Research output carries more weight than teaching performance in Kansas University tenure decisions, two members of a higher education panel said Friday.
Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, professor of psychology at KU and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said she interviews about 20 new doctoral candidates each spring. Their most frequent question is about securing tenure.
Her official answer is tenure decisions are based 40 percent on research, 40 percent on teaching and 20 percent public service.
"We don't give those things (teaching, research) equal weight," she said. "The research tends to get weighed more heavily."
FORMER KANSAS Gov. John Carlin, president of Midwest Superconductivity, which is involved in research activity at KU, said the "publish or perish" mentality exists at KU and Kansas State University.
"You can foul up in the classroom, but if you're not publishing you better forget it," he said.
The panelists spoke about teaching, research and learning in the Burge Union at a symposium sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, Higuchi Biosciences Center and the Council of Distinguished Professors.
Richard Schowen, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at KU, said many faculty can't handle big teaching and research loads.
"They don't have time to do teaching and research well," he said.
Schowen said universities should offer grants to encourage teaching excellence in the sciences.
McCluskey-Fawcett said some KU faculty have too many upper-level classes with too many students, she said. One of her advanced classes has an enrollment of 300.
"The ones I know are two or three high-ability students and the ones I caught plagiarizing," she said.
Carlin said it's a tragedy some KU students near graduation without having taken a class from a full professor.
"Something is wrong when it goes so far," he said.
John Brushwood, professor emeritus of Latin American literature at KU, said faculty who no longer have active research programs probably aren't doing much for students in the classroom.
"THEY AREN'T learning anything and neither are their students," he said.
Andrew Debicki, KU distinguished professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said some faculty manage to muddle through their careers as lazy teachers who write mediocre scholarly articles.
"That's what worries me," said Debicki, who in two years will become KU vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and public service.
Carlin said U.S. colleges and universities excel at producing research, but the country lacks a plan for making use of that knowledge.
"The advantage has gone to Europe and the Far East," he said.
Carlin advised faculty to stick with research on the cutting edge of a field. If research doesn't break new ground, it doesn't have much value, he said.
"I'm not saying close down programs that are not the best, but there needs to be some sorting out," he said.
Theodore Brown, diector of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at University of Illinois, said the public often has an improper image of what a university is supposed to be.
For example, he said, the federal government sees the country's colleges and universities as a "research factory."
Frances Horowitz, head of the graduate school and university center at City University of New York, said there's too much bashing of higher education.
"We forget there is a lot of good teaching going on at the university as well as good research," said Horowitz, a former KU administrator.