NOTES ON THIS DRAFT:
This is the 18 December 1997 draft of the White Papers in
conversation style giving the faculty's answers to questions
most frequently asked about the life of university professors. You are
invited to read this and comment on it.
Please send comments to Arthur M. Hobbs, e-mail address
Arthur M. Hobbs
Department of Mathematics
18 November 1997
The Faculty of Texas A&M University are concerned that the operations
and values of our university are misunderstood by the public
and by the legislators who respond to the public will. This misunderstanding
is driving questions about the essential character of the university.
Here we offer answers to the questions we are most frequently asked
about how the university works and why it works that way.
We hope that you, the reader of these answers, will at least
come away with the realization that we stand poised and eager to carry on a
dialogue with the people of Texas about the quality of higher education in
the State of Texas and especially at Texas A&M University.
Another thing we hope you will get from our document is an
understanding of the need for tenure. That need is driven by our
creative activity. Creativity is risky,
and sometimes it is controversial; the public's need for the results
of creative studies is
one of the justifications of the practice of tenuring
those who do the studies.
We also hope you come away with the understanding that
the faculty of the university are serious-minded and able people who
care about their students, their research, and their service to the
professional, university, state, and national communities.
In the following narrative, our questioner is an
intelligent and skeptical person who is not part of the university
community, but who has children attending the university. We think
you will find his concerns are similar to your own.
May I come in, Professor?
Mr. Johnson? Yes, come in! I am very glad to have this chance to
answer the questions you mentioned when we talked on the telephone. Did
I understand correctly that you have two children here?
I've got two daughters here, Casey and Kelly. Kelly's the older one -
she's a senior planning to get a PhD. Casey's a freshman in
business. She's planning to join me in running our family business after
I'm sure you are very proud of both of them.
Let's get right down to business. I want to make sure all the money
I'm spending here is worth it.
I've looked around this campus, and I'm impressed - it's huge. What all
goes on here?
First, we prepare our students for productive and
rewarding lives. We produce thinking and educated people - people
who think for themselves and who
understand how the work of our country has been performed in the past
and will be performed in the future. The entire community
- the state, the country, even the larger global community - shares the
benefits that educated people bring to community life.
Second, we build knowledge, which is
then shared with industry, business, education, the medical community,
government, and other groups in our society. This
knowledge may range from techniques for prolonging and improving life, to
literature that reveals the lives of diverse groups of people. In practical
terms, we produce intellectual property, such as new studies and
improved machinery, that benefit all citizens.
Third, we dedicate time to a wide range of activities known as "service."
As a land-grant university we have a special mission to serve the
citizens of the state. Some, such as ranchers and farmers, are served
immediately and regularly through our Agricultural Extension
Service. Other people, such as schoolchildren and business leaders,
are served more gradually, but just as surely. Also, we serve on
committees for professional organizations and for the University, and
we serve as advisors for student organizations. Finally, we serve
our community by sharing our
expertise in issues of local, state, and national importance.
So a university is a sort of business that produces educated people,
knowledge, and service?
Well, that's an interesting way of putting it. I would say that a
university is a collection of caring people united in the pursuit and
dissemination of knowledge.
That sounds good. But where does the money come from?
Some is tax money, some comes from your sons and daughter's tuition
and fees, some comes from private business and individuals,
and some is from other sources. Let's look at the budget. These
four pie charts show the sources of income for Texas A&M University (see
Figures 1 through 4). If
you add these amounts up, you see we have a budget of 654 million dollars
for the academic year 1997-98. The part that goes to teaching
and University-supported research is the Education and General (E&G)
part (Figure 1).
The general revenues portion of the budget is tax money.
You as a parent pay the tuition and lab fees, a little over 19% of
the total E&G budget.
What is the "AUF" in Figures 1 and 2?
"AUF" stands for the Available University Fund. This fund is
made up of the income from Texas A&M University's 1/3 share of the
Permanent University Fund (PUF). The PUF consists
of investments and the saved income from the West
Texas lands given to the University of Texas by the State of Texas
during the nineteenth century and now amounts to several billion
dollars. The income from this investment, the AUF, has been
shared between Texas A&M University and the University
of Texas since 1934.
So that is not tax money, strictly speaking.
Right. Let's go on.
Wait! I see GUF/UAT in Figure 2! Isn't that my money, too?
Yes. That money is the University Authorized Tuition (UAT), formerly
known as the General Use Fee (GUF). When the State government converted the
GUF into tuition, it also requred the universities to list this income
on their designated funds budgets. A little more than half of this money
is used to service the debt on University buildings. The rest is used
to supplement the E&G budget.
Why don't you just list this with the E&G budget? Are these four
accounts all different?
Each of the charts represents a different
kind of activity in the university. Figure 1 shows the money spent
on the primary objectives of the institution: instruction, research, and
Educational and General (E&G) Budget (Figure 1):
Designated Budget (Figure 2):
The second chart shows money designated by the Board of Regents
for specific purposes. Examples are field trip fees, computer access
fees, printing center charges, debt service, etc. Many of these
budgets are self-supporting, primarily through user fees and sales.
Auxiliary Enterprises Budget (Figure 3):
The third chart covers facilities and services
for students, faculty and staff. Examples are residence halls,
food services, athletic department, parking, etc. These enterprises
are also self-supporting primarily through user fees and sales.
Restricted Budget (Figure 4):
Finally, the fourth chart describes those funds expendable for
operating purposes but restricted by
donors or other outside agencies as to the specific purposes.
These funds are held in local bank accounts, and are
self-supporting primarily through gifts, grants, and contracts.
Although these pie charts show you the categories of money spent
by the university, they do not give you the specific expenditures. But
the budget is really huge - it occupies several volumes available at
the Reserve Desk of the Sterling C. Evans Library. I don't have a
good summary of the budget expenditures here, but you can look at several
excellent summaries when you get home by using your computer to look
up the material at these two URLs.
With these words, the professor hands Mr. Johnson
a slip containing these two addresses:
Thanks. So let me get out my calculator and do a little figuring.
If my kids live off campus, then I'm paying you people UAT, tuition,
and lab and other fees. Adding those together, and
dividing by the sum of the E&G and Designated Funds budgets, I get that
I'm only paying for 27.2% of the cost of my kids' education. Good Lord,
I'm on the dole!
I don't think so. The state invests in your daughters' education
because it is in the interest of the state to have an educated
population and workforce.
It makes sense for tax dollars to be used to support
All right, so the money isn't all mine. But this is a mighty
expensive enterprise. Surely teaching doesn't have to cost that much?
Correct. It is possible to teach for less. But what sort of a degree
would we be granting then?
What do you mean, "What sort of a degree?" The same sort, of course.
Not at all! You see, your daughters came here for more than just
a piece of paper. They came for an outstanding education
provided by faculty of the highest quality. On top of that,
when Kelly and Casey graduate, they will have the benefit of the
reputation of this university. We are world-class, and that fact is
noticed when our graduates seek jobs. In other words, the fame of
the university gives extra value to the degrees awarded to its students.
