The multiversity today; Professor, I Don't Understand...
For eight hundred years Western societies have turned to universities for the teaching discovery and preservation of advanced knowledge. From small beginnings in Bologna and Paris. Men have built giant educational complexes to serve not only students but governments industries and the general public as well. They huge American Multiversity these are the subject for this series the Multiversity today. The programs were produced in the studios of WRAL the University of Illinois Broadcasting Service. Dennis Corrigan is your host for today's program about what's going on inside the Multiversity today. Prof. I don't understand every active Professor hears that phrase or one very much like it at least once a week. It is a kind of light motif that can inspire discourage or annoy depending on the professor and what he had for breakfast and what's happened to him
since Prof. I don't understand. It's part of the job of being a professor. Demanding profession we'll be discussing during the next half hour early. Sure. A professor is not just an employee of a university. The relationship is more akin to marriage when a person joins the academic staff of a school he brings to the institution not only himself but also his reputation. The experience of his past work and perhaps government contracts and the promise of future grants and contracts. A student following and a following among his colleagues the university too does more than simply hire a teacher. It gives to the faculty members something of
its reputation its facilities its resources its history. What kind of people then enter into this contract between person and institution. A very few come close to matching the stereotype absent minded professor. Very few of the academic staff of today's modern multiverse cities are as varied as their backgrounds special interests tastes and habits. What a multi versity campus you find professors in grey flannel suits and dirty khakis with hiking boots and green operating coats and stethoscopes. You see bearded professors wearing crash helmets riding motorcycles to class. You see gray haired thoughtful professors smoking pipes as they walk across the street and energetic young professors swinging out to shake cases and carefully attired women preparing their lectures and well professors are people whose dynamic condole is narrow minded and
broad minded and competent and incompetent as any other professional group in our country. On this program you will hear what 6 faculty members have to say about aspects of their profession their students their Multiversity all are or have been members of the faculty at the University of Illinois laboring to their work experiences in a variety of fields schools and careers. We'll have them do most of the talking with his little commentary and comment as possible. Dr. Dee Alexander professor of plant genetics explained why he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois. I of course my my roots are very deep in Illinois. I went to school here. I was offered a job here. The species in which I'm most interested in corn is grown here very widely. The university is strongly supported by the people in the state the biology group of Illinois was
extraordinarily strong. Chemistry is very great here. It looked like a fine opportunity for good research and for good teaching. Much better perhaps than many other institutions that I know about in other words. I think the reason I didn't know I was because I was convinced it was a great university and it was a great opportunity not to Joe R. Burnett professor of the philosophy of education. I had several reasons for accepting a post at the University of Illinois and when Maine it's because they have the finest resources at Illinois in my department. Personally I have been attracted to the individuals in my department the research to get along with them that always helps a great deal. Dorothy Clark is a professor of voice in the School of Music at the University of Illinois. This is why she joined the faculty in addition to the fact that obviously a school such as this attracts talented students which is certainly always a drawing card for a teacher. It also gave me at the time and has since a
great deal of opportunity for performing myself both with the students and. You know solo capacity and this is always appealing to a performing artist and as an artist a teacher and the teacher who does I mean who uses his skills and is certainly a better teacher. The more more that he can do this the more he is this better teacher and as there has certainly been this opportunity for me here and this was the major attraction main attraction when I came. Some faculty members are sought by the university. Ruben Conte professor of law never thought about teaching until he was offered a teaching post. Well it simply had not occurred to me that I might teach and certainly not at the university level. And last one. While in the practice of law in Chicago an offer came from the university but I College of Law which is also my school my alma mater.
