Chicago Shady Dealer

Op-Ed: Here’s Why I Applied to an Assistant Professorship at Booth as an Undergrad

Though I’m still an undergrad, I recently applied to an assistant professorship at Booth, for one reason: to fight for what I know is right. It is grossly inequitable that graduate students are able to teach undergraduate courses, but undergraduate students cannot teach graduate courses. It’s probably unconstitutional, too. In such a system, we must ask ourselves: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? Or, indeed, who grades the graders? The professors? A third group, beholden to neither party, nor, indeed, subject to any oversight? That’s even more iniquitous, and there is only one remedy: we need to make undergraduates full professors in the university’s graduate schools. This would level the power dynamic, as, with equal power imbalances on both sides, the net power imbalance would average out to zero. Beyond this, it would provide the unique opportunity of allowing students to become tenured professors before actually graduating college. All too often we hear of the rampant ageism in academia. Nationwide, are hardly any tenured faculty under the age of thirty, and almost certainly none under the age of 20. Together, we can change this. It is only when we have professors that are not only too young to drink, but also to vote, that we will see true equality.

Now, which undergraduates should be made professors? I am of course willing, but, beyond that, we must be very careful. As every UChicago student knows, the professor you get is the single most important factor in your final grade, besides for possibly whether you’re taking TAPS. Now, an application process is clearly not the way to go. Not only would it exhibit selection bias, it would disproportionately skew the results towards those who want to go into academia, and this is neither a representative sample of the school nor the country. Instead, we should actively press those who don’t show any interest in teaching into service. It is the only way to truly replicate the particularities of the grad-student-teacher experience for graduate students themselves. Now, prospective professors should not be allowed to decline, either. Instead they should be approached and told “you are now a professor at Booth. There is nothing you can do about it. Salary’s not too bad, and I hear you get to golf with Levitt, but you do unfortunately have to drop all your classes. Sorry about that.” As far as I can tell, this is roughly how most of my grad student teachers have been hired. And most of them have been great, so clearly the system works. Indeed, to do it any other way would not only violate the bylaws of this hallowed institution, but city, state, and probably federal law. This is because it’s illegal to do bad things, or so I assume, and it would be bad not to. I will not elaborate further.