Professors’ priorities

Some professors’ attention has strayed from their students to research.

Meghan O'Connor


The University of Minnesota is one of 108 universities in the United States that is ranked as having “very high research activity.”

Additionally, in 2012 the University ranked 29th out of more than 1,000 world-class universities and research institutions in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

So, it should come as no surprise that the professors here are consistently involved in conducting research.

At the University we are able to learn from the best of the best. Our professors, many of which are working on research in conjunction with teaching, have the ability to share with us what is new and what is out there in the world right now. Since education and knowledge is ever changing, we have the privilege of sitting at the forefront for new information.

Yet I sometimes feel a great disconnect between my professors and myself. Yes, I understand that I am one of 50,000 students here and can’t expect to be known by name by everyone. However, some professors seem more interested in their own research than they are in their students.

Are we sacrificing great teaching for world-renowned research?

I understand the importance of learning from professionals in the field. Yet, there should still be professors in the classroom who are passionate about, well, teaching.

There have been a few times that my professors have tried my patience and forced me to question what I am doing here. If they display a lack of enthusiasm for teaching, then how are we supposed to be enthusiastic about learning?

Each field varies, but overall it seems as though promotions are given to faculty members based on research and how many times their work is published. After all, this gives the University great recognition. But, there doesn’t seem to be enough weight in assessing how one performs in the classroom.

An above-average educator who is mediocre at research could be kicked to the curb over a mediocre educator but an above-average researcher.

If a professor’s advancement didn’t cling so closely to the level of their research, it may help to alleviate added pressure and allow them to devote time to the students.

As stated in a proposal by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, “The challenge is to strike a balance among teaching, research and service … we need better ways, besides publication, to evaluate scholarly performance of faculty.”

The research that is done at universities like the University of Minnesota is vital to students’ success. But what is also vital is having a great professor, one who is willing to hash out abstract ideas outside of their designated office hours, one who can serve as a mentor for students rather than merely a superior.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are many outstanding professors at the University. But, too often I have questioned the sincerity of my professors in what they do.

Ultimately, a balance needs to be reached for what goes on in the lab and what goes on in the classroom.