"World-class," hmmm? I know about "world-class." It's another name
for cultural diversity, isn't it? Why is the University interested in
World-class is not a synonym for cultural diversity, but it does
include diversity. If a university wishes to attain
world-class status, its faculty and
students must understand the divergent cultures that inhabit the
world. Diversity of viewpoints and perspectives is crucial to the vitality
of a University, assuring a cross-fertilization of ideas and enabling
the creation of new knowledge. Cultural diversity reinforces these goals.
For both idealistic and practical reasons, a university moving into the
twenty-first century must endorse and promote diverse
perspectives that might be labeled "multi-cultural." The ideal university
welcomes all who bring to it a willing mind and a love of learning. Given
the fact that the state, nation, and world are culturally diverse entities,
a university that seeks to realize its potential of serving all of its
citizens responsibly must be attentive to diverse populations. TAMU
prides itself on a faculty that is engaged in cutting-edge research and
teaching, and in a number of disciplines the contributions and perspectives
of diverse populations must be studied if the truths of history, an
understanding of the present, and a preparation for the future are fully to
be realized. Texas is and will be a multi-cultural state, with close
economic ties to its nearest neighbors, one of which is Mexico. Moreover,
Texas A&M already has a cadre of Aggies scattered throughout the world, a
reality that will become even more pronounced in the future. Our graduates
will enter and work in this globally connected world, whether they make
their home in Odessa, Texas or in Beijing, China.
Well, then, what do you mean by "world-class?"
Most of us want to be the best that we can be at whatever it is we do.
Faculty and Universities are no different! Since we live in a global
economy it makes sense to measure our abilities against the best
the world has to offer, and Texas's premier universities show up well
in such measurements. This is world-class. A world-class
reputation attracts the best faculty and
students and so perpetuates high-quality research and teaching.
World-class also means having a very full range of programs that help
educate all our students as widely as possible: to speak the languages
spoken around the world, to understand the politics, economics, societies,
and cultures they are likely to encounter in their working lives. It means
providing a thorough understanding of the science and mathematics that
drive our own culture's remarkable success in technology. And it means
encouraging students to think for themselves by providing an environment
where ideas are challenged by facts and other ideas, rather than by
the dead hand of authority.
It would be especially ironic if, in a state that prides itself on
being the biggest and the best in so much, anything less than
world-class recognition and status were accepted from its premier
So is Texas A&M world-class in everything?
That would not be possible. No institution can be at the top of
every ladder. But Texas A&M is genuinely world-class in its traditional
focus areas: agriculture, engineering, science, and veterinary medicine.
It has achieved world prominence in programs such as underwater
archaeology and the study of wavelets and data compression, and its
liberal arts faculty are attracting national and international attention.
We are alone in being the land grant, sea grant, and space grant
institution of the state and we are one of very few in the country with
all three designations. We have
a state-wide network of experiment stations and facilities aimed at helping
those who most need our services.
Then it's really good for Texas and for my kids that Texas A&M is a
world-class university. But can't a university be world-class without
being a big research university?
There are extremely few
world-class universities that are not also strong research universities.
I don't mean to say that research universities are the only worthy
ones. The varied institutions of higher education - community colleges,
private liberal arts colleges, four-year comprehensive universities,
and research universities - have differing roles, and all of these
institutions are important. For each a primary aim is the
transmission of knowledge and strategies for learning. But that knowledge
is discovered primarily at the research universities.
I'm puzzled. World-class universities are big research universities,
and research is done at research universities. But isn't research done
anywhere else? What about other colleges?
Certainly, research is done at other colleges. But research is
not a major part of those colleges' missions, so ground-breaking
research is seldom attempted there.
A special role of research universities is to discover new knowledge
as well as to spread that knowledge. The research university has a
dual purpose: to produce the fundamental new knowledge which will
generate scientific, social, economic and cultural progress, and to
educate the next generation of teachers, researchers and other
professionals, as well as an intelligent and informed citizenry in
Faculty at all schools strive to teach current information, reading the
current journals and attending meetings to stay abreast of the latest
developments. But many libraries cannot subscribe to all of the
important journals. Even when the journals are available, they are
usually a year and often several years behind current research. Moreover,
attending meetings is expensive and is seldom strongly supported by schools
devoted primarily to teaching. Thus their faculty often find it hard
to stay current.
But teacher-scholars at a research university are gathering knowledge
themselves in their research laboratories and libraries. Because
these faculty involve their students in the creative process, they
impart not only new information but also the joy of discovery, thus
fostering critical thinking and analytical skills. Moreover, these
faculty are writing the texts for advanced courses, and their students
often get involved in this activity as well.
The faculty at a research university have had to prove themselves over and
over in the course of many years to be successful researchers. They
are given time and incentive to do such research. Indeed, many have
achieved world acclaim among workers in their fields for their creative
A unique responsibility of research universities is that of
educating citizens beyond the undergraduate degree. This graduate
education prepares the next generation of professionals, researchers,
and teachers, as well as business, political, and community leaders.
Why should research be done at a university? Don't businesses also
Research done in a business setting is usually focused on the
specialties of that business. It is often more related to applications
of basic discoveries than directed toward making basic discoveries. In
fact, many businesses would not exist today if it were not for discoveries
made in university laboratories and then applied by businesses.
So you're saying that universities are places where research is
done that businesses are generally not willing to pay for?
Essentially, that's right. Although business won't usually pay for basic
research, it actually has a very high value. It is just not
obvious in what area the value will appear. Mathematicians studied
whole numbers, producing the mathematical field of number theory, with
no object in mind but to study something that was beautiful and
challenging. And until the middle of this century, outside of
mathematics the results were
little more than that. But now number theory is one of the
mainstays of cryptography. Without the centuries of development that
went into this subject, cryptography could not offer the security it
does today. Nobody would have predicted that even as late as 1940.
For another example, Roentgen was studying the conductance of electricity
through gasses (a study of no practical value at the time) when he
Okay, I see that, but when the government is trying to balance the
budget, is this really something we can afford?
Yes, absolutely! Both tangible and intangible benefits derive from the
work done at research universities. Here are some tangible benefits:
- At the national level, university research aids the economy.
Discoveries made by university researchers have laid the foundation
for modern industries ranging from electronics to plastics,
from telecommunications to computers, and from aeronautics to
pharmaceuticals and medicine. These cutting-edge enterprises create
millions of jobs and contribute over $600 billion per year to the
- In fiscal year 1995, Texas A&M University injected about $362 million
in research spending into the community and the state. Using the State
comptroller's multiplier of 2.3 for every $1 in expenditures and 47
jobs for every $1 million, Texas A&M's research expenditures
translate to over $800 million and more than 17,000 jobs.
Intangible benefits include:
- Because of its specialized equipment and talented and trained
staff, a research university can easily collaborate with industry to
produce additional jobs, revenue, and tax support. Moreover,
businesses value close proximity to university libraries because they
provide quick access to vital information.
Yeah, that reminds me. I read somewhere that you people spend millions
every year on your library. My kids tell me they almost never go there,
and even when they do most of what they need is already checked out. Why
should we be paying for a library just so professors and business people
can get information easily?
You actually asked two questions, "Why do we need a first-rate library?"
and "Is our library adequate?" Poor libraries cripple high-quality
research and teaching.