I was rather surprised. And initially in fact the claim they offer since I was quite happy in the practice and thought I saw a more opportunity for professional advancement in a sense there than in the practice. When the offer was renewed shortly after that. I had discussed the matter with a number of my professional colleagues at the bar and judges and I had been rather surprised at the overwhelming sense of feeling that was expressed by them that I was in fact overlooking a marvelous opportunity to contribute to a legal education. With my temperament so forth and so on and I had begun therefore to reassess the first offer. When therefore I came to interview you still not really being decided about whether I wanted to teach. I had been a somewhat conditioned differently. And then in further consultation with my ultimate colleagues who had been in fact my former professors and further deliberation I decided that
indeed there was in teaching a far more significant prospect for influencing the law and influencing the development of justice than there was simply in the practice of law in the matter how constructive that might be. Mrs. Louise Allen is a former faculty member of the University of Illinois a faculty wife and a member of the faculty of Parklane junior college in Champaign Illinois. She pointed to several strengths and a multi versity. Well in the first place. It seems to me that the opportunity for tremendous really wide contact with two mentally divergent kinds of people is extremely important. A place like Illinois brings together people literally from all over the world there are something like like 3 to 5000 foreign students here on this campus. And. There are students literally from all of the 50 states. There are faculty members from all over the world
so that the numbers of kinds of individuals that one individual can at least hope to be exposed to is is almost beyond belief. Secondly the number of kinds of expertise and knowledge that is represented in a faculty such as this one with its tremendous numbers and its enormous resources and its very high degree of excellence in expertness and in 4 million or thereabouts volume library that the University of Illinois has this literally represents contact with the minds and the thinking of people from every civilization from the beginning of time to our own day and people everywhere so that both horizontally around the world and vertically in time. The student or the faculty member has access to being exposed to almost anything you can dream of.
City council has a professor of mechanical engineering and head of the department of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Illinois. He had this to say when we asked him about the strengths of a Multiversity. I think the strength of a big university like this is this diversity. It has facilities that no small college or school could possibly match. We have practically any kind of a laboratory any kind of a technician help one could ask for. For example if one is conducting an experiment and wanted to have a rather complicated set of glass arrangements there are glass blowers around that certainly are not present at a small school. Electronic technicians are available we have mechanics we have instrument makers. We have such diversity of resources that no small school could possibly match them. Multiverse studies are not without their problems. Bach all the members pointed to
these Multiversity weaknesses. Well I know what students say and I'm inclined to agree with them because of the inherent efficiencies of large groups you have to be efficient or you would fail completely for example and such things. In a room at registration and they become numbers it's possible. In fact I'm certain that it happens that people can go to the university without having a single meaningful contact with a professor or with with intellectuals who are their peers. And this is of course a serious serious accusations leveled at us. Now I don't think however that weakness is necessarily a corollary are mere largeness. Now I am certain that well that the myth that good and bad and just ordinary
teaching. It is a consequence of being large because I'm certain there are certain groups that do magnificent jobs of teaching within the university. We for example say just how large must we be for example to train biologists or train agriculturalists or train sociologists. So this is largest in itself is a weakness but at the same time for the student who really wants to gain meaningful experiences in this circumstance he has great opportunity great diversity great selection and he can reject those things he does not wish he can he can reject He has opportunity alternatives presented all the time. Now if you go through in a lockstep system and you remember the punch card group of course you take what somebody lays out for you and you have no no thought at all. The disadvantages of a multiverse thing well I suppose are three for
a little. Alienation that students some stop sometimes feel. The impersonality which I suppose is a part of alienation. Tighten with this and related to it also. Bureaucracy. Leaves your cumbersome paperwork and mechanics of running a large great institution are tremendous. Now on the other hand I have seen the same thing develop at much smaller institutions. There is a proportion of alienation impersonality bureaucracy of their own which can put people off quite as much as I think on the campus of the University of Illinois. It seems that students are looking for something and staff are looking for something which is not too difficult to find if you know that you're going to five to find it in a different way at a large more diversity the people where they're at but the organization is much more cumbersome much more routine. They are not used to coping with this kind of situation.
While diversity students often complain about and inaccessibility to the faculty yet the reverse may also be true. Professor cons of you know this is a two way street. Let me give you an example we have in our own department a great many so-called professional societies. These are student chapters of major engineering groups. These are the groups that we want our students to associate with. We make quite a plea. And yet we do attract maybe about half of the students. The other half may go by entirely without any recognition of the fact that this may be an important link between them and the faculty. Certainly he had a student member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has a chance to meet two or three of the faculty members
who really consider this a very good opportunity to meet the students outside the classroom and we have similar organizations called the Society of Automotive Engineers at the American Institute of industrial engineers where the faculty go out of their way to try to meet the students and I hope that we can get the students to at least come the other half on their side. But as long as they are. As my daughter used to call them closet cases those who stay within closets and never want to meet anybody there's not much you can do about it. We asked Professor brought out how well do students know their teachers. Well I think not very well frankly. Despite office hours and entreaties for them to come see you if they want to talk about the course or related material you find actually they don't show up in any great numbers. I have only one undergraduate section with seven teaching assistants in which I have roughly 500 students 580 this semester i think.
