Commentary is a regular UMSL Daily column written by members of the UMSL community.


“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” –Thomas Jefferson

Providing a quality higher education experience to students has become more difficult as a result of budget cuts, the slow economic recovery and an unfortunate mixing of the missions of community colleges, four-year colleges, research universities and the for-profit institutions of higher learning. In the midst of this fierce competition, UMSL needs to define itself such that it is attractive to students because of the value and quality of the education that we offer as well as providing some really unique opportunities.

In trying to define these parameters I will probably generate severe angst among some and hopefully get cheers from others. The truth is that we need a fully engaged open discussion on the topics mentioned below.

A consumer type of relationship cannot define higher education.

Students are more than consumers. Clearly they are entitled to efficient, supportive and friendly student services from the university, but the instructor-student relationship is cheapened and demeaned when it is placed in the consumer model.

Faculty members are more than Walmart greeters or checkout personnel. This relationship should be based on a mutual commitment to rigor, high standards, intellectual curiosity, creativity, academic integrity, fairness and honesty in evaluation. As part of this relationship faculty should remain aware of the latest technology and utilize that technology when appropriate in courses (which is not always necessary).

The faculty needs to present material in a clear, concise and engaging approach. The faculty must be available to help students on campus as well as through online mechanisms. Course syllabi must be clear with respect to material that is to be covered and grading standards, but I am not convinced that we need to specify, in writing, the importance and significance of each lecture or assignment.

As we enhance our standing as a premier metropolitan land-grant university we need to further explore interdisciplinary approaches to our course offerings. We should continue to expose our students to research and to the interrelationships that exist among most of the disciplines.

Our students should have a basic understanding of logic, probability or both, as well as being able to communicate (both orally and in writing) in correct English. They should know that they are responsible for attending class, fulfilling course requirements on time and being academically honest. We should not reward them for doing these essential obligations by providing extra credit.

On the other hand, the faculty must show up at lectures and class meetings with up-to-date and state-of-the-art materials, creative experiments, etc., and fully engage the students. It is critical that we actively inform all of our students about the support that we offer such as those related to advising, tutoring, mentoring, internships, technology, etc.

It is not, however, our responsibility to make sure that they utilize these opportunities. Again, the relationship between faculty and students at a university is unique and it needs to be dynamic and foster the growth and maturity of the students without pandering or decreasing standards.

Ron Yasbin is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of microbiology at UMSL.


Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz