Editorial: Professors overuse teaching assistants

SuperBusyProfessor.jpgOne of the things Baylor is known for is its low student-teacher ratio of 15:1. It boasts that more than 88 percent of classes are taught by professors. We understand that it’s not possible to have 100 percent of classes taught by professors, but it’s frustrating to walk into a class expecting a professor and then see a bunch of graduate teaching assistants teaching the course.

If a professor is listed as the instructor of the course, the professor should be the primary person teaching the class — not a graduate student.

It’s one thing when graduate students teach labs. It’s understandable that a professor cannot be present for every single section of a lab.

But if the professor is listed on the lab section, he or she should be available to field questions from students that do not understand the material just based on what the graduate students teach.

It is, on the other hand, completely unfair to students when professors are listed as the primary professor for a class and then rely on their TAs to teach the class for them.

Students pay a lot of money to attend classes at Baylor. They work hard to maintain their scholarships.

There is this unspoken agreement that we, as students, are getting the best possible education Baylor can give us and, in turn, we work as hard as we can to learn from the professors that teach us. We can’t do that if the professor doesn’t teach.

This is false advertising for students who think they sign up to take a class from a professor and then have a graduate student as a teacher who most likely does not know as much about the topic.

We understand professors have other things to do besides teach, such as research, but we pay a lot of money — almost $100 for every hour spent in the classroom — to learn from professors. What good is a professor who is famous in his or her field if students don’t have the opportunity to learn from these professors?

If professors want to utilize TAs to help teach students, one way to do this is to add a lab section to the larger lecture courses that don’t already have them.

They could have the class meet as a whole to learn the lecture material, but then meet in separate lab sessions where students learn more in depth.

This use of TAs is a fair way for students to learn the information because they learn the core of the material from a professor, but they get more individualized attention from the teaching assistants.

If a TA or a group of TAs are going to teach a class, they should be listed in the course description, not the professor that shows up for one day and rarely shows up again.

We do understand that professors cannot teach every single course at Baylor, but we do ask for some transparency when it comes to whether we can go into the class expecting to be taught by a graduate student or a professor.