Something broke, and it seemed irreparable.This was compounded by my increasing frustration with my job as a lecturer. I liked my students, I enjoyed teaching, and I despised the undervaluing of teaching by my department head. I disliked the hierarchy of talents, in which tenure track and tenured faculty were valued more than those of us who just taught. Being a lecturer meant that my publications could be brushed aside, and that my experience and opinions mattered less. Frustrating doesn’t quite cover it.
The undervaluing of teaching (in word, deed, job structure, and salary), and of faculty who are primarily teachers, really bothers me, too. In my case, it's not so much a question of people ignoring my research, such as it is (it's nowhere near as impressive as Baker's), as not being able to do service, and so have a full voice in curricular and other departmental matters. At the same time, I realize why more research-oriented faculty, especially in the humanities, feel embattled, too, and why they may resist calls to dedicate more of their energies to teaching (which often amount to suggesting that they teach two or three times as many students per course, effectively doubling or tripling their teaching load without any concomitant reduction in other responsibilities).
Still, teaching is, if not the only core mission of the university, at least a core mission of the university. However, everyone seems to want us to do it on the cheap: parents, politicians, and pundits because college has gotten too expensive, and administrators (and some more privileged faculty members) because they want to conserve funds for activities that build the university's research reputation (some of which involve actual research, and some of which don't).
Ugh. How do we go about recognizing the value of teaching, while still resisting the idea that any research that doesn't bring in money (and/or have potentially profit-making results) is worthless? For that matter, what can we learn about the conditions under which productive scholarship is possible from contingent faculty who, like Baker, maintain active writing and research agendas despite heavy teaching loads? Is it possible, as some people (including me) have suggested in the comments over at Historiann's, that the increased service load created by overuse of contingent faculty offsets the value of reduced teaching loads for tenure-track faculty? Might we all be better off with a move toward slightly higher teaching loads, if it were accompanied by an increase in tenure-track positions (or at least full-time positions that incorporate reasonable proportions of teaching, research, and service)?
Can we all just get along? Or is it too late, the gap between TT and contingent faculty too broad, the resources too limited, the outside pressures too great? Are we going to spend our time overstating the value of our own contributions to the common enterprise (and the extent to which higher ed is a meritocracy), and denigrating those of others, while faculty governance withers and administrators become ever more numerous and powerful? Or is there hope -- somehow, somewhere?