Research libraries are the repositories of knowledge accumulated over
the centuries. Libraries allow scholars, students, and citizens to
obtain information - both new and old - speedily and efficiently. Thus,
libraries allow us to learn from and build upon the wisdom of past
generations. Your daughters
would gain immensely from visiting the library regularly. I hope you
will urge them to go to the library and browse even when
they do not have assignments that require its use.
The other question implicit in yours is "Is the Texas A&M library
adequate?" Sadly, the answer is that it is not.
While the library is making headway, its resources lag behind those of
its peers at other large research universities. The current University
administration has committed millions of new dollars to the library
budget. However, books and journals are expensive, and great collections of
breadth and depth are built only by sustained commitment over decades.
Further, the rapid advance of electronic storage of information is
forcing a radical change in the structure and operation of libraries.
These changes are also expensive. A lasting commitment to library
excellence is required, and we continue to seek more money for its
growth and development.
I see. I've told Kelly and Casey
over and over again to use the library more. I'm glad to hear that you
But let's get back to teaching. Do my kids get any direct advantage
from the faculty being involved in research?
Yes. First, recall that
research faculty are involved in discovering knowledge in their area
of expertise. When faculty communicate their discoveries to their
students, the classroom can become a center of excitement where students
become deeply involved in understanding how knowledge is produced and tested.
Faculty who actively expand knowledge through research are themselves
students in their fields: they continuously change what and how they
teach to reflect their discoveries. Because they are continually
learning themselves, they tend to expect more of their students,
setting high standards and pushing students to greater effort.
The students discover they can do more than they ever thought
The faculty often have grants which support graduate students,
high quality equipment, and resources used in laboratories and classrooms.
Also, they are part of international networks of professionals who visit
campuses as expert speakers and who can further the careers of graduates
by giving them advice and job recommendations. Some of these speakers
are world leaders in their fields of study. Just meeting and learning
from such a person can be a life-changing experience for a student.
I should say, though, that not all students will find research
universities suited to their goals or learning styles. High achieving
and self-motivated students are more likely to succeed in a research
But what about professors being available to their students? My kids
say they go to see their professors all the time, but they're hardly
My answer to this question has to have two parts. If your daughters mean
that they have gone to a professor's office during office hours and the
is usually not there, then there is a serious problem. Each of us is
expected to set office hours and to be there at those times. Professors
who are not meeting this obligation should be reported to the Head of
the Department by the students.
But at other times? Faculty members are paid to read and write and
think and talk. These activities do not require them to
be in their offices all day, every day. In fact, sometimes the office is
not conducive to such work. Faculty members not in their offices during
normal working hours may have night classes and need the time for
preparation at home, away from phones and interruptions. They
may be in the library, or may have worked until 2 a.m. in the lab on
a research project, or may be grading term papers. Or perhaps the
previous weekend they presented a research paper at a professional
conference. All of these activities are proper parts of the professors'
Office hours are typically used by students to discuss
material not understood in class, to discuss specific paper
or project assignments, and simply to talk informally with
professors about academic, professional, or personal matters.
The claim sometimes heard that professors are rarely available to
their students as a group
usually ignores the many unscheduled hours of contact with individual
students that occur before and after classes, in laboratories, and
during unscheduled office hours. Professors often meet with students
during non-scheduled times to
accommodate working students' schedules. They also talk with
students by telephone and e-mail. Moreover, many professors
spend extra time with students by sponsoring student
organizations and by counselling them (e.g., through the MENTOR
Well, aside from that, how do you use time that you see as teaching
time? I do understand that preparation for class takes some time.
The schedule of an individual professor depends on the particular
classes being taught. For example, that professor may meet with a
graduate class for a long session once per week and with undergraduate
classes three times per week. In addition to many hours spent in class
preparation, many professors spend additional, unscheduled time supervising
independent study students, graduate students, and beginning
teaching assistants. Students usually need increasing amounts of
individual time with professors as they become more advanced. Doctoral
students learn to do research by doing it, aided and advised by
their thesis supervisors. Thus, during the last year of a PhD student's
study, the time spent with a student's advisor may increase to many
hours per week. For example, the professor in the office next
door spends several hours each evening and several more on Sunday
afternoon with one of his advanced PhD students. His is a common case.
I see there is a lot more teaching going on here than meets the eye.
I want to ask you something that I'm pretty hot about. Kelly is a senior
but she still has another year to go before she graduates.
I didn't plan on spending this extra money. Why don't
students here at Texas A&M complete their degrees in four years?
Some students do complete their degrees in the traditional
It is not
impossible to graduate within four years, but it has become less common.
I can't speak to the particulars of Kelly's experience here, but major
reasons students are taking longer to graduate include:
- Approximately 70% of the students at Texas A&M University change their
major subject at least once during
their undergraduate years. When students change majors or take
courses not required to graduate, they extend their time in school.
- On average, students must complete 32 credits per year (about
16 credits per semester) to graduate in a four-year period.
But increasing numbers of working students take fewer credit
hours. Many of them have opted for a 12 to 13 credit load.
- Increasing numbers of students are taking one or more
semesters out of school to participate in job internship or
cooperative education programs designed to give them direct
experience in their major subject. In such cases, students
choose to slow progress towards their degrees in order to gain
valuable experience that will help them find superior
jobs after graduation.
- Many Texas A&M students also take advantage of leadership
opportunities outside the classroom. The university has more than
800 student organizations that provide opportunities for hands-on
- Students who plan to attend professional or graduate school
may drop courses in which they are earning low grades in order
to ensure a high grade point average. Other students may drop
courses because they are having difficulty passing and need to
retake them. In either case, progress to graduation is slowed.
- Inadequately prepared students must take additional courses to
get them ready for classes here. Although these courses do not
count toward graduation, they necessarily add to the time the
students take toward graduation.
- Shrinking state support for public universities and land-grant
colleges nationwide has led to shrinking numbers of
faculty, higher tuition and fees, and an increase in student
requests for financial aid (89% in 1996). Growing numbers of
students at public research universities are working while
NEEDED: Statistics on support; on # of students working at TAMU.
Ask Bob Kennedy for these numbers.
Yeah. Kelly switched majors two years ago. So I guess
it's not all just one simple problem that can be legislated away?
No. Actually we are very concerned about moves made in the Legislature
to limit the number of credits a student may be required to take toward
graduation. Depending on how such a bill is worded, the result could
reduce the quality of a student's education, financially punish the
student for factors out of his or her control, or even keep the student
from graduating at all.
I guess we could say you think students here are being well-educated
and prepared for their post-graduation goals?
Texas A&M students have ranked their experience high compared
to students graduating from other U.S. universities.
We are told by those who employ our students and use our research that
we are very successful at producing people with the skills
needed in agriculture, in all sorts of industries, in business, and in
teaching. Indeed, the large number of extracurricular and internship
opportunities here give our students an advantage when they
compete for post-graduate jobs and graduate school openings.
My kids both complain that freshman and sophomore classes are too
big. Casey was just talking to me this morning about it. She said one class
is so huge that her professor is just a dot in the front of the room.
Why are some Texas A&M classes so large?
