Assistant instructors take over Italian classes for lecturers

Bobby Blanchard

Students enrolling in introductory Italian classes next semester are more likely to have an assistant instructor than a lecturer who has taught for years.

Three lecturers will not be asked to return to teach in UT’s French and Italian Department in future semesters as either part-time or full-time. In place of those lecturers, graduate students will teach as assistant instructors. Carlos Capra, one of the three lecturers being let go, said it has not been made clear to him why the department is exchanging lecturers for assistant instructors.

David Birdsong, chair of the French and Italian Department, said in a statement that having graduate students teach classes is part of their education.

“The experience and training that graduate students receive as instructors are essential as they enter the job market,” Birdsong said.

Three years ago, UT established one of the only Italian graduate programs in this area of the country.

“When the Italian Studies graduate program came online three years ago, it was understood by all that some classes would be assigned to AIs and that as the program grew, increasing numbers of classes would be taught by AIs,” Birdsong said. “The dynamic involving lecturers and AIs, who often teach sections of the same courses, exists in every graduate program.”

Capra said it was irresponsible to replace lecturers with graduate students.

“The graduate students are new. They need jobs, but if there are no jobs then there are no jobs,” Capra said. “You do not make room for new people by getting rid ofthe old.”

Birdsong said his department has worked to ensure the impact of assigning assistant instructors to lecturing teaching positions was minimal.

“The Department of French and Italian is committed to teaching excellence by all of our instructors, including AIs,” he said. “Our Italian AIs work closely with their supervisor.”

Capra said his concern with the lecturers being let go is not with the potential drop of education quality.

“It might drop a little bit, but it will not be significant because there is a supervisor overseeing them,”Capra said.

Government junior Juliette Seive, who took her first semester of Italian with a lecturer and with an assistant instructor in her second semester, said she did not notice a significant difference between the
two classes.

“My first professor was definitely older and more experienced,” Seive said. “Other than that, I do not think there was that much of a difference.”

Published on October 24, 2012 as: "Italian lecturers phased out of classes"