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The ongoing strikes at York University and the University of Toronto have prompted a variety of thoughtful and insightful examinations of the state of university education in Ontario. In particular, the conversation around the changing nature of academic work and the plight of contract faculty is essential to the future of our universities. Unfortunately, an incorrect -- and harmful -- idea has crept into some of the recent coverage: that the relatively good working conditions of full-timers are to blame for the frankly awful conditions of those working on contract.
Yes, academics must step out of their ivory towers and become more engaged with the public. But increasing teaching hours, reducing salaries and abolishing tenure are not solutions. Such moves will only create bigger problems.
Several times per semester an article gets forwarded around amongst the students in my PhD program with a message that is some variation of the following: Doctoral studies are pointless. Needless to say, these are depressing, discouraging reads for those of us already pursuing advanced degrees. I enjoy being a PhD student.
Many university professors are great teachers. Many are not. I'm baffled that those who are great teachers are saddled with research. And those who are great researchers are saddled with teaching. More importantly, why do universities saddle students with these subpar teachers?
Some argue that professors must be able to do both. Yet, professors at Canadian universities are generally promoted based primarily on their research abilities -- on how many publications they get, and how much research money they bring to the university. Teaching is only superficially acknowledged as important.