A dot? Surely she is jesting. But, yes, some course sections are very large. Introductory courses often present basic information that can be
communicated adequately, if not perfectly, in a large classroom
setting. A large student-to-teacher ratio in the introductory
courses permits departments to limit the sizes of more advanced,
upper-division courses that cannot be taught without more
individual interaction in the classroom.
Well then, why doesn't each professor just teach more classes?
We could, but if we did, the character of the university would change.
A decision was made many years ago to make Texas A&M University one of the
great research universities. Our efforts have been successfully
directed toward this goal for several decades, and as a result we are
already ranked among the top 10 research universities of the United
States in several subjects.
It would certainly be possible to reverse our direction and become a
school devoted primarily to teaching. Our best researchers would
probably leave, and the international reputation we have gained would
evaporate. Should we do that? We believe not.
Okay, how about just shrinking the number of students here at A&M?
Well, we are already turning away thousands of students each year who are
qualified and want to attend Texas A&M University. Should we turn away
still more? We believe we should keep class sizes at the maximum possible
given our responsibility to teach well, thus turning away as few students
as possible consistent with that goal.
Casey is talking about taking some courses at Blinn
College, and others here at TAMU at the same time. Why would she
want to do that?
We have a few basic courses that are in such demand that students cannot
find an open seat in them at TAMU. In such cases, if the course is offered
at Blinn, it is reasonable to take the course there.
Why don't you just open up more sections?
It costs a lot of money to open a section, and you'll
recall that the
students' tuition and fees don't cover much of that cost.
Until this year, the Legislature
has been effectively cutting resources to the universities and colleges
of Texas by giving increases that didn't match inflation. The result
is that we cannot open more sections.
What about students taking courses at other schools when you do have
openings? I've heard that happens.
Many students return home during the summer and can save money
by taking courses at local colleges while living with their
families. But not all students study elsewhere for that reason.
We've asked them why they opt for
junior or community college credit in courses where we have openings.
They have pointed out that the content of courses and the level of
performance at other schools typically are believed to be less
demanding than they are at TAMU. Moreover, the Common Course
Numbering System guarantees that they can transfer the credit to TAMU.
So some students take courses they consider
difficult, such as science, mathematics and foreign languages, at
colleges where they believe they will face less competition
and less expensive tuition and fees.
We do not believe that searching
out less demanding courses is in the best interests of the students.
Because of the large number of people seeking to become students at
Texas A&M University, our average student is significantly better than
the average at most other colleges and universities. To serve these
uncommonly good students, we have set the level of rigor in our courses
above that in similar courses elsewhere. Thus, although those of
our students who take
a course elsewhere receive excellent teaching, they do not get as
much from the course as they would at Texas A&M University. Unfortunately,
by State law we have little control over where our students take
Another thing my kids told me this morning is that they have had
several teachers who are
actually graduate students. Why don't you use tenured faculty instead
of graduate students in front of these classes?
To do that, we would have to hire many more professors. But it is
not necessary. For many purposes and reasons, graduate students make
But let me begin at the beginning. First, we use
graduate students in several capacities, thus giving them an opportunity
to earn their way through school. It is very rare for a parent to
continue to support a son or daughter in graduate school.
The most common uses of a graduate student are as a research assistant,
(occasionally) as a grader, or as a teaching assistant in the laboratory.
The research assistant helps the professor do research and is usually
paid from grant money. The grader's job is to grade homework and to
help grade tests under the direct supervision of the professor. These
two do not interact with the students. The laboratory assistant does
interact with students. To understand
this person's job, you need to know that many lower division courses
are made up of two parts. First, there is the lecture, given three
or so hours per week by a skilled specialist in the field, such as a
tenured professor or specialized lecturer. For the second part, the
students will gather in smaller groups in laboratory sections, each
usually led by a graduate student. This person's
job is to help the students understand the lessons given in lecture, and
to guide the students in carrying out experiments and setting up and
using laboratory equipment. The
laboratory assistant meets regularly with the professor for guidance.
About 71% of freshman and sophomore laboratory sections, and about 38%
of junior and senior labs, were taught by graduate students in Fall,
But don't graduate students sometimes actually teach?
Yes. More advanced graduate students
are sometimes used as lecturers. This is a more responsible
position, since the lecturer
usually prepares the lessons, often makes up the tests that are
given, and assigns the grades at the end of the term. But
this responsibility is not given lightly, and supervision by experienced
faculty is regularly given. In fact, we are very proud
of our graduate students' teaching. They are closer
to the undergraduates in age than most of the faculty, and closer in
immediate life experience, since they are still students themselves. These
factors often prove to be a real advantage for the undergraduates who have
the graduate student instructors, since they can more easily communicate
with each other. In Fall, 1995, about 14% of freshman and sophomore
lecture classes, and about 6% of junior and senior classes, were taught
by graduate student lecturers.
Graduate students are used as lecturers only near the end of their
graduate training. These men and women
are brilliant, able, and well trained. Most have already taken all of
the courses they need to graduate and are working on other aspects
of their degrees. As teachers to an undergraduate student audience, they
function as cost-effective supplements to the efforts of faculty. This
service saves the taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
It should be noted that many of our teaching assistants have
been honored for their excellence and classroom contributions. A formal
program of teaching assistant recognition has been in place at TAMU for the
past several years. Because of this sort of training at the nation's
graduate institutions, even new faculty are experienced teachers.
Okay, so graduate students are good teachers. But a lot
of them are foreigners. You can't tell me it's good for my kids to
wade through a hard subject and a foreigner's crummy English at
the same time!
Let's distinguish between an accent and poor English.
Those graduate students whose native language is not English must
pass the "Test of English as a Foreign Language" (a national exam)
before being admitted to the University.
In addition they must pass a second, more difficult set of tests,
the English Language Proficiency Exam, before they are allowed to teach.
The exam is administered by the Measurement and Research Services Office
of the University; a passing score requires a minimum grade of 80% on each
section of the exam.
Interacting with these foreign teachers is good for our students.
graduates often work for companies with branches in foreign countries.
It is common for recruiters to express a preference
for hiring university graduates who can work in a multinational environment
because of the increasingly global nature of the work place.
Early contact with international students gives our young people a chance
to understand cultures they may be working with in their professional
In other words, my kids are getting twofers? They're getting
taught some subject and at the same time they're learning how to get
along with the sort of people they'll be working with later?
But Casey was complaining just this morning about a lab instructor.
This character has such a thick accent that he can't be understood. Are
you saying Casey's wrong?
Not necessarily. This is a huge enterprise, and problems do sometimes
slip through the cracks. Although we diligently check on the teaching of our
faculty, and especially of our teaching graduate students, we also depend
on our students and their parents, like you, to let us know about problems.
If Casey's teacher speaks English so badly that his students cannot
understand him, please let the head of that teacher's department know about
it. I assure you that the problem will be investigated and action taken
if it is needed. This has happened before, and we will act
quickly if it happens again. But if Casey is just griping about
a hard course being taught by a person with an accent, I hope you will
understand that no action should be taken. In any case, we will visit
the teacher's class and talk with other students in the class before
we take action.
Let me summarize the matter of using graduate students as teachers:
The use of qualified teaching assistants to supplement available faculty
permits considerable cost savings to the taxpayers of the state and thus
to our students, provides
supervised training for graduate students as teachers, and provides the
undergraduates with instructors who enhance their educational experience.
