Every enlistment period, students consider several factors when they create their class schedules. There are students who select classes based on the their time slots, while others choose them on the basis of their venues. Most students, however, are particular with the professors offered when they complete their schedules.
With the expectation that their preferred professor will show up on the first day of classes, many students get disappointed when a different faculty member would turn up. The shuffling of professors before a class starts isn’t uncommon at De La Salle University (DLSU), but there have been reported instances of professors changing even in the middle of the term .
Planning is key
University Registrar Dr. Voltaire Mistades states that academic departments are in charge of offering courses and assigning professors to teach those courses. When courses are offered every enlistment, majority of them have the assigned faculty member already disclosed in the list of course offerings. Mathematics Department Chairperson Dr. Arturo Pacificador Jr. explains that they want to have the faculty in place when planning for course offerings the following term, but clarifies that there are some uncontrollable scenarios that could result to changes in professors.
“When servicing courses, because we also service courses of other colleges, they come to us a bit late. For as long as requests for courses to be served keep on arriving, faculty assignments would keep on changing,” Pacificador defends.
Another problem occurs when a regular class doesn’t meet the minimum number of students. Classes get dissolved when this happens. Physics Department Chairperson Dr. Gil Santos mentions that this occurrence is a possible reason that teaching assignments get shuffled. “Professors with dissolved classes get another class assignment, so he or she could complete the required number of teaching units,” Santos shares.
Pacificador acknowledges that students have a right to select professors based on personal preference, but there are more factors to be considered before faculty assignments get finalized. “In this department, our plantilla, which is basically the faculty and class plan, under normal conditions undergoes seven revisions before it’s finalized. I’ve been hearing students say that they want it (having a class where the originally assigned professor shows up) as much as possible… But from a realistic point of view and purposes of planning a course offering, that makes it extremely difficult for us.” He adds that the shuffling of professors is a nightmare for his department, since the Mathematics Department services a lot of courses required by different colleges.
Right in the middle?
The department chairperson elaborates that professors rarely get shuffled during the middle of the term. If ever shuffling of professors occur during the term, it could be because of a faculty resignation or illness.
Likewise, Faculty Association President Dante Leoncini furthers that professors can leave their post anytime they wish, especially when a need arises. Leoncini poses the questions, “What if a professor suddenly passes away? What if a professor contracts an illness that is contagious an illness that would make him or her incapable of doing his or her job efficiently?”
Santos also shares other common reasons behind professor changes in the middle of the term. He mentions that professors can file for a leave in accordance to the provisions of the DLSU Faculty Manual, such as paternity or maternity leave. He says that the Physics Department deals with these situations by looking for a substitute professor or by hiring a new faculty member, even before the scheduled leave of a professor.
Pacificador clarifies that the shuffling of professors in the middle of the term is something that any academic department doesn’t want to happen unless it is deemed necessary. Switching professors creates disturbances in learning curves not just to students, but also to faculty members involved. “It happened to us around two or three times when a professor had to leave. We had to grade the students according to the records submitted by their former professor. Then if there’s a problem with the grades, we try to look into the situation and determine an appropriate solution for it,” he illustrates.
Dr. Rowell Madula, the vice chairperson of the Filipino Department, shares in Filipino, “It is rare that teachers deliberately resign or take a leave in the middle of the term. As much as possible, all department heads would want to assign professors who can commit their time for the rest of the term. Even before classes start, we confirm the schedules of professors who have agreed to teach during the term. From the point of view of department vice chairpersons, if changes of professors (during the term) can be avoided, we must do so.”
As to whether the shuffling of professors in the middle of the term is a probable cause of a grievance complaint, Pacificador, Santos, and Madula answer negatively, reasoning out that the the professor changes aren’t intentional.
Shortage of professors
A professor from the English Department also relates the issue on the shortage of teachers at DLSU. He clarifies, “The problem of the low supply of teachers is not only evident at DLSU, but based on surveys and reports, it’s actually a common problem among universities in Metro Manila and even in the provinces.”
The English professor also explains that the list of teachers for the term is still tentative when the course offerings get released. In addition, the professors’ assignments would only become permanent by the fourth or fifth week after the start of the term.
“Specifically during this school year, term two for example, the department encountered a certain problem regarding the number of teachers that were needed since there was a high demand by other colleges for certain courses to be offered. The department was unable to cope with such demand immediately, so we assigned substitutes,” one of DLSU’s department heads shares. These substitutes, the head explains, are usually teaching assistants (TA) without any masters or doctorate degrees, who are paired up with full-time professors before they are replaced sometime in the middle of the term with a permanent teacher.
The changes of professors in the middle of a term can be challenging for both students and teachers, especially when it comes to transitioning from the temporary teacher assigned to the permanent one. The administrator explains that the substitute or teaching assistant and the full time professor have to closely collaborate with each other to minimize students’ confusion, which could arise from the changes. A formal turnover is also necessary where the syllabus, the topics already covered by the substitute, and the assignments already submitted are thoroughly discussed to ensure a smooth transition.
Another strategy the administrator describes for coping with the shortage of professors during a term is to allow other professors to teach more units than the load cap, or overloading. He explains that the normal load for any teacher is 12 units, but he or she may have to overload an additional three to six units if there is a shortage, with additional payment in accordance to the extra number of units a professor took.
“In the case of students, academic departments understand the difficulty of adjusting to a new teacher and the consequences of disrupting the natural flow of the lesson in the middle of the term,” the English teacher reassures. He furthers by saying that the aforementioned strategies on substitute teachers and overloading somehow narrow this gap. He also points out the impending K-12 implementation will displace professors, especially language teachers, and this could add to the supply problem of faculty members at DLSU.
All department heads affirm that their departments are doing their best to hire competent teachers. They maintain an active pool of faculty members in anticipation of terms where the demand for certain courses is high. They reiterate that no student should be deprived of quality education just because the faculty headcount is inadequate.