Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Should University Teachers Be Paid To Teach?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 1, 2013

I grant you that at first glance, it seems obvious that Universities should pay folks to teach, since students are paying to learn. Yet, most of us are familiar with the fact that University Professors are paid to generate revenue, either through grants or, in the case of medical education, through patient care. Hence, teaching is really a “side business,” if you will; something University Professors do, either because it is part of their job description, and/or because they love it, but not for purposes of career or income advancement. Now, what happens if students need to learn, but the University has to hire outside people to teach? Then, the teacher could be a volunteer, or they could be paid a stipend. Let’s suppose the teacher volunteers. In this case, how do the students view this class? Does it get the same respect and attention as classes done by full-time faculty? Or, let’s suppose the teacher gets paid a “fair” salary. In this case, do the students come to appreciate the value since the University is putting down their chips on something they feel is important? Management flows downwards and students feel the difference. If teaching is valued, then the students and the professors are higher quality. When teaching is thought of in the second tier of priorities then the students are less interested and the teachers drag their feet. In the midst of these troubles, there are those gems of teachers who inspire students beyond what they might have dreamed about before entering the class. These folks give hope for all.

6 Responses to “Should University Teachers Be Paid To Teach?”

  1. Jon said

    There is a difference on teaching depending upon which institute of higher education one is discussing. Here in Southern California, there are some superb R1 research institutes. UCLA and CalTech come to mind. There are also some superb institutes where teaching is valued above (but not to the exclusion of) research. I am thinking of the Claremont Colleges – Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, and the two graduate schools, CGU and Keck. At R1 schools, the research is what matters, and the teaching is ancillary. At the Claremont schools being an excellent teacher is necessary, but not sufficient.

    There are some excellent teachers at R1 schools. Some are ladder (tenure track or tenure) faculty, and some are not. The emphasis that is placed on good teaching can vary. That said, I would like to suggest a possible reorder to your sentence, “When teaching is thought of in the second tier of priorities then the students are less interested and the teachers drag their feet.” Perhaps it is the case that when teachers think that teaching is in the second tier that students are less interested. Here “those gems of teachers who inspire students beyond what they might have dreamed about before entering the class” do more than “give hope for all,” they become a method of salvation for those that realize that they might be saved. Without such teachers, the world would be a much sadder place.

  2. Ashana M said

    I think this is why I went to a liberal arts college where professors were not granted tenure if they could not both contribute to research and teach well. Poor student evaluations are the end of the line at such schools. It’s absurd that we want good doctors and scientists but what we don’t expect to need to pay to teach them. Where do we think they will come from?

  3. Shelly said

    It is irresponsible of universities to let the students know which professors are paid and which are volunteers. It places value on some classes and teachers and no or lesser value on others. Volunteer professors are no less valuable than tenure-track ones: they teach because they love teaching and being involved with students. Volunteering doesn’t involve any less preparation for classes than any other form of teaching. Why should anyone put up with feeling less than valued for what they bring to the classroom? I would rather learn from someone who wants to be in a classroom than some jaded has-been with tenure who feels entitled to stand in a lecture hall but hates his job and his students.

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