I'm mighty proud of Kelly! She's planning to go to graduate school after
graduating next May.
Yeah. She'll be the first one in our family to get a graduate degree.
But this is all Kelly's idea, and I don't really
understand what she's getting into. Tell me about graduate studies.
Graduate programs exist because there are many fields for which
a successful career requires more than four years of study beyond
high school. Graduate
programs produce well-educated professionals who contribute much to
society and the economy. Further, they create an atmosphere in which
undergraduates learn from the advanced work going on around them,
and benefit from the increased value of a degree from a higher ranking
The importance of graduate study to Texas A&M University
was recognized early in its history. Texas A&M University, the state's
first public institution of higher education, opened for classes in 1876.
In 1888, twelve years after the opening, the faculty began programs of
instruction at the graduate level. By 1936 the Board of Directors had
approved programs of study and research leading to the doctorate. In the
1960's the Board of Regents approved changes that resulted in graduate
programs in all of the academic colleges of the University. Our
land, sea, and space grant designations and the advantages they
bring would not have been possible without the development of strong
That's all very interesting, but I really wanted to know what Kelly's
getting into and what use graduate studies will be to her.
At the beginning, graduate studies seem quite similar to undergraduate
studies. The student takes more classes, and gets a deeper understanding
of the subject. In some programs, this kind of study
eventually culminates in the
"qualifying" or "preliminary" examinations, which are long and thorough
written, covering everything the student is supposed to know by then. Many
professors say that they knew more about their subject at the time of
their qualifying exams than any time before or since. At this stage
the student may stop with a master's degree.
However, there are other programs in which the further courses are capped
by the writing of a research thesis instead of qualifying exams.
This thesis must show that the student has learned scholarship at
a professional level.
Remember, Kelly wants a PhD degree.
The PhD studies are much more intense.
A professor spends hours with a PhD student discussing the
student's work and guiding the student toward the sort of professionalism
that characterizes the well-trained professor.
This is the time when the student learns to do research. Even students
who have done research before embarking on a PhD program gain enormously
in the depth of their understanding of how to choose problems, extend
the questions originally asked as evidence comes in, and build a research
We will talk at length about research, but
in brief, research is the process of studying a question whose answer is
not known and developing a response to the question. The culmination
of successful research is a well-developed theory that answers the
original question, and often more besides, and it raises new questions
that are worth studying.
There is a significant danger
to the student at this stage. Research is publishable only if it
is new, and a degree is granted only for successfully completed
publishable research. There are many cases on record of
graduate students whose research projects failed - no useful answer to
the initial question was found, or one was found but it was anticipated
by another researcher someplace else. In such
cases the student's research project must be scrapped and the
student starts over with a new research project.
The studies for the PhD degree would typically average 4 to 7 years beyond
the baccalaureate degree. The new PhD can then seek a job in industry
or government, or at a college or university.
I can't afford to support Kelly for that many more years. With Casey in
school and graduate tuition the way it is, I'd go broke.
You and most other parents. That is one of the reasons we employ
graduate students as lab assistants, research assistants, and lecturers
as we discussed before.
This gives them income and relieves the burden on their parents. Of
course, we don't have unlimited funds to support these students, so we
offer low salaries; but we offer enough that, with prudent spending,
they can usually make it through their studies without going too far
Do you really think Kelly should go for a graduate degree here?
You bet, provided she is an extraordinary and talented student.
Taxpayers of Texas find that the reputation of the University to
which they send their sons and daughters is based upon the ranking of that
institution's graduate research programs. The activities of graduate
students benefit all of the university community. The graduate students who
are now conducting research independently or jointly with faculty will be
the leaders in their fields of study in a few years and many of them will be
the professors for the next generation of students. Their work will ultimately
benefit our economy and our entire society.
Kelly's aiming to be a professor, but does a professor's
work have practical applications outside of a university, besides
producing trained people?
investments made in research and graduate programs today drive the
technological developments of tomorrow. The impact of the semiconductor
integrated circuit industry on the economies of Austin and Dallas provides
a current example to the taxpayers of Texas. In this industry ideas and
concepts developed by university graduate research now provide the state
with tens of thousands of skilled jobs. In fact, ten chief executives of
small, high-technology companies in Texas, in a 1995 letter to
members of Congress, wrote, "Our University system and its research programs
play a central and critical role in advancing our state of knowledge.
Without adequate federal support, University research efforts will quickly
erode. American industry will then cease to have access to the basic
technologies and well-educated scientists and engineers that have served
American interests so well."
At the national level, twenty chief executives of major US corporations, in
an open letter to President Clinton reprinted in USA Today, April 24, 1996,
stated, "Our universities, and the research programs pursued therein, have
played a pivotal role in continually advancing our technical knowledge.
Equally important, they have produced the very scientists and engineers
that allow American industry to compete with nations and cultures
throughout the world. The standard of living we enjoy today has, in large
part, been made possible by our ingenuity and creativeness and our ability
to continually advance and apply technology."
In short, it is essential for the economic health of our state and nation
that we continue to promote strong university research and graduate
programs. These are the educational seed corn for our future. Kelly, as
a professor, will be part of the source of that future.
Okay, so say Kelly becomes a professor. Besides teaching, what will be
In addition to teaching, all faculty are expected to devote some of their
time to both research and service.
Each of these is a broad category of
activities that consume the time and energy of all faculty members in
varying amounts, depending on their stages of career development and
assigned jobs. Individuals may spend one part of their career emphasizing
research and another emphasizing service, particularly if they rise to
leadership positions within their universities or professional fields.
You sort of described research before, but I'd like to know more about it.
What is research?
Research is continued learning that leads to the
creation of new knowledge. Faculty learn how to conduct research in
graduate school, then apply those skills throughout their careers. Research
Research distinguishes Texas A&M from universities that do not grant
advanced degrees. It is essential to keeping faculty and students on the
cutting edge of knowledge.
- Conducting research projects, often in collaboration with students or
- Teaching research skills to students and supervising student research
- Traveling to gather data, consult with experts, or attend professional
- Publishing the new results in professional journals and books.
But who pays for research?
Most research is supported by grants and contracts, outside funds
that faculty secure
for the university. However, some research is supported by the University
itself, and some is even self-supported by faculty
members during unpaid summer terms.
How would Kelly get grants?
Private and government agencies issue
regular requests for grant proposals. In response, faculty write
proposals, a job that often requires a month or more of
hard work, and submit them to
granting agencies. Some are for specific, well defined tasks, others
for more general scholarly investigations in a faculty member's area
of expertise. Because these are often national competitions, only
10 to 20% in some fields, and on the average only about 25%, of all
proposals are successful.
What does a grant cover?
Research funds purchase equipment and supplies, travel, some summer
salary support for faculty members (who are typically only paid nine
months teaching salaries by the State), financial support for
graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who participate in
the grant project, and "overhead costs" which reimburse the
University for the use of its rooms, supplies, and staff and for
its administrative support for the project.
Approximately $24.6 million of
external grant funds support students and post-doctoral fellows.
Approximately 5.1% of the funds are overhead costs which go to the
University's general fund.
