LINGUIST List 12.829

Sun Mar 25 2001

Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Patrick-Andr� Mather, Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities
  2. Lynne Murphy, Re: The Role of Lecturers in Universities
  3. James L. Fidelholtz, Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Message 1: Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 13:46:05 -0500
From: Patrick-Andr� Mather <patrick-andre.mathermcgill.ca>
Subject: Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

I was very interested in reading Alain Th�riault's comments on job
descriptions for course lecturers. As he pointed out, lecturers often teach
up to 50% of courses in some departments, and this percentage is increasing
every year. I would add that universities often hire "overqualified"
lecturers as cheap labour, because they don't have the resources to hire
tenure-track faculty.

In Quebec Province for instance, course lecturers in several universities
have gone on strike or are threatening to do so in order to improve their
wages and job security. Their demands are perfectly legitimate, if one
applies the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. No matter how
you look at it, and even if one takes into account the administrative and
research obligations of professors, course lecturers are underpaid (by 50%
in some cases!) and are often forced to work in unacceptable conditions
(short-term contracts, sharing offices with 3 or 4 colleagues).

It should also be pointed out that lecturers do have *some* benefits and job
security in most universities in Quebec and Canada, *except* at McGill
University where lecturers have no official status, no benefits whatsoever
(no sick leave or maternity leave, no access to research funds, no dental or
medical plans, etc.). Yet, some have worked in this institution for many
years. This may seem surprising since McGill is in fact a wealthy
institution, but it says a lot about the precarious status of lecturers at
McGill and at other universities.

What is the situation in the United States?

Patrick-Andr� Mather
Lecturer
English and French Language Centre
McGill University, Montreal
patrick-andre.mathermcgill.ca
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Message 2: Re: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 20:39:02 +0100 (BST)
From: Lynne Murphy <lynnemcogs.susx.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Alain Theriault wonders about the role of lecturers as non-tenure-track
faculty in Linguistics. I'm not sure which university's ad he was referring
to, but it might be worth pointing out that in English speaking countries
outside North America, "Lecturer" is the rough equivalent of "Assistant
Professor"--i.e., it is a tenurable position, and the probation period is 
usually about half as long as those in North America (in my experience, 
one is usually permanent staff in three to four years, as opposed to six
to seven in N America). Thus, Lecturer positions in such universities are
usually teaching/research posts, not simply teaching relief for tenured 
professors.

M. Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton, UK
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Message 3: Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 18:16:23 -0600 (CST)
From: James L. Fidelholtz <jfidelsiu.buap.mx>
Subject: Re: 12.827, Disc: New: The Role of Lecturers in Universities


Dear All:
Sorry to jump the line, but something Alain said in his
otherwise unexceptionable posting I think deserves a separate comment

Alain Th�riault <theriaalMAGELLAN.UMontreal.CA> said:

[snip]

>universities are trying to select candidates that are overqualified
>(I don't see why a candidate should "have a demonstrated potential
>for and a strong commitment to research" in order to teach, nor do I
>see how this is relevant, unless the candidate is expected to do some
>research, which the job announcement doesn't mention).

As I indicated, Alain, as usual in his postings, has made some valid
and (what ought to be) thought-provoking comments, and I believe he is
mostly right on the mark. This comment, however, I consider to be
seriously misguided, although quite widespread in the acceptance of
its (for me, false) premises. Specifically, I believe, based on
personal experience and perhaps some general theoretical suppositions,
that it is not possible, either for a teacher to be as good as they
could be without doing research, or for a researcher to do the best
research they could do without also doing some teaching. That is,
teaching, especially if it is imparting one's research results, leads
to a certain give-and-take in the classroom which can only be
revealing for that research. On the other hand, doing research opens
avenues of explanation for the teacher, as well as tending to make
them current in both methodological and theoretical aspects of the
field. 

In the current atmosphere of globalization, which in education
often results in attempts at privatization of the universities, or at
least trying to make them 'cost-effective', trying to save money by
the tactics which Alain has pointed out, and which of course will have
deleterious effects on the job prospects of 'older' candidates (I
guess, read: over 40) is only likely to become more prevalent.

However, independent of one's opinion about the correctness, morality
or what have you of such tactics, it would be misguided for the
profession, both in its research aspects and in its teaching aspects,
to further foment the separation of research and teaching. This is
seen more and more often in many countries, where 'research
institutes' are frequently founded within the university, in which
some of the members take some part in graduate education, and
virtually none in undergraduate education. Such a situation is also
seen even in Faculties (defined as having both undergraduate and
graduate programs), where the graduate programs are often relatively
unrelated to the undergraduate ones, especially in terms of the
teaching loads of the professors in them.

Of course, it has always been the case for the vast majority of
high-level researchers that they have viewed teaching, and especially
undergraduate teaching, as a distraction from their 'proper' research
duties. Nowadays, some such people have come to understand the
usefulness for their research of undergraduate (and of course
graduate) teaching. This, of course, does not even consider the
benefits it has for the field, in terms of interesting young persons
in pursuing a career in that field.

Jim


James L. Fidelholtz			e-mail: jfidelsiu.buap.mx
Posgrado en Ciencias del Lenguaje	tel.: +(52-2)229-5500 x5705
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades	fax: +(01-2) 229-5681
Benem�rita Universidad Aut�noma de Puebla, M�XICO
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