December 2009

Letters for Wimps? What Wimps

Dear Greg,

I would like to thank you for the thoughtful editorial you wrote for the September Issue of ASBMB Today. The sentiments you express regarding our generation, our students and our junior faculty are exact.

There is one thing you allude to but do not further pursue: “I’ve taught college freshmen for almost 30 years…”

At Concordia University, McGill University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia…wherever I turn, there is a disdain for teaching undergraduates. Young colleagues are hired and very quickly learn that if they are to be successful, they had better learn to sit at their computers and write grant applications, fill out the 1 million forms demanded by the university administration and do as little teaching as possible. Teaching counts for zero here. If you are a disaster at it, it will weigh against you, but the idea that you might actually enjoy trying to help undergraduates learn is viewed as a waste of good research time.

In many ways, my junior colleagues have a rough and unsatisfying time. They literally spend most of their time writing grant applications and filling out forms. They talk about money and the new equipment it will buy. They rarely go into the lab after their first year. They do not cry over an experiment that gave the “wrong” results, and they do not cry when the data finally begin to make sense.

Worst of all, their older colleagues almost never ask them what is good in their labs, in their classes and in their lives. It’s our generation that has created this situation, and I’ve yet to figure out how to right the wrong.

Best regards,

Jack Kornblatt

Concordia University





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