We in academe like to think of the University as a universal stomping ground for the sharing of ideas and the formation of ideals.  We like to believe we’re all equal.  We hope we’re really all in this thing together.  The University likes us to believe we are all valuable and we all have the same substance, but the truth in the corridor is that professorial charisma is dangerous to the capitalistic core of any university.

Universities are Capitalistic and not Populist.  They wear the Populist facade, but the private reality is a university is only about the money.  Teaching and reputation in the marketplace are only pathways to the memeing of the money.

Every university needs it star professors — but only if they bring money into the university.  A tenured star that does not bring in bottom line receipts is but a curio and a canard to the overall duty of a university to propagate itself into the future with land acquisition, infrastructure expansion and building foundational reserves and endowment equity.

To mete that financial end, the university cannot afford professorial stars that are popular with students — especially if they are part-time or non-tenured.  The charismatic professor is crushed by the university because of the threat of disaffection and revolt in the student populace.

The risk of charismatic teaching is that becoming popular with students makes you dangerous to the fiscal core of the university you are serving.  When students seek you out in favor of other professors teaching the same course, you are necessarily marked as dangerous by the university hierarchy.

Department heads will tell students it does not matter who teaches the course.  Our students know that is a lie, and so do we, based on our previous tenure as students in similar university system. 

To let a student enroll in a closed course just to take the class from a certain professor when other sections of “the same” course are available cannot be abided by the university because that means some professors are perceived as “better,” or “more popular,” with students than other professors.

We believe the university should honor its popular professors and stop lying to students that “a course is a course, of course” and the professor teaching the subject matter makes no difference.

When it comes to granting tenure, teaching — popularity with students
— is supposed to be an important conceit for consideration, but it rarely amounts to anything substantial because the university always prefers money and prestige over the actually ability to teaching something new to a fertile mind.

We understand that popular professors without tenure can wield immense power in the university system if allowed to grow and expand unchecked
— and that is why so many new professors that are beloved by the students are so quickly shut down by the administration.

Popularity without remuneration can eat away at the underbelly of higher education quicker than a bad investment philosophy because, after all, the university is only all about protecting the middling middle mind and is vested in never acquiescing to a genius they are unable to understand or comprehend.

4 Comments

  1. I worked as “program evaluator” for some time in a university once, so I know “a course is a course, of course” regardless of the teacher is a complete bs. Sorry.
    What I don’t understand is why a so called popular teacher is always perceived as a threat…teaching is not everyone’s cup of tea. I might be a “fullbright” scholar for the most part of my life but that doesn’t guarantee of my becoming an effective teacher.

  2. Everyone has at least one favorite teacher in their lifetime and in a busy university, professors often teach more than one course and subject matter, so it’s natural for students to follow their favorite university instructor — but the university discourages that sort of loyalty and rapport because it undermines their notion of equity and the ideal that some professors are “better” than others.

  3. Professors who love teaching usually teach. Professors who become administrators usually are more talented at managing people and pushing paper rather than connecting with young student minds. If teaching professors evaluated professors that teach — we’d have a much different standard of appreciation in the university commodity. The real danger, though, are part-time professors who are beloved by the students because they are seen by the university body as “dangerous strangers” who can upset the unsteady applecart by being “too good” and devaluing the perceived sheen of the permanent teaching staff.

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