Some grants allow faculty to devote full time to
research for a period, or to study at institutions with special resources
unavailable at Texas A&M.
Are external grants important to the University?
External grant funds provide much needed additional resources to
enhance the educational experience at the University. Such funds
are essential to the graduate programs and also have a large impact
on the undergraduate programs. These funds provide state-of-the-art
equipment and financial support which enable many Texas A&M students
to obtain highly advanced training in their chosen fields.
The work accomplished using these grants also contributes greatly
to the scholarly reputation of Texas A&M University.
Who looks after all this money?
The faculty member designated as principal investigator on a grant
has signature authority on all grant expenditures. Oversight and
accounting for all expenditures is provided by the University, the
Texas A&M Research Foundation, or the Texas Agricultural and
Engineering Experiment Stations. These entities assure that
all disbursements of funds are handled in accordance with the
policies of the granting agencies. Grants and activities of
the recipients of grants are routinely
audited for compliance with University and State guidelines.
Do you have to get grants to be promoted and tenured?
Sometimes, and sometimes not. The importance attached to
having external grants will vary according to field of study
within the University, and even according to a faculty
member's area of responsibility within an individual department.
Grants are more essential for faculty in areas where laboratories
or other special facilities are needed in order for them to do their
External grants are typically awarded after extensive peer review.
The receipt and successful use of such grants provides additional
evidence of the motivation, abilities and stature of the faculty
members in their areas of study. This information is one of the things
used in reviewing faculty members for raises,
promotion, and tenure.
But surely you don't depend just on other people like granting agencies
to measure your research. How do you do it?
You are right; we use many different factors.
Quality and amount of research are measured by publications,
dollar value of grants, patents won, showings in galleries,
performances, architecture awards, number of references to
one's work, invitations to speak at conferences and colloquiums,
honors and awards, and invited memberships in prestigious societies.
At the times of tenure and promotion consideration, and occasionally at
other times, experts in the same field are asked to write letters
assessing the research of a faculty member.
Many A&M faculty have published books that are used and cited
around the world. Others have achieved technological breakthroughs that
have increased productivity and competitiveness in engineering, agriculture,
and numerous other fields. Research and publication are the key
determinants of a university's national and world reputation, for they
demonstrate faculty quality to an audience beyond the campus of Texas
A&M and the state of Texas.
Let's get on to tenure. Kelly's talked about getting tenure after
making professor. I thought it was just one of the perks you people
get. But you have said that the purpose of
tenure is the management of risk.
This sounds scary. What has risk got to do with tenure?
Like everybody else, professors want to support their families, educate
their children, and provide for their future. They will not foolishly
risk their livelihood for mere curiosity. But there is a public need
for the study of questions raised by curiosity. The public need
is for people of proven ability at solving
problems to attack new ones -
problems whose solutions are both needed and completely unknown. We have
hired precisely those people to staff our major research universities,
including Texas A&M, and we must provide them with the assurance that
exploring tough questions will not result in job loss. Tenure is that
But why would doing the job you're hired to do cause you to lose the job?
There is no point in studying problems whose solutions are already
known, and not much value in studying those whose solutions are
easily guessed. But if we start to study a problem whose answer is
unguessable, we might not like what we discover. Darwin's discovery
of evolution was and remains highly controversial, and it is not what
he hoped to find when he embarked on his voyage of discovery. But
without his work, we would not be seeking gene therapies right now.
And consider the case of Professor Samuel Herrick of UCLA. In the 1940's,
he wrote both professional and popular articles on space flight. Because
space flight was seen as a childish fantasy at that time, his work was
a considerable embarrassment to the university faculty and administration.
Without tenure, he probably would have carried out other, less controversial,
investigations or he would have been fired, and his work would have
been lost to the world. As it was, his promotion to full professor was
long delayed. But by the mid 1950's, he was widely recognized as a
pioneer in the field. His work led directly to our present highly active
space program, including the valuable Hubble telescope and weather
and communication satellites.
Are the only dangers in research that you might appear foolish or not like
Not at all! A professor might spend months or even years studying
a subject and mastering a problem, only to have some other person publish
a similar result first. Problems worth studying are known to everybody,
and newly discovered methods of study become tools for the whole
community. Many of us have lost credit for work for just this reason.
But to the outside world, a researcher who works for years on a problem,
only to have somebody else publish first, has done nothing for years.
But of course teaching is not so risky, don't you think?
As Prof. James E. Perley said in
The Chronicle of Higher Education,
April 4, 1997, "What kind of courage [does it take]
to instill a suitable skepticism in students?" Our job is to open the
minds of our students, and this cannot be done without challenging them
with new and sometimes unpalatable ideas.
Even discussing controversial subjects in the classroom can lead
to problems. In the 1950's, the philosophy professor who discussed
Marxism with students was at risk. A law professor who wants
to show that some aspects of the McVeigh trial were unfair might have
Also, consider the time it takes to write a
textbook. A well-written text will usually take several years to write.
prepares and teaches courses, takes care of assigned service
work, and then goes off and works as much
as 5 or 10 hours a day writing the book. The risk is that when
the book is done, it may not be accepted by colleagues as
a ground-breaking contribution to the field.
Did you say "years" to write a book? If I had an employee
who figured to spend years lazing around, he'd be long gone.
Most businesses would not tolerate a person whose record showed huge
amounts of time spent on unsuccessful research, or time spent on work
unimportant or unpalatable, or on writing a book that does not sell. Yet
this is precisely the type of work that achieves the big breakthroughs.
It is no accident that most such work is done, and most such breakthroughs
occur, at research universities. There the climate is right, assuming the
faculty have tenure.
Wise faculty members would not go so far as to risk their jobs
by doing research or writing
books that could result in nothing. But curiosity and the desire
to teach are strong driving
forces, and experience has shown that faculty members will risk their
next few raises, and even their next promotion, to satisfy these
needs. Tenure limits their risk.
So tenure is a way of helping you keep your jobs while you take
chances that we want you to take. But business people take chances every
day - starting new businesses, changing product lines, and so on.
Believe me, that's plenty risky! We don't get any special
protection. Why should you?
The up side for starting a new business or changing product lines is
unlimited. You are indeed taking a chance, but you might make a
The up side for a professor is much smaller. For most of us,
success brings a promotion a little sooner, or a better than
average raise. These things are pleasant, but they are not enough to
cause somebody to risk a job to win them. That's why we need
Yeah, but if your boss told you to do research or lose your job, you'd
Yes, sir, that is correct. But there are levels of difficulty and
importance in research. Each of
us knows of problems to which we do not know the answers but for which
we are certain how to find those answers. Some of these problems would
result in publishable, albeit routine, papers. This sort of problem
makes a good exercise for a PhD student. The student can work out the
answer and get the thrill of searching the unknown and the satisfaction
of publishing a paper. We use these problems this way.
But this sort of problem is not going to lead to any breakthroughs.
These are merely safe problems.
Given a choice between taking the risk of losing their jobs because
they studied vital questions without tenure, or ensuring those jobs
with routine research, many researchers would opt for the sure thing.
The public's need for risky research would not be satisfied.
But I thought tenure was for the protection of academic freedom.
