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Commentary

Research and Undergraduate Teaching at Miami
William R. Hart, economics
I have read with interest the teaching vs. research debate that has taken place over the last few weeks in the pages of The Miami Student and The Miami Report. Given the importance of a proper balance between teaching and research to the quality of undergraduate education for all Miami students, this is a debate of great significance to students and parents alike. As such, it is a debate that should occur on an intellectually honest playing field.

I was surprised, therefore, to see the “straw man” set up by Professors Kiss and Dawisha's recent Guest Columns in The Miami Student and Professor Bhattacharjee's column in The Miami Report defending the shift in emphasis away from undergraduate teaching that has taken place under the Garland regime. Professor Dawisha best identifies this straw man when he states (emphasis added): “It is rather unfortunate that the Miami Student has fallen victim to the gross mythology perpetrated by some that teaching and research are somehow mutually exclusive.” None of those (myself included) who have expressed concerns about the diminution in undergraduate teaching at Miami have ever claimed that teaching and research are “...somehow mutually exclusive.” This is the gross mythology perpetrated by Professor Dawisha.

What is at issue is the proper balance between teaching and research at a university which prides (and markets) itself as uniquely committed to high-quality undergraduate education for all students. Are some of Miami's best researchers excellent teachers? Yes, and no one has disputed this. This, too, is but a straw man. The issue is balance. Do Miami's “best researchers” enhance high-quality undergraduate education if they teach only one undergraduate course per year? Do they enhance high-quality undergraduate education if they teach only honors classes with only 15 to 20 students or only independent studies with a couple of undergraduate students? Just how many letters of recommendation can they write if they teach so few undergraduate students? And if, as Professors Kiss and Dawisha correctly argue, research is important to high-quality undergraduate education, they must surely abhor the fact that 51 percent of all undergraduate credit hours at Miami are taught by temporary faculty (most of whom presumably are not engaged in research) and 70 percent of all Miami Plan foundation courses are taught by part-time faculty and graduate students! Again, the issue is not the mutual exclusivity straw man advanced by Professor Dawisha (and indirectly by Professors Kiss and Bhattacharjee) but the proper balance between teaching and research that provides a high-quality undergraduate education for ALL Miami students.

As a way of advancing the real issue of the balance between teaching and research, I offer a modest proposal: I call on Professors Brock, Kiss, and Dawisha to indicate in the pages of The Miami Report how many regularly scheduled, non-team-taught undergraduate courses they have taught each semester over the past two or three academic years. Dean Hughes - who in the pages of The Miami Report has written about “Gifted Scholars with a Passion for Teaching” - could further enhance the debate by indicating the number of undergraduate, non-team-taught courses taught over the same period by the top research grant recipients at Miami as identified in the Annual Report on Research Grants prepared in his office. This way, faculty, students (or their seemingly absent representatives on campus, ASG) and parents alike can join the debate on what is and what is not the proper balance between teaching and research that will maintain/enhance Miami's commitment to high-quality undergraduate education for ALL Miami students, rather than only for a select few.

Date Published: 12/01/2005
Volume: 25   Number: 17

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