A challenge

On Nov. 8, your lead editorial (“Evaluations for quality”) was based on an assertion I would like to challenge and a question I would like to answer.

Trying to justify publication of student evaluations of instructors and instruction, you state: “(P)rofessors are here to teach students. Shouldn’t students’ concerns come first and foremost?”

I would say, NO, to both statements: Professors are not here exclusively to teach students and, hence, students’ concerns should not come first and foremost!

If students are not the end-all and be-all of the university, then what is?

I would argue that the purpose of the university is to generate, test, and disseminate ideas and that the reason each of us is here—students and staff as well as faculty—is to participate in that process.

Students are certainly a part of the university community, but they are not the totality. Students who think they are the totality sell the institution short and at the same time restrict their own horizons by not fully participating in an institution with a larger purpose than themselves!

The purpose of the university is much greater than the education of any specific cohort of undergraduates. The university has been here a long time before the current cohort arrived, and—if we can protect the idea of the university—it will be here a long time after the current cohort has gone! Therefore, it seems to me that, in the long run, students’ concerns are best served if THE UNIVERSITY comes first and foremost, not the specific, narrow, and, yes, as yet not fully informed concerns of a specific cohort of students.

Robert Suchner


Associate Professor

Editor’s note: This letter has been rerun due to misprints occurring the first time.