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Editor's note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), email@example.com. Published commentaries also will be posted online at www.muohio.edu/townsquare/commentary.
Research vs. Teaching - Where Should Emphasis Be Placed?
The Sept. 13 issue of The Miami Student carried a front page story announcing that the search for a new dean for the College of Arts and Science was under way. Marek Dollár, the chair of the search committee, is quoted in the story as saying, “the most important thing is strong academic and research credentials.”
Is the new dean to be brought to Miami to promote research? Is it the most important thing?
Of course everyone knows that the candidate must possess very strong academic credentials. However, first and foremost, the candidate selected should be a person who understands that the primary mission of the College of Arts and Science is to deliver the highest quality undergraduate instruction possible. Indeed, this should be the primary mission of all six of Miami's academic divisions.
This does not mean that Miami cannot have some strong graduate programs and also encourage some research. What it does mean is that we must remember what established Miami's national reputation. It was excellent undergraduate programs and excellent teaching! We would all do well to remember that Miami has thousands more undergraduate students than graduate students. It is the undergraduate students whose tuition and fees pay the bills.
For the past 20 years, it is my opinion that the emphasis at Miami has moved slowly but surely toward research and publication. The quality of undergraduate instruction has declined, in my view, as faculty do what they have to do to receive tenure and promotions. I believe Miami needs to reverse this trend and pay off on quality teaching and advising.
Finally, Miami should not try to compete with institutions like Ohio State, Michigan and others in graduate programs and in research. We should be what Miami has been recognized as being for many years - an institution that ranks very high nationally in providing top quality undergraduate programs.
Let us hope that as the Board of Trustees begins its search for a new president they will make sure that the candidates understand that the emphasis at Miami is on a nationally recognized undergraduate program.
Date Published: 10/13/2005