North Carolina Senator Tom McInnis has recently proposed a bill – SENATE DRS25152-MM-56 – to “improve professor quality.” He proposes to “require all professors teach a minimum of eight class courses per academic year,” which would probably end up four courses a semester. Full time professors at Appalachian State University are currently required to teach three courses a semester.
McInnis claims that professors’ first priority is to teach, but it seems he also believes it ought to be their only priority. Mandating eight courses a year disregards and belittles the work that professors already do. Professors prepare lectures, teach classes, grade assignments, mentor students and, somehow, find time to work on their own research. The latter two are the most susceptible to being forgotten if professors are forced to take on more courses a semester.
However, perhaps that is McInnis’ intention. After all, his proposed bill represents a vision of the university system as a factory of diplomas, chugging out students who graduate “on time” with “practical majors.” It is bad enough that many professors, as adjuncts, are severely overworked and underpaid, but it seems now that even tenure-track professors will be subject to job conditions which forget that they are thinking intellectuals and not merely the means of transferring knowledge. It seems that research or any type of intellectual exploration is superfluous to this vision.
As such, it is a total denial of the purpose of universities: to act as a space for thinking, learning, research and intellectual exploration. This purpose currently is either ignored or attacked and we, as members of the university, ought to defend it.
Are professors and students to become automatons? Is thinking to be discouraged or regulated?
Destroying the space for research would be a dangerous precedent for transforming the university system into vocational schools. As a democracy, our country relies on the ability of its citizens to think, but this is the very skill which may no longer be taught and does not seem to be valued anymore unless it can uphold the system in power.
Whether adjuncts or tenure-track, professors do not exist merely to teach courses. This bill would undermine their ability to help and mentor students and to create their own research. Even if it does not become law, it represents a twisted view of the university system.
Malcolm is a junior history major.
Letter to the editor: Hannah Malcolm, junior history major