to what the final report will
What should be glaringly apparent to our new president--and to us--is
that the two reports and their recommendations are, if one switches
the words research and teaching, virtual mirror images of one another.
For example, the Commission on Teaching concludes that research
expectations detract from the quality of a faculty
member's teaching, while the Commission on Research asserts that
teaching loads interfere with faculty research and scholarship.
Both want more financial support and greater recognition for research/teaching.
Both want research/teaching to weigh more heavily in the tenure
and promotion process.
You get the idea.
Some of this similarity is to be expected, given the nature of these
commissions' respective tasks, but it also reveals the fallacy of
considering teaching and research in isolation from one another
or, worse, in opposition. As far as Emory is concerned, it demonstrates
a collective failure to establish clearly the roles played by teaching
and research in achieving the oft-articulated goal of becoming a
"world class" university.
A step in the right direction might be to recognize that no university
ever became "world class" by virtue of the quality of
its teaching. The perceived greatness of a university has always
been a function of the number of luminaries on its faculty who are
actively and successfully expanding the frontiers of human knowledge.
In other words, the more Nobel Prize winners, the better.
This does not mean, however, that the quality of
suffers as a consequence. One thing I learned during my
of service on the Presidential Advisory Committee,
where I was privy
to the promotion files not only of Emory faculty but
also of senior
faculty recruited by Emory from other institutions, is how almost
all of the successful and distinguished scholars and researchers
are also excellent teachers. Indeed, on the basis of my
the figure of the stellar scholar who is hopelessly incompetent
in the classroom is largely mythic.
Needless to say, no faculty is composed entirely of stellar scholars
and researchers. Where the problems arise is with junior faculty,
who at Emory are "officially" expected to excel both as
researchers and teachers but who in reality receive mixed signals
from their departments and senior colleagues. Is it even realistic
to expect that everyone can succeed at both? There are also problems
with regard to how teaching and research are evaluated at Emory.
With regard to research, the benchmark is still juried publication
of articles and books, with little inclination to consider alternatives.
Teaching, too, is measured almost exclusively by student evaluations,
which are problematic instruments at best, especially since students
are now aware of how crucial their evaluations can be in cases of
promotion and tenure and can use this awareness to intimidate junior
and to promote grade inflation.
But where there are problems there are also opportunities. The issue
is not teaching or research per se, but the relationship between
the two. Even if we allow research and scholarship priority in our
strategy to achieve "world class" status as a university,
we must keep teaching--especially undergraduate teaching--close
to research in our priorities. Ever since medieval academics charged
their students fees for instruction, with the most popular professors
getting the most money, university faculties have depended on tuition
for the financial support of their individual research and scholarship.
As long as American higher education is inextricably intermeshed
with a consumer-driven, free market capitalist economy, Emory has
no choice but to market itself as offering a product superior to
those of "lesser" institutions, and the essence of that
product is teaching.
In recent years, Emory has displayed a substantial commitment to
improving the quality of its teaching, as evidenced by the Center
for Teaching and Curriculum, the University Teaching
Fund, the University
Advisory Council on Teaching, the various mentor
programs for new faculty, and the work of the
Commission on Teaching
itself. Likewise, the forthcoming report of the
Commission on Research
will offer other positive possibilities for supporting
Another promising approach to overcoming the research versus teaching
dichotomy, however, lies in exploring how a professor's research
can be combined with or linked to her undergraduate teaching, the
level of instruction where there are the most complaints of quality
teaching being sacrificed for research. For example, Oxford College
has just established its Oxford Research Scholars program, which
pairs an undergraduate with a professor to assist in a specific
research project. Oxford is also pursuing a scholarship of teaching
initiative that involves faculty with research into teaching that
can then be published and accepted as scholarship for purposes of
tenure and promotion.
Finally, I believe that Emory University is probably approaching
a crucial juncture in its ongoing efforts to define itself, and
the new president will have to confront this crisis of identity
as soon as possible. When that occurs, I hope that the issues I
have outlined here are high on his or her agenda.