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Studying Education Costs

The conversation between the UCLA department of English and Leah Price, at the time an untenured assistant professor at Harvard, that occurred several years ago and to which you refer in your editorial, “Academe’s Scuffle for Prestige” (Nov. 6), never resulted in a job offer from UCLA.

It became clear during our discussions that Price desired to stay at Harvard, and, as reported in your own pages by Rebecca Trounson, it was because of the Harvard faculty’s recognition of Price’s skills as a brilliant classroom lecturer as well as the author of one well-received book on 19th century fiction that the Harvard administration approved Price’s immediate promotion to the senior professorship.

Though I remain convinced that Price would have made a strong contribution to our excellent teaching program, her research achievements were not at the time comparable to those in the senior professorship at UCLA, and we cordially sent our congratulations to Price for being the first woman advanced from the junior ranks to a tenured position in the history of the Harvard department of English.

Recently a friend’s daughter at Harvard reported to me, “Students just love Ms. Price.” I was not surprised.

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Tom Wortham

Chair and professor

UCLA Department of English

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Teaching, both a craft and an art, should be no less considered -- or exalted -- than research when considering university tenure.

More of the populace comes into contact with society’s teachers than with its researchers; hence, the need for teachers of the highest caliber who in our democratic society will work toward society’s enlightenment, more than its indoctrination.

Teaching and research complement each other. We all remember teachers who’ve ignited our potential, dreams, knowledge. Thanks for your support.

John Gabriel

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Associate professor

Cal State San Bernardino

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Your editorial makes the fundamental error of separating research and activities associated with it (critical thinking) from teaching. Research and teaching are to each other as bees and honey. Often the connection may not be immediately apparent.

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For example, the most distinguished research professor at a university that I attended was a poor lecturer; moreover, his participation in conferences was of very limited value because he mumbled inaudibly.

However, his brilliant research attracted most remarkable and talented students whose teaching was outstanding. Thus, brilliant research fathers outstanding teaching.

Lawrence R. Freedman MD

Los Angeles

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Your editorial unfairly blames increasing tuition costs on the quest for more prestigious scholars. Luring scholars away from other institutions is certainly costly, but what about administrators?

The sheer number of administrators required to run a college now is astounding: Some universities have almost twice as many administrators as they had 15 years ago.

These administrators make a lot more than your average lecturer. For example, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2002-03 the median salary of the chief executive of an institution of higher learning was $230,108. The Times ought to look more deeply into the reasons for high costs and not rely on an analysis that is as simplistic as blaming high medical costs on the salaries that doctors make.

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Jessica C. Murphy

Goleta

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This editorial misses the boat on two counts. First, you can’t have good teaching without good research.

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An instructor who only knows the manipulations of calculus and hasn’t learned what it is for, or what it means through active research, can only teach to a stilted standard imposed by a bureaucracy.

College courses need to evolve with changes in a given field, which can be done only by faculty who are engaged in that field. The better the faculty research, the more relevant and better taught the undergraduate courses.

Second, an education isn’t a widget made in China, and you can’t price it accordingly. Growth in faculty salaries has lagged that of other professions for many years, which is the relevant measure of inflation.

Smart students aren’t dumb, and they know where to go for the best education.

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Bruce P. Ayati

Dallas


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