LINGUIST List 12.898

Thu Mar 29 2001

Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Dan Moonhawk Alford, Re: 12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities
  2. Sean M. Witty, Re:12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Message 1: Re: 12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:16:03 -0800
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
Subject: Re: 12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

As a lecturer in the California State University (8 yrs), an "adjunct" at
California Institute of Integral Studies (19 yrs), and an I-don't-know-what
at John F. Kennedy University (8 yrs), I'm what's called a "gypsy teacher"
and "freeway flyer" here in No. California. Working each to the max
available for me at each school, teaching 2-3 or even 4 courses at a given
time (some qtr system, some semester), I make less than $25K per year, with
almost no benefits. I have a renewable 2-yr contract at CSUH, but no
guarantees at the private schools (except great evaluations).

On the other hand, my wife is a tenured professor. This allows me to teach
only courses I WANT to teach, with no administrative responsibilities
whatever. My students get the best (most enthusiastic) me this way, tho I
don't recommend this generally. ;-)

warm regards, moonhawk
<> & <>
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Message 2: Re:12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 04:24:07 +0900
From: Sean M. Witty <>
Subject: Re:12.890, Disc: The Role of Lecturers in Universities

I'd like to point out that, contrary to Anthea's statement, the problem with
this line of discussion is that it's only IS on the difference between the
meanings of "lecturer" in different areas, with little commentary on whether
or not some of the requirements being posted are reasonable given the duties
and responsibilities of the positions in question.

In the case of our "verbage", I think the distinction exists, as well as the
differences from region to region, because some of us would rather distance
ourselves from others of us. There was a time when, for example, a PhD that
taught was a "professor", and an MD was a "doctor". Today, in the West,
these two expressions are more or less used interchangeably; but the
reasoning, in my opinion, has more to do with vanity than the positions we
hold. In the classroom, there is no difference between a "professor", a
"doctor", or a "lecturer" - we all get up in front of students and share our
knowledge with them (hopefully well) regardless of the papers hanging on our
walls. Someone once told me, and I still agree, that how we do our work has
more to do with our hearts than our minds; degrees just give us a
head-start. Insisting that one be addressed in a certain manner on the
basis of education and financial background is arrogant, especially when
being addressed in accordance with the respect one's students hold for their
teacher is more rewarding.

That said, there are only two real issues. First, can we make a bona fide
generalization about the differences in position? Second, what duties
should be expected by those who hold each rank, and what criteria are
appropriate to fill each? How does an administrator fit into this mess?

As I think about these questions, it occurs to me that, at the very least, a
professor should be expected to spend a fair amount of time conducting
research as opposed to teaching; where a lecturer should be expected
primarily to teach. Administrators, on the other hand, are responsible for
handling operational matters, which entails research necessitated by need,
and little, if any, teaching. Professors, therefore, should be either
well-experienced or have some graduate training; lecturers need only know
their subjects and be decent teachers; and administrators should be good at
performing routine operational tasks. "Promoting" a good teacher to an
administrative position does not guarantee you'll have a good administrator,
but it does mean your short a good teacher (unless the individual is to be
overworked and do both jobs).

Criteria for hiring, therefore, should focus on duties, and requiring "a
demonstrated potential for and a strong commitment to research" is
unreasonable if the reality of the job is twenty classroom hours teaching
students how to say, "Please pass the salt" (which is common in Japan and
Korea). I sometimes have to laugh at the posted requirements for some of
these positions because I know, based on the difference between what is
being asked for and what is actually needed, the employer is not going to
find a suitable candidate and will probably disqualify any that should
happen to apply; and I can't understand why, with all their accumulated
experience and knowledge, the people who post these ads can't see that.

We owe our students more than petty squabbles over titular preferences and
antiquated distinctions that only serve to divide our faculties and
undermine our pedagogical effectiveness. If you're a professor, thank the
lecturers for teaching all those classes that you would have to teach
otherwise. If you're a lecturer, thank the professors for doing all that
research you would have to conduct otherwise. If you're an administrator,
establish criteria related to the position your advertising and augment your
team with more suitable members so that they can be more effective. We're
all on the same team, we just play different positions, and everyone
deserves respect on the basis of what they do; not what they've done.

Sean M. Witty
Kwangwoon University
(an Adjunct Professor)
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