Grad students’ teaching roles questioned

Mike Stunson

Student Government Association President Colton Jessie told faculty he would rather see more classes at WKU taught by faculty than graduate students.

Jessie and Senator Emily Woosley met with the Council of Academic Deans last month about the matter. They said they received a lot of good feedback.

“It was something they needed to hear,” Jessie said. “They were very pleased we were there and were very open to our viewpoints.”

Richard Bowker, dean of Graduate Studies, said graduate students teaching classes can create a better learning environment for students.

“The graduate student is closer in age to undergrads, and in many cases students feel more comfortable with them,” Bowker said.

Jessie said the students’ close relationship with their professors is one of WKU’s more marketable traits.

“If graduate students continue to teach classes, we might lose some of that appeal,” Jessie said.

Woosley said they stressed to the council that nothing should be taken away from the undergraduate experience.

“Students have really good experiences with professors, and if more graduate students teach then you might lose some of that familiarity,” Woosley said.

Graduate students are currently required to have completed at least 18 hours of classes in their field before they teach classes, said Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Woosley is an instructor for a chemistry lab and said some graduate students may not be ready to teach classes.

“There are times when you wonder if you are doing things correct,” Woosley said. “Some are better than others, but I know I am doing a good job.”

Emslie met with the the student senate last week and discussed his views on the matter.

He said he’s fine with graduate students teaching classes because it helps take the burden off professors.

“It is difficult to attract teachers sometimes when they see what their teaching load will be,” Emslie said. “It is clear we need to decrease the teaching load.”

Emslie was formerly the associate vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College at Oklahoma State University.

Jessie said he understands where Emslie is coming from and said Emslie is still sensitive to students’ ideas.

“I do not think he is in the wrong,” Jessie said. “He is aware of how we feel, so I’m sure he will keep us in mind.”

Emslie said he’s open to other ideas, even though he thinks the teaching load should be lowered.

“Everyone is served if we get faculty teaching loads lowered,” Emslie said. “If this won’t work, I won’t do it, but it won’t be a one-size-fits-all situation. It might not work in every department.”