LINGUIST List 12.854

Tue Mar 27 2001

Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Alain Th�riault, Re: 12.829, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities
  2. Mullen John, Disc on lecturers

Message 1: Re: 12.829, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:45:40 -0400
From: Alain Th�riault <theriaalMAGELLAN.UMontreal.CA>
Subject: Re: 12.829, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Hi all!
	As I half expected, I received messages from students who 
preferred to be discreet on this the subject. They were all in 
agreement with my posting. Their attitude is quite understandable and 
I think that, careerwise, it would have been wiser for me to do the 
same. Especially after reading Jim Fidelholtz's comments on older 
candidates (I'm 37)... I would like to encourage students to express 
their opinion on the List, but I would be glad to post anonymously 
messages that are sent to me directly if the author thinks it unwise 
to do so publicly.
	I wish to reproduce a message I got from one student. I 
will, at this student's request, modify the message in order to avoid 
identification of both the student and the university this student 
works as a lecturer. I will try to make these changes without any 
indication. I know this is not usual, but I don't think the author 
will mind.

- -----------------------
Hi Alain,

I'm a Ph.D. student. 

I read your posting on Linguist List and thought I'd respond
privately. I read the posting you are referring to and was quite
offended I agree wholeheartedly that universities, and my experience
is only directly with linguistics departments but I've heard stories
from my peers in other departments as well, especially English, are
trying to have their cake and eat it too. I shook my head when this
lecturer position posting included the Ph.D. requirement. I've been
teaching sessionally since September, my contract ends in April, and
I've been doing it without a completed Ph.D. I've been teaching
introductory, second year and graduate classes. In the grad class I've
had to 'supervise' students, though not with their theses but really,
how much different is it to direct a student in a term paper than it
is a thesis, especially at the MA level which is what my students are.

At least when I here I knew they were advertising for a tenure track 
phonology position but of course there was no guarantee that I'd have 
an advantage over anyone else applying for the job. In the end I 
decided not to apply for the job since I've decided, at least for 
now, not to pursue an academic career. And at the University where I 
work, they at least make provisions for long term sessional 
instructors. They don't get 'tenure' but they do get permanent 
positions if they've been there long enough, but they don't get the 
same pay or benefits as tenure track faculty. I don't know if these 
permanent sessionals are expected to supervise graduate students or 
not or what kind of research they're expected to do though I know 
that these sessional still present papers at conferences.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I agree with your email 
and I'm becoming more and more disgusted and disillusioned by the 
academic environment. I know that in Canada universities face a lot 
of financial cut backs but it seems that our universities are willing 
to accept these
cuts and then pass them on to younger employees by way of not 
offering them permanent, tenure-track positions. I, for one, have no 
desire to get my Ph.D. and then be treated as a second class academic 
among my peers, moving from job to job, picking up the cost of moving 
and going
through the same resettling process over and over again.

I'm glad you took the time to send your email to everyone on the 
list. I think it needs to be said.

I don't mind if you express my sentiments if you make another posting 
but I'd appreciate it if you'd keep my name and affiliations 



- -----------------------

I was quite saddened by this message. Is the disillusion of this 
student shared by others? I know that I never thought of it this way, 
but these comments give food for thoughts.

I would like to comment on the posted messages.

Patrick-Andre Mather gives a good overview of the situation in 
Quebec. I was quite shocked to read of the working conditions of 
lecturers in the richest university in Quebec and one of the richest 
in Canada. I might add that, until the recent work conflicts between 
some universities of the Universite de Quebec network and their 
lecturers, there weren't any (or very few) lecturer positions in 
Quebec. lecturers had to apply on individual courses and had 
individual contracts for each course they were to give. For instance, 
a lecturer might teach 3 classes on term and none the following term. 
Are their similar situations outside Quebec?

Lynne Murphy points out that "in English speaking countries
outside North America, "Lecturer" is the rough equivalent of "Assistant
Professor"--i.e., it is a tenurable position..."

I know that in France, there is a position called Maitre de 
conference that seem to be very similar to the situation described by 
Lynne. Plus, doctorate students are often given paid teaching jobs at 
the undergraduate level.

I would like to finish this with Jim Fidelholtz comments. He writes 
Re the relation between research and teaching::

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

I can only but agree with him and I have to confess that my remarks 
on the subject were quite clumsy. He also makes a point in his 
"attack" on the separation of teaching and research. I have often 
heard professors complaining on having to teach at undergraduate 
levels because they could not put as much time on their "proper 
research". I have also known (older) professors complaining on the 
production obligation, saying that they preferred to teach (these 
were the best professors I had when I was an undergraduate). Since 
they considered that they had to be up to date in order to give a 
good "floor show", they did continue their research at their own pace 
without felling pressured to produce. I don't think this is the right 
attitude either. There have to be contacts between scholars, but, as 
I said, they were older professors who didn't have anything to prove.


Alain Theriault
Ph.D. Student (Linguistics)
Universite de Montreal
Research Fellow
Concordia University
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Message 2: Disc on lecturers

Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 08:24:49 +0200
From: Mullen John <>
Subject: Disc on lecturers

I'm glad everyone knows except me what "lecturer" means in a US context.

In France we have
Professeur - the most senior, a tenured position, a category you join by
passing before a national committee who judge your research.
Maitre de conf�rences - a tenured position you get by being approved by
the national committee who judge your research and by a Univeristy
recruitment committee.
PRAG - teaching and not research posts which are secure posts, involve
twice as much teaching as a maitre de conf�rences (PRAGs teach around 14
hours a week). These posts are open to people who have passed the
national - very difficult- competitive exam to become High school
teachers. There are more and more of these posts - often maitres de
conf�rences who retire are replaced by these.
Various one year teaching and research posts, normally only renewable
once, which are meant to be for people on their way to tenure.
Huge numbers of temporary lecturers -"vacataires", who are paid by the
hour, do not have tenure, and must have a "principal employer" outside
the university system. These are often filled by doctoral students, high
scool teachers, and people who have a job in the private sector
(scientists, managers, management trainers).

John Mullen
Universit� de Paris 12

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