Right, and that is what I've been describing. There is no academic
freedom if one's job can be lost for pursuing hard or unpopular questions
and ideas. The risk is in the pursuit; if it extends to the possibility
of the loss of the job, academic freedom disappears.
So exactly what are the meaning and purpose of tenure?
Tenure means that a faculty member has earned a secure position on a
university faculty, but it does not prevent dismissal for poor performance.
Its purpose is to protect academic freedom, the freedom to pursue original
research, and the freedom to study ideas that are new, unpopular or
misunderstood. Such freedom of thought benefits society by encouraging
innovation, independent analysis, and creativity.
Alexander W. Astin, in the March/April 1993 issue of Change (Volume
25, number 2, page 49) said, "One thing that we tend to forget about
academic freedom is that it is not merely an end in itself but that it
has a larger purpose: the pursuit of truth. The link between academic
freedom and the pursuit of knowledge is often overlooked ..., but the
underlying logic is really very simple: the quickest and surest way
to the truth is to encourage the expression of diverse points of view
and to promote active discussion and debate of these different views.
This is really what academic freedom is all about."
Tenure has developed over hundreds of years, and forms the foundation of
the modern university in Western society. Its value in encouraging new
generations of scholars and sustaining the quest for knowledge should not be
Former Harvard University Dean Henry Rosovsky describes tenure as a social
contract in which professors achieve job security by accepting lower pay
than their education, talents, and initiative would command in other fields.
Faculty members have the talent and amount of time invested in their own
education that would tend to make them very successful business people,
lawyers, and doctors - people who make much more money than the average
faculty member. Our faculty have chosen not to take that course, but
instead have accepted the safety of tenure in order to seek and publish
answers to difficult and unpopular questions.
Well, if tenure is not an automatic perk of being a professor, how
does a person achieve it?
A doctoral degree, which typically requires from nine to twelve years of
university study, is required for most university teaching positions.
Chosen from perhaps hundreds of applicants in a highly competitive process,
a new faculty member enters the tenure track, a seven-year developmental
period during which progress is monitored annually by peers and
In the first six years the new faculty member must receive favorable
student and peer evaluations of teaching, and must publish research
scholarly journals, or produce equivalent peer-reviewed creative work.
In the sixth year, overall performance is reviewed by faculty peers,
external reviewers from other universities or industry, department heads,
deans, and ultimately the Provost and President, who may recommend to the
Board of Regents that tenure be granted. The Board usually grants
tenure upon this recommendation effective in the seventh
year. Thus, when tenure is granted,
the faculty member has devoted sixteen or more years of effort
to achieve that status. Slightly more than one-half of those hired into the
tenure track at Texas A&M actually receive tenure.
The rigor of this process of evaluation ensures that tenured faculty are
prepared to remain a highly productive group for the balance of their careers.
So that's what you meant by "people
of proven ability to solve problems." But what
happens to the people who don't get tenure?
Some go into industry, some go to other, usually less stringent, schools
and start the tenuring process again, and some change their fields of
Okay, so tenure is hard to get. But everybody knows that once you have it,
you're set for life, right?
No, the security of tenure may be forfeited if a faculty member is later
found through due process to have become incompetent, or to be guilty of
moral turpitude. Moreover, a faculty member who relaxes and quits doing
the hard work that earned tenure will quickly become so far behind current
work in his or her field that he or she will become effectively
long before such incompetence manifests itself, this sort of faculty
member is pressured to either improve or find other employment.
What sort of pressure is used?
In addition to a department head simply talking to the faculty member
about the problem, the pressure includes assignments to teach less desirable
courses, and small or no pay raises (a powerful incentive in
a time of inflation). Inevitably, the colleagues of an underperforming
faculty member know about it; the resulting peer pressure is intense.
In the face of these pressures, most faculty will
either improve or move on to another, less demanding, job.
During the five years from Fall 1991 to Fall 1996 (excluding Medicine
and Galveston), about 5% of our tenured faculty moved to other
institutions. Many were people who were wooed away from us and whom
we did not want to lose, but some were those whose willingness to work
to justify their tenure has evaporated. We work very hard to replace
all of these former faculty members with stronger people, thus
increasing competition within their departments.
Why not just fire the person? This "pressure" business could take years.
We have a huge investment in each tenured professor. Moreover, in many
fields these people are irreplaceable - one may be the only person
working on a problem of importance to us, or one of so few that attracting
another here is unlikely. So if an unproductive faculty member can be
rehabilitated, even if it takes several years, the University and the
public it serves come out ahead. Firing faculty is, as it should be,
reserved for the hopeless cases and for those whose behavior is completely
unacceptable. Firing is done carefully and with many safeguards, for
firing a faculy member damages programs in ways that cannot be repaired,
but it does occur.
You've mentioned service a couple of times. Just what is service?
Service is non-teaching, non-research, job-related work. Many
service activities support the internal functions and governance of
the university. These include:
- Advising and counseling students.
- Sponsoring, advising, or speaking to student organizations.
- Chairing and participating on student admissions committees.
- Writing letters of recommendation for students and colleagues.
- Supervising the development of new courses and programs.
- Participating in hiring new colleagues.
- Serving on tenure and promotion committees for colleagues.
- Holding elective offices on a department Executive Committee or the
- Holding administrative positions, such as supervising a department's
graduate program or a research center.
- Serving on state, regional, or national professional organizations.
Is service restricted to university activities?
No. As befits a nationally ranked university, much service takes faculty
beyond the campus. These activities include:
- Serving on editorial boards of journals and scholarly publishers;
- Evaluating research proposals;
- Evaluating papers for publication;
- Holding offices in state, national and international professional
- Sharing knowledge with farmers and ranchers, businesspeople,
educators, and other members of the general public.
You mentioned "governance" of the university. Is that the same thing
as "shared governance" that I've heard about?
Briefly defined, "shared governance" means that the administration and
faculty engage in a joint effort in governing the university. Thus faculty
(through the Faculty Senate and various committees on which faculty serve)
have a meaningful role and voice in determining the institution's curricular
issues; longe-range plans; use of physical resources; budgeting priorities;
selection of the university's officers; and all other aspects of life
related to the educational process. Here are some
specific examples of the sorts of activities included in
As professionals, university faculty bear primary responsibility for
choosing new faculty, evaluating colleagues for promotion, tenure, and
salary increases, and overseeing university regulations.
Faculty are also responsible for the curriculum, creating new courses,
deleting outdated ones, and minimizing course overlap. Sometimes this means
creating a whole new program, such as the George Bush School of Government.
Faculty serve on a network of permanent committees at each
level - department, college, and university - to keep the university machinery
running smoothly and ensure the quality of the students and curriculum.
This service commitment is perhaps the least visible of faculty efforts, yet
it can consume as much time as teaching or research.
You're beginning to make this sound like an interesting job. But it
also sounds like you've got too much to do. How many hours a week do
faculty members work and how do they spend their time?
Surveys and other studies over the last three decades have consistently
concluded that faculty members work between 45 and 55 hours per week, with
most estimates on the high side of this range. Work load studies show
that teaching activities
take 40-50% of the time, research takes 25-35%, and professional and
community service and administration take up the rest.
