Who’s the boss in the lecture hall?

May 29, 2014

Students are not, nor should they ever be considered, the employer of an instructor (“Repetitive strain”, Features, 15 May). That is the mentality of “for-profit” schools that are a shell of their non-profit counterparts.

Some of the problems Austin Fitzhenry mentions – catering to the lowest common denominator, teaching to the test and so on – come from the mentality that students are customers, clients or employers. They may give money, but so do many others – donors and the government (although less and less in recent years).

The primary employer of any university employee is the society in which they live. Research, the primary activity of most academics, is well beyond the scope or interest of the vast majority of students, yet it does benefit society. While at university, students may dislike a lecturer (because, for instance, they believe a class is too challenging), only later to be grateful for the gains that have been made.

Referring to students as employers or clients reduces higher education to a capitalist enterprise doomed to fail or at least hyperinflate costs so that someone is making money.

Universities are grander, and are truly a socialist enterprise (in the best possible way). Their benefit stretches far beyond students, although of course students do receive a particular and special benefit. This does not make a student the “boss” of a lecturer any more than a patient is the “boss” of a physician.

George Medley
Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

 

Austin Fitzhenry notes that he asks the question “Why am I here?” in the 73rd minute of a lecture and that this has provoked him to write some guide notes for professors. Action speaks louder than words. If the professor has been going on that long, it is time to walk out.

Keith Flett
London

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