Les and I have worked as a teaching assistants and I have worked very hard to let students know we're available. Now strangely enough when they really began to think that we are available they seem to need us less and when they think we're not available. So maybe we should go back to the old system and make them think we're unavailable. I can't account for this phenomenon. The exchange of ideas between Professor and student is only part of the communication problem and of all diversity. Louise Allen it's obvious that it's extremely difficult to maintain a network of communications among a faculty of what is that hearing on nearly 5000 I think is now without literally reams of mimeographed paper. To get word from X to Y is a relatively simple thing as can be done by telephone call but if not one why but 17 Y's need to have this piece of
knowledge then obviously you have to get out the name in a graph and put out a memo. And I have sometimes looked at my husband's desk. He is the chairman of an important committee of the las college and is also a regular member of graduate examine committees and so on and so forth. He perhaps has. Well certainly less paperwork than a department head but more paperwork than perhaps the average faculty member. But literally aften can see the top of his desk when I walk into his office and he does do I think as well as anybody or pretty nearly in keeping it cleaned up but this is today's raft of stuff if you want. That's one thing. Another thing is it is very easy in a structure of this kind to work within walls. Now we have frequently heard about this university and a good many other universities that the departmental structure tends to be still defying that you tend to talk
only to the people in your own department. There been some attempts here and other places to break down in terms of the School of Life Sciences here for example which is highly interdisciplinary as I understand it in its operations and of course the fields in which it works are now recognized to be interdisciplinary also so that there are attempts to break through the wall of the immediate discipline. This is rather difficult. The communication problem may be one factor in another problem. Faculty as well as students can get lost in the Multiversity shuffle. Professor Come on. I mean extra faculty by and large do not get lost in the shuffle in the same sense that students make it lost in the shuffle. Faculty do have at this point in their lives more or less fixed directions and fixed object as
they are preoccupied with their teaching and their research to a degree which perhaps students are not. They think they have a motivation aided in a direction to which their energies are largely. Directed at the same time they also live within a social context and a professional or economic context which gives them build him kinds of relationships and which avoids the prospect of getting lost in the shuffle. In a model University of this kind it would be very desirable and it happens with great frequency that there was an interchange among faculties and different disciplines out of a social or more professional level far more of this would be desirable when in fact it is the case. But we need more of this does not happen within each faculty there is complete and full
opportunity for fulfillment of a faculty man's professional want to economic and social desires and therefore much less than would be the case with respect to many students I think that less faculty get lost in the shuffle whatever this may mean be than my students do. Professor Alexander notes that faculty members can become little more than punch cards. I'm very much impressed with the intellectual capacity of all of my colleagues I don't think I really see a stupid professor. I suppose that self obvious to most are obvious to most people. But I must say that they become involved with the machinery and for one reason or another do almost become tangential to the main purposes of university. They may take the same course over and over again now without changing it. Yes I think they can get lost but I think this again is a matter of his own personality he doesn't have to be a loss to tall.
Oh no Again we are accused of harboring people who cannot make their way in the real world. You know that just is commonly said that some people are preserved by this environment they are protected by the ivory tower. I really don't know how to react to that. I suppose I would have difficulty being an insurance salesman. I doubted I would make a very good living at that. So we more or less gravitate into the circumstances in which we can excel. And most professors I think are at that point that they like to do what they're doing. They prefer to do something some people naturally do not like to teach. At least I gain that impression from them. They detest perhaps a meeting so many classes they would rather teach something else. But we have the problem of teaching beginning botany and to hordes of students.
This might not be very exciting after you've done it for 25 years. So this this becomes a chore perhaps and so these people may be lost in the shuffle as you say. Some people regard universities as quiet centers of contemplation undisturbed by competition for advancement power struggles conflicting interests personality clashes and political maneuvering. But all universities like all corporations must face these problems than Multiversity these are not immune to that. Indeed the very size of a Multiversity may make these problems more difficult to handle. For instance consider promotions in most universities responsibility for faculty appointments and promotion rests ultimately with the board of trustees or other appropriate governing body. Each Multiversity must employ several thousand faculty members. No board can possibly know all of its faculty
members well enough to make their own individual decisions regarding the faculty. The solution has been to rely on department head recommendations recommendations of the individuals colleagues and recommendations of various committees plus various supporting material such as lists of publications research projects and the like. There is little opportunity to make any judgment on the quality of most teaching. The result has been the well-known publish or perish problem. Dorothy Clarke feel strongly about the publish or perish idea. Well I personally I'm very much against this I believe that if just because a man is outstanding in his field this does not mean that his town also lies in writing. And I think that his abilities can be exposed in for some people in a much more realistic way than through publishing a book. And I'm very much against it. Again in our area this doesn't apply quite so much in the
performing in particular in the performing parts. Perhaps more in historical musicology and so on. But our publisher period comes out to perform. But I don't think the rest of it applies either because perform or perish. I mean. I don't I think some people do not write easily and then why should they be then be turned into off about their subject which they have forgotten I'm very much against it. Professor Burnett has mixed feelings about the problem. I really don't know what to say I think that that's a very important thing especially here at the other. Many of the other multiverse cities. Unfortunately we just either do not have or have been unintelligent in using the kinds of a value of Torii devices for teaching that we will use for publication. I'm not sure why this is so. I'd is much more obvious so I suppose when a person has an article in a journal and you can go read it and study it and ponder it just what it's all about
and when he walks out of class at the end of the L-word two hours of a lecture you don't see the preparation as obviously that went into the lecture. He has to to some extent be a little bit entertaining and giving the lecture. And so where there is you more or. Just sheer artistic gimmickry. They professional community tends to discount this and say Well that is a thoroughgoing and scholarly It isn't so obviously so. In any event. So I do I just don't think we know how to assess teaching so I think some teachers perhaps. Well well maybe they don't perish. Nonetheless they do suffer somewhat. I don't think that's the policy of the university nor of my college or of the various departments but I think it does happen. I just say one other thing on as I think the worst part of it is that these young staff member who
just comes here has this reputation and the reputation is much worse than the fact and so they immediately become disenchanted or scared or else they don't neglect their teaching to do their publishing or else they just got their back up and say publishing all the teachings if they don't reward me serves them right. In other words they really get put off. Paperwork research problems a lecture preparation committee meeting staff meetings departmental chores keeping up with your colleagues and Prof. I don't understand being a member of the academic staff of a Multiversity is not an easy job to stick with it. You have to like your work. You have to like the challenge the opportunities your fellow teachers your students you have to feel a need to teach and need to expand knowledge.
You have to be able to look beyond the daily problems and frustrations toward a very broad and somewhat also Tyree goal. Educated individuals in an educated society and we can think of no better way to close this program than with Dorothy Clark's comments on the rewards of teaching inside the multiverse of day to day. I think this is the reward striving in a teacher himself. I think you know if you're doing a good job of teaching if you're if you're doing a good job with your teaching and this is what you're interested in you're reward comes here I know this sounds very idealistic but it's a very real thing I mean an dazed pride to myself. When I do a good job of teaching a student and working with him and accomplishing goals together I think there's a tremendous regard this is not to say that I also wouldn't like to have material recognitions go along with this but I truly and honestly can say that in my
case I feel that this comes. During the past half hour you have heard the fifth program in a series about what's going on inside the Multiversity today. Next week at this time we'll consider nonacademic employees and the Multiversity in triplicate please. Your host for today's program was done a score again. The music was performed by the University of Illinois some 20 Orchestra under the direction of Charles Delaney. The program was produced and directed by Louise Geissler is in the studios of WY although the University of Illinois Broadcasting Service.
With. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
- The multiversity today
- Professor, I Don't Understand...
- Producing Organization
- University of Illinois
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Series Description
- For series info, see Item 3648. This prog.: Professor, I Don't Understand... Faculty members talk about their profession and what it means to them to work in a multiversity.
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Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-38-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “The multiversity today; Professor, I Don't Understand...,” 1968-10-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qz22h58p.
- MLA: “The multiversity today; Professor, I Don't Understand....” 1968-10-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qz22h58p>.
- APA: The multiversity today; Professor, I Don't Understand.... Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qz22h58p