Of course, averages do not tell us about individual
cases. Faculty members have many different roles and emphasize different
aspects of their jobs at different points in their careers. Sometimes a
grant for an important and time-restricted piece of research requires that
more time be put on research. Sometimes teaching is
paramount because of a pause in research funding or project timing or maybe
just because it is important to the department that someone take on a
particular teaching challenge. Service comes to the fore for some faculty
because of opportunities for leadership in faculty governance or in
professional associations. Typically, though, every faculty member spends
time weekly in teaching, research, and service activities.
My shop takes about the same amount of my time. Anyhow,
I like the idea of Kelly working hard. A lot of kids today
are too soft. But hard work deserves pay. How are starting salaries
For new faculty, market demand is the
major factor. To recruit effectively, the university must consider salaries
paid in private industry and other forms of non-university employment.
Since these salaries vary widely depending on the field or academic
initial salaries of Assistant Professors are more than twice as
high in some areas, such as engineering or business administration,
as in others, such as liberal arts or education. Moreover, as important
fields of study emerge with few individuals in those fields, and as
universities seek to diversify their faculties to serve all student groups,
competition intensifies. This competition typically results in higher
salaries for widely-sought individuals. Because universities are
widely believed to offer better employment security and a higher quality of
life in the workplace, faculty salaries are generally lower than those in
private industry and in the non-academic public sector for comparably
Salary increases depend upon
revenues appropriated by the Legislature or student fee increases approved
by the Board of Regents. Although the Legislature sometimes provides
cost-of-living raises for all state employees, most faculty salary increases
are awarded on the basis of individual merit. Annual reviews of both
tenured and untenured faculty are given to assess an
individual's accomplishments in teaching, research, and service. The
results determine merit increases. For example, if funds are sufficient to
provide an average raise of three percent, actual awards may range from zero
to six or eight per cent, depending on performance. Since cost-of-living
raises are uncommon at state universities, raises given only for merit are
a powerful incentive not to relax after gaining tenure.
That's all the questions I have now, Professor. Thanks for taking
so much time with me.
I was pleased to be able to talk with you. These questions are frequently
asked, and we faculty don't have many opportunities to give answers to
them. Please pass on what I've said to your friends and family. And if
you have more questions later, feel free to stop by and talk with me about
Thanks. I will.
To comment on this, please send e-mail to
Click here to return to Arthur Hobbs' home page.
These papers are the work of a very large number of people, as listed
below. The amount of work done by an individual is not related to the
number of committees that individual may have been on. Rather, all
of the people listed spent many hours producing the answers you have
[This list is as complete as I could make it, but I started it long after
the project began and some individuals may have been inadvertantly omitted.
If you know of an omission, please let me know about it.
Arthur M. Hobbs, e-mail
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics)
The Legislative Affairs Sub-Committee of
The Planning Committee of the Faculty Senate
Thomas R. Lalk (Mechanical Engineering) (CHAIR)
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics)
Michael S. Poole (Speech Communication)
John Slattery (Chemical Engineering)
Planning Committee of the Faculty Senate (1995-96):
Ted F. Anthony (Business Analysis)
Christopher A. Bailey (Poultry Science)
Charlie G. Coble (Agriculture)
Ronald Darby (Chemical Engineering)
Gary L. Gilmore (Health & Kinesiology)
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics) (Vice-Chair)
Thomas R. Lalk (Mechanical Engineering) (CHAIR)
Howard Marchitello (English)
Peter M. McIntyre (Physics)
Leila Payne (Library)
John B. Penson (Agricultural Economics)
Thomas V. Peterson (Medical Physiology)
Robert K. Popp (Geology)
Raymond D. Reed (Architecture)
Harry J. Shafer (Anthropology)
Karan L. Watson (College of Engineering)
Bryan T. Woods (Medicine)
Ad Hoc Committee on Philosophy:
Gaile Cannella (Curriculum & Instruction)
Doug Hensley (Mathematics)
Peter Hugill (Geography) (CHAIR)
Alvin Larke (Agriculture)
Paul Parrish (English)
James R. Wild (Bio/Bio)
Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Issues:
Dennis Berthold (English) (CHAIR)
Stan Carpenter (Education)
Tom McKittrick (Architecture)
Bill Perry (Associate Provost and Dean of Faculties)
John Stansell (Curriculum & Instruction)
Ad Hoc Committee on Research:
Robert Kennedy (VP Research)
Peter McIntyre (Physics)
Jim Rosenheim (History)
Joe Templeton (Veterinary Medicine - Pathobiology)
Paul Wellman (Psychology) (CHAIR)
Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Students:
Caesar Malave (Industrial Engineering)
Dan Robertson (Director, Office of Graduate Studies)
Martha Scott (Oceanography) (CHAIR)
Ward Wells (Architecture)
Ad Hoc Committee on Student Issues:
Mary Broussard (Assoc. Provost, Undergraduate Studies)
Gary Engelgau (Admissions and Records)
Kate Kelly (English) (CHAIR)
Karen Kubena (Animal Science)
Dan MacGilvray (Architecture)
Mike Manson (Biology)
Wm. Alex McIntosh (Sociology)
Murray Milford (Soil & Crop Sci.)
Ad Hoc Committee on Money:
Rick Carlson (Geology & Geophyics)
Jim Flagg (Accounting)
William Krumm (Finance)
Joe Natowitz (Cyclotron Institute)
Win Shearon (Accounting)
Walter Wendler (Architecture) (CHAIR)
The Senate Executive Committee (1996-97):
Stephen Oberhelman (Modern Languages) (SPEAKER)
Robert S. Bednarz (Geography)
Pierce E. Cantrell (Electrical Engineering) (EX OFFICIO)
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics)
Diane S. Kaplan (Educational Curriculum and Instruction)
Thomas L. McKittrick (Architecture)
Ronald J. Newton (Forest Science)
Larry J. Oliver (English) (DEPUTY SPEAKER)
Karan L. Watson (Engineering) (SECRETARY)
Mark H. Weichold (Electrical Engineering)
The Senate Executive Committee (1997-98):
Wayne E. Wylie (SPEAKER)
Robert S. Bednarz (Geography)
Frederick O. Boadu (Agricultural Economics)
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics)
Diane S. Kaplan (Educational Curriculum and Instruction)
Thomas L. McKittrick (Architecture) (SECRETARY)
John W. Nielsen-Gammon (Meteorology) (DEPUTY SPEAKER)
Stephen Oberhelman (Modern Languages) (EX OFFICIO)
Larry J. Oliver (English)
Philip B. Yasskin (Mathematics)
Arthur M. Hobbs (Mathematics) (CHAIR)
Peter Hugill (Geography)
Mike Manson (Biology)
Jane Maxwell (University Relations)
Mary Jo Powell (Associate Director, University Relations)
Martha Scott (Oceanography)
John Stansell (Curriculum & Instruction)
Paul Wellman (Psychology)
Walter Wendler (Architecture) (CHAIR)
P. J. Barnes
List of Outside Readers:
Virginia Abbott (Caldwell, TX)
Larry and Mary Ann Bernhard (Houston)
Jerrold W. Grossman (Oakland University)
Louis Hudson (Bryan, TX)
JoAnn Johnson (Bryan, TX)
Sam Nadler (University of West Virginia)
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