In the unlikely event you haven’t heard, we are “The Hot College” and “One of the Nation’s Most Competitive Schools.” All of this propaganda glares everyone in the face each time the College’s home page is opened. It seems as though the College goes to great lengths to tell its students just how great they think the school is.
There have been some major changes recently that have seriously impacted the academics of this school, namely the transformation of the curriculum and of late, the infamous budget cuts. One of the latest trends of the College is to release professors who actually improve this institution on the basis of not holding a Ph.D. Instead of upholding the academic integrity of the school by employing the best candidates to teach the students, the College has chosen to hire professors that will statistically benefit the school’s ranking; i.e. those with a Ph.D.
Granted, a doctorate is a good indication that one is qualified in a particular discipline. However, this in no way is an indication of the person’s ability to transpose that knowledge to students. This is especially true in the department of modern languages. At the end of last semester, German professor Barbara Dammel was released from her part-time position. The reason cited by the chair of the modern languages department, Simona Wright, was that part-time positions in the German department were to be eliminated and replaced by one full-time position, which required a Ph.D.
Understandably, the College needs to watch funds and the German department is not that large. However, as the only cited reason for the release of Dammel was the fact that she does not hold a Ph.D., this decision seems to have overlooked something that the College should take note of. Dammel was an excellent professor, both in and out of the classroom.
Despite the massive amount of work involved in teaching and grading in a language class, she was always approachable during and out of office hours; she organized the German lunch table, trips with the German club and constantly tried to promote an understanding of German culture. She acted as the liaison for me and the other exchange students who studied at Goethe University in Frankfurt, and if it wasn’t for her, in this respect, my experience would have been greatly afflicted. She handled literally any and all questions I had regarding the process, application, expectations and problems I encountered before, during and after my semester abroad. Taking all of this into account, the news of her release came as a surprise to my fellow German students and me, considering the very favorable student evaluations we submitted at the end of last semester.
I’ve yet to meet the new German professor, but I’m sure he or she is a nice and qualified individual. However, I do not believe a Ph.D should be the deciding factor in determining whether someone is more qualified or effective at teaching a language at the college level.
I feel the College has made a grave mistake. Firing professors who promote all of the positive aspects of what is expected from a college education because they haven’t written a dissertation regardless of other, more beneficial qualities will not make this institution better. The lowering of academic standards by loosening language requirements and the apparent disregard of student opinion are just a few more entries on my list of the College’s narcissistic tendencies.