In an effort to create greater transparency of instructors’ statuses as students within the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, Georgetown University Student Association Senator At-Large Adam Shinbrot (COL ’18) has introduced a bill that seeks to make students more aware of the doctoral candidate program in the department.

The bill notes that “there is a well-regarded program that these instructors must complete to become teachers of such classes,” and says students deserve to have a better understanding of the program as well as know who to contact with questions or concerns.

Shinbrot, unaware that Ph.D. students went through instruction prior to teaching classes, initially proposed a bill which sought to prevent doctoral candidates from being instructors.

“When I looked into this, I realized that there was a rigorous set of evaluations that these doctoral candidates have to go through,” Shinbrot said. “They have to go through training, and I think students should know this so there is more clarity.”

Shinbrot has also created a petition in an effort to demonstrate student support for his bill and raise awareness of the issue, which he says is lacking throughout the student body.

“If I don’t know [about the program], and I’m a German major, odds are that well over half of the students in language courses have no idea,” said GUSA Senator Tyler Bridge (COL ’17).
In the linguistics program, Ph.D. students must take a yearlong class on how to be an instructor.

Following that, they must submit a portfolio of their work. They then become teaching assistants, and if the professor approves of their work, they may co-teach a class and eventually may have the chance to teach a class by themselves.

According to both Shinbrot and Bridge, one of the biggest problems that the bill looks to address is the lack of clarity regarding whom students should contact if they have a question or suggestion.
While students may contact the department chair or the director of the program, Shinbrot suggests putting the contact information of the person responsible for the Ph.D. program in the syllabus as a solution to this problem.

“This is not difficult to do and it would make students happy,” Shinbrot said. “Put that in the syllabus or talk about it during syllabus week. It’s that easy.”

Ph.D. students do not teach classes in every department of the FLL, and some departments do not have a Ph.D. program at all.

The linguistics, German, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese departments all have graduate programs and use doctoral candidates as instructors.

Last semester Sydney Brooks (COL ’18), a prospective linguistics major, took an introductory course co-taught by two Ph.D. students.

She said that while they did mention that they had taught before, she was unaware of any training and would not have known whom to contact had she noticed any problems with the teaching style of her professor.

“I don’t know who I would be looking for within the linguistics department,” Brooks said. “I think that it would be reassuring to students to be aware of the training their instructors have received, as well as a specific contact if problems arise.”

Shinbrot and Bridge hope that this bill will allow students like Brooks to have a better understanding of their instructors and how to navigate the departments in question.

“We’re not calling for doctoral students to step down, and we’re not calling on departments to stop doing anything,” Bridge said. “Before this, there was no discussion about this topic and no transparency about what happens. This is the first step to change things.”

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One Comment

  1. But why? So students who are pissed that they didn’t get an easy B+ in a class they don’t study for can call up the PhD coordinator with some “suggestions”? Give me a break.

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