One job on campus, another off?
A professor I have never met and a TV show I’ve never watched grabbed headlines this week, and my attention, too. Professor Peng Wen-cheng of the Journalism Department at Taiwan National University has fallen into a cauldron of boiling water because of a political talk show he anchors. Kuomintang ( KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai, himself an occasional hockey puck of controversy, is charging that professor Peng is devoting too much time to media work outside his academic duties. If the man gets away with this, he reportedly remarked this week, we might as well let college professors moonlight in hostess clubs.
Funny, you know, that he said that. I heard the pay for dishwashers in some of those places, next to what my religious order picks up for my services in the classroom,
DANIEL J. BAUER
isn’t so bad. At my age though, I’m afraid I need my beauty sleep. Thanks anyway, sir.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has rules on the books of course about this very problem. Not rules for professors working in “places of public entertainment,” ha ha. No, I mean rules about professors holding two full-time positions, one in academia, and the other in the outside world.
In 30 years of teaching, I’ve never seen a politician attack a professor without a political motive; I am assuming the honorable Mr. Tsai not only disagrees with the honorable Mr. Peng’s sense of ethics, but his political views as well. Humor aside, this is a case worthy of contemplation.
It could well be that the professor’s commitment to a weekly TV show does drain him of energy he owes to his students for class preparation and performance in class. It could be the professor’s focus on campus suffers as a result of his devotion to his “job” off campus. It is hard to deny that 8 hours for a show every week while still a fulltime university professor is asking a lot of himself.
We should view this case, however, on its individual merits. Let professor Peng have his day in court. Evaluate his situation thoroughly and fairly, and then allow the competent authorities to reach a decision on what should happen.
Peng’s preparation for TV anchoring may also be a form of preparation for his courses in journalism. His time talking with and listening to the movers and shakers of political life in Taiwan, the reading he does before and after his public remarks, his communication skills on the air may all make him a livelier, more stimulating professor in class than his stay- on- campus colleagues.
So, his university must review the situation with care. Professor Peng’s students should play an active role with feedback to appropriate officials. Some of our stu- dents are at least equal to our best and most objective of evaluators.
Not long ago it was completely normal for chairs of even double section night division departments at my private university ( 440 students in our evening English Department, to be clear) to not only maintain office hours and administer for up to two hours a night, four nights a week, but to also handle full time course and committee duties in their day departments. No hour cut for class loads was allowed for night chairs. This “second job” easily demanded more than 8 hours a week, and it was on top of a class schedule of 10-12 hours. The catch was that the work happened on campus, and thus appeared invisible. Professor Peng does not have that “advantage.”
Where were the legislators off campus or officials on campus who questioned the capacity of these chairs to fairly meet their students’ needs? They were nowhere in sight. They were as hard to find as little men made of green cheese who live on the far side of the moon.
When at times my other job as an evening chair came close to depleting my stores, student contact and the care of wonderful secretaries, clerks, and colleagues always buoyed me. It might have been unrecognized self-masochism, but those seven years were some of the happiest days of my professional life.
So, both sides of the argument deserve a hearing. Some among us are simply able to work more hours than others.
Schools always have a right to limit the hours employees devote to outside activities. Are they equally zealous, I wonder, in limiting on campus expectations to create a humane and healthy environment for their employees? Father Daniel J. Bauer SVD is a priest and associate professor in the English Department at Fu Jen Catholic University.