Did anyone catch that?

Professors who don’t speak clear English affect academic performance.

Many University students have had a negative experience with a professor for diverse reasons. One common experience is a professor whose English is hard to understand. Minnesota legislator Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, would like to see a bill passed to avoid the hiring of professors who cannot speak clear English. However, this is a problem that should be dealt with by the University, not by state law.

Professors with poor English skills affect students’ academic progress. Students cannot concentrate as well in class because it is difficult to understand what the professor is saying. This can lead to a declined interest in the class material. It can become an excuse to not go to class because students think they will not learn anyway. Students think they can’t ask professors to speak more clearly because they might come off as discriminatory, even though that is not the case.

However, a bill requiring all state colleges and universities to adhere to certain practices when hiring professors is not the answer. What about professors already working here who have problems speaking English clearly? The bill also allows a student who thinks a professor’s lack of English clarity is affecting his or her performance to drop the class without penalty. This is bound to be abused for last-minute drops.

This is a problem that can be dealt with only at the University level, and the University already has a small program in place. The Partners in English program involves retired professors who volunteer to teach international professors or teaching assistants to improve their English skills. The participants come in on a volunteer basis as well. There obviously are more professors who need help and aren’t getting it through this program. The University should encourage new professors to consider participating.

Students can do their part by using teacher evaluations to their benefit. Although it isn’t going to help the student personally, it eventually will decrease the problem across the University spectrum.