The Professor is not Middle Management

The Student is Not the Client:
The Professor is Not Middle Management
Anthony Harris
Opinions Section Editor
anthonydeanharris@gmail.com

Our school is facing a serious problem.  Those who have toiled for years, those who have dedicated years of service to Morehouse, those who have worked diligently for the good of the students are leaving in droves.  In what many thought was a teaching institution, professors across multiple subjects are leaving for various reasons, the most predominant of these is tenure.

The source of the problem has the same source as it does in other institutions: we hold new standards to professors in the face of a new look at education.  Administrations expect publication for paltry salaries.  They expect constant research and public accomplishment to make the school look good, all the while neglecting the main job of being a professor: professing.

Schools do not expect teachers to be teachers but ad campaigns.  We’re meant to be the number 1 liberal arts school, period with the best professors in the world.  They’re to be world renowned for their various works as opposed to their various teachings.  We should neglect the fact that it’s difficult to raise a family or live a life when one is expected to live on a paltry salary, teach three or four classes with few hours for preparation, attend various meetings on off days, research, and write papers for no additional compensation.

There’s no place for professors that just want to teach.  They’re caught in the same rat race that the rest of the world is in.  America looks sadly at the condition of public schools but no one looks at the perils of higher education.  No one looks at the legions of people forced to leave teaching institutions because they failed to meet impossible requirements.  No one notes the crowds of people with too much education to work other places but not enough accolades to stay where they love.

We mustn’t forget the others who leave on their own volition.  We mustn’t forget those who refused to stay at Morehouse because they knew they would be appreciated at real teaching institutions.  There are schools out there that do not stress publication but actually want to teach the liberal arts.  There are schools that value the student and the values of a good education.  Their sole motivations are not the bottom line and tuition hikes for administration pay raises.

This should be the standard for Morehouse.  If we aspire to be the candle in the dark, we should seek to illuminate young men with the best teachers.  We should seek to bring young men of every type and educate them with the best we have.  We should not change the standard of students to a homogenous, anonymous, well-to-do Negro.  We should not discharge the professors that have greatly impacted the students because they haven’t published enough in three years or because they have no desire to get their doctorates.

Evaluating teachers should have everything to do with his/her skills as a teacher.  Teachers should be evaluated for their ability to reach out to students, for their ability to convey information, for their ability to be effective.  Most of all, teachers should be good people.  In order to do this, administration should not forget its own humanity when looking over dossiers.

Morehouse College is not a Corporate Negro factory.  We don’t input upper-middle class ragamuffins and output business suits and bowties.  We take in all walks of life to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, city planners, investment bankers, musicians, poets, entrepreneurs, financial analysts, accountants, journalists, writers, and what have you.  We are known for greatness in every field.  Should not our professors reflect this?

We need to realize that we are a school that is built not out of Gloster Hall but out of the classrooms and conversations.  Morehouse was built first in a church and then from timeless discourse.  We are not made from checks to administrators, we are made from inspiring teachers and the hearth of brotherhood.

Letting go professors that don’t meet the business-minded men and women of third floor Gloster Hall is antithetical to the spirit of Morehouse.  In fact, I posit that there are many a person on that floor that are generally antithetical to Morehouse.  We need to get back to basics here at Morehouse.  This starts with our professors; this starts with the liberal arts.  This starts with education.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Dear Concerned Student:

You make some very valid points, but many of these tenure standards are designed to uphold the value and worth of a Morehouse education. In the 50's and 60's, Dr. Mays demanded the same standard of excellence of our very best of professors in order to have the College enjoy the reputation as an outstanding institution. Don't knock the 3rd Floor of Gloster or any other post until you have researched what is required to maintain the academic standards of the College.

--An administrator who cares
Anonymous said…
I have not yet seen this week’s Maroon Tiger, which I am told will address the concern aired in “The Professor is not Middle Management,” but I feel compelled to say a word or two in reply to Mr. Harris’s opinions before I have seen the newspaper. First I should like to thank Mr. Harris for his sincere advocacy on behalf of professors of Liberal Arts. In the main, I agree with his view of the primacy of the Liberal Arts at a Liberal Arts college. I also agree that effective instruction should be better rewarded than it is here or in most colleges and universities these days. While I agree with the spirit of his defense, I would modify its tone a bit, and correct a few details for the sake of accuracy.

First, if “business types” run Morehouse, this is not an unusual arrangement and it tends to ensure financial solvency. Most of us, I expect, are not sorry we have a provident administration, even if conditions in Brawley Hall remain . . . Spartan. Neither are we disloyal. After all,

Here we lie, obedient to their wishes.

Morehouse administrators are not wholly indifferent to the needs of their faculty, nor are they capriciously mean. Rather, they wish to instill in in their faculty the resourcefulness of the great men of the past. Lacking material support for one’s job builds character. It forces one to improvise, to be creative, and to remember that only fifteen hundred years ago Boethius wrote from prison. But our needs are often met. While I have not enjoyed a computer in my office for three years, I am sure that, were I to complain loudly enough, I would be amply supplied with ballpoint pens. We are daily edified by the examples of frugality so generously supplied by the Morehouse College administration. So it is that when those who persevere are reviewed for tenure or promotion, it is with the greatest reluctance that they are turned down by an administration that has studiously trained them for seven years (not three) to summon all their own resources and philosophy. Yet our administration has the solace of knowing that they are sending luminaries forth into the world to share the story of Morehouse with a world that yearns to know the truth.

And those of us who are leaving are eager to share this truth, as “candles in the dark” to a generation of young men who might consider attending Morehouse. One learns a great deal in thirteen years. Not least among the lessons to be taken from Morehouse is the importance of history. History, as we are so often reminded these days, is constructed from a variety of narratives. At Morehouse, these narratives are best described by the leaders with whose vision they are associated, Benjamin Mays and Hugh Gloster. The former represents Morehouse as promoting idealism and virtue, the latter, pragmatism and skill. Many, such as the concerned administrator who replied earlier, have dextrously combined these narratives to create a narrative of pragmatic virtue and clever idealism. In this narrative, promotion is simply a matter of hard work: those scholars who bring their products to market with alacrity and in measurable quantity get to go on promoting themselves for as long as they choose to remain with the college. This distinction is also known as tenure. It is desired by some, but unenvied by others.

For those faculty who do not envy this condition, and who “just want to teach,” Mr. Harris is a cherished advocate. For those of us who perhaps lack the virtue required for spending decades of unremunerated time on projects of no particular use to the people most dependent on us—our students and our families— and for those less devoted to the exalted abstraction which is the Morehouse Man (or Brand) than to the individual aspirants we daily encounter, there indeed should be a place.

I wish to end with a word of consolation to the kind author of the original essay. There is such a place, Mr. Harris, and you need not be troubled lest our education burden us as we travel thither. We find that as we wish “merely” to teach, the knowledge we have acquired in route to three or four degrees, together with that garnered from decades of classroom teaching, is heard more readily in many classrooms than in the raucous marketplace of the scholarly world where Morehouse (and many other colleges and universities) daily trade. This fits the contemplative (if mediocre) nature of many of us who are so effete as to require computers and a working network connection, and who do not readily, like a church organist, view our classroom lectures through a mirror mounted on the podium.

Be strong, therefore, my colleagues in Liberal Arts. We shall be well.

Stephen Glaze
Assistant Professor of English

Popular posts from this blog

How a Decade of Momentum Built and Gave Out

The Line-Up for 2-5-2010

There's Just Something Magical about the Second Saturday of October