Grad students should enrich while professors teach

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

As Baylor works toward becoming a nationally recognized research institution, the assignment of graduate students to primary teaching positions should be reconsidered.

While Baylor exceeds the national average for percentage of full-time instructors, 79 percent, as opposed to the 51 percent average, there is always room for improvement. The university boasts of its 14:1 student-faculty ratio, but this number fails to reflect the classrooms left without a full-time faculty member. According to College Factual, there were 610 graduate assistants “that teach or provide teaching-related duties” when College Factual conducted its analysis.

Graduate assistants should be supplementary to a full-time faculty member, not a replacement.

The qualifications for faculty status far exceed those for attending graduate school. A full-time faculty member has more educational and research experience. The university is able to hold professors to a higher standard of scholarship. Full-time professors must be involved in the academic world, publishing research, attending conferences, etc. Their connection to the department makes the course more cohesive with broader trends of the academic program.

Professors bring more long-term benefits to students as well. A graduate assistant will only be available to students for the duration of the course. With a staff member, students have the opportunity to build long-term relationships. These mentorships are often where students are able to find networking opportunities, occupational advice and sources for recommendation letters.

Graduate assistants enrich the classroom experience. As young adults closer to students’ age, they can be viewed as more approachable and relatable. They often host regular Supplemental Instruction sessions or test reviews. However, the contributions of graduate assistants should be used to complement rather than emulate the competencies of professors.

The program for graduate students to teach is helpful for their educational experience, but should not come as a detriment for the undergraduates they are instructing. According to the Baylor Lariat, attending this university is more expensive now than ever. Having full-time professors should be included in the educational experience at Baylor.