Impact-Faculty

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Received a request from my alma mater to write a few sentences about the “impact a few of our faculty has had in the lives of our students.” A write-up of that sort is required to be read out (in the senate, I presume) in “an effort to ‘educate’ the board members of the importance of our teachers”.

I am flabbergasted. Board members have come to believe academic institutions can be run successfully without its faculty? Now, writing nice things about those who imparted education to you is a labor of love. Any student worth her faults should be obliged to do it. But requiring such a testimony to convince the role of a faculty in academia should have been perceived as redundant even by American standards.

I suspect this situation is the result of increasingly viewing education as a commodity to be sold to the populace for a price and the associated educational institution is just a business organization to serve its role. The more an academic institution stocks “stars with research grants”, the more its market price in the sale of education. The education itself can anyway be provided by hired-hands (faculty?) who just teach for a salary.

These are times the student can determine whether a faculty is needed for her education at the price she could afford. Where education is no more sought but just sold at a convenient price, the roles of faculty and student are bound to be reversed. The old order of education as what the wiser peers choose to provide and inculcate is not favored anymore. Education as a means to higher wisdom is being replaced by education as vocational training with assured value and returns for the invested money.

That a testimony from students on the impact of faculty is required to convince continual support to the bread and butter of an educational institution is insulting. That this happens in my alma mater is not disturbing — I long suspected this would be(come) the state of affairs when educational institutions build large indoor football stadiums using donor money and expect its faculty to bring in their own salaries through external research grants. That students from my country still think a stamp of authenticity from such a “foreign” education is a must to live is also not disturbing — impressionable students are the one who need to be educated in an academic institution. That educational administrators think only such a “education as commodity” model is better for our country is disturbing — for, only students can be educated by faculty.

In our urge for accountability in academia, we have begun to quantify quality in research by introducing the faulty impact factor of journals. Even after showing its dubious (de)merits, I can see academics have begun to accept impact factor for want of a better quantifier to measure their colleagues research. What now follows is perhaps inevitable. An Impact Faculty based purely on student rating and student views of the usefulness of a faculty in (the lack of) her education.