Student evaluations have always been of little intrinsic worth. A student who did not learn his material is not the best judge about why he didn’t, though odds are he won’t be thrilled with the class or teacher. A student who did well is the opposite. Evaluations are predictable.
It’s not as if student feedback is of no worth, of course; it’s the systematic way of gathering opinions complete with pseudo-quantifications, and the basing of official actions for and against teachers, that stinks.
Evaluations arrived with the increasing power of HR, which is to say, administrators in universities, who introduced the harmful and false idea that students are “customers.” A much better metaphor would be recruits. Can you imagine asking men at the end of boot camp, “How well do you think the DI respected your personal lived experience?”
Maybe that joke does not resonate as well as it should, given our military is becoming increasingly woke.
Enter the WSJ piece (the paper hasn’t gone full SJW yet) “A Mole Hunt for Diversity ‘Bias’ at Villanova” by Colleen A Sheehan and James Matthew Wilson. The university is, in name anyway, Catholic.
Last fall we were notified by the Villanova administration that new “diversity and inclusion” questions would be added to the course and teaching evaluations that students fill out each semester. In addition to the standard questions about the intellectual worth of the course and the quality of instruction, students are now being asked heavily politicized questions such as whether the instructor has demonstrated “cultural awareness” or created an “environment free of bias based on individual differences or social identities.”
In short, students are being asked to rate professors according to their perceived agreement with progressive political opinion on bias and identity. Students are also invited to “comment on the instructor’s sensitivity to the diversity of the students in the class.” Professors are rated on their “sensitivity” to a student’s “biological sex, disability, gender identity, national origin, political viewpoint, race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.” The “etc.” in particular seems like an ominous catchall, as if the sole principle of sound teaching has become “that no student shall be offended.”
A math teacher has just awarded an F to a young lady with blue hair. She took the Math Appreciation course because she was forced by the university, a requirement. Her major is Studies (it doesn’t matter which Studies). The professor, being fair, called on her in class once. She couldn’t answer.
How will she rate the professor on the professor’s ideological conformity?
Before you answer, remember that always, absolutely always, under Diversity & Equality standards are lowered. The steps are as inevitable as aging. First a need for Diversity & Equality is mandated. It is promised standards will never be lowered to meet these goals. Second, standards are lowered to meet the goals. Third, it is argued the standards were never necessary.
The student is in the Math Appreciation course because she can’t do math, but the university needed to save face and claim all students receive a “rounded” education, hence the simplest possible requirement. Consider the professor herself, perhaps a person of color, or even a person of no color at all, secured her position because she answered correctly on her own Diversity & Equality statement, which was required as a condition of employment.
So it’s difficult to guess how the student will rate the professor. Few students “feel” they “deserve” an F, or really anything much below an A-, especially those students most deserving of low grades.
Two things are clear. All classes will be dumbed down to some extent, as skittish professors know the deal about handing out bad grades. As Sheehan and Wilson note, no professor can afford the stain of being labeled a dissenter.
You can’t fire a professor for being conservative, but you certainly can fire him for creating a “hostile work environment.” At a minimum, all charges of insensitivity, injustice and bigotry will become part of the faculty’s permanent record. How long will it be before professors cease to challenge their students for fear of losing their careers and livelihoods?
Second it must be that the student ratings of ideological conformity will further solidify the ideology. Of course, if the ideology were based on Truth and Reality, this would be desirable. But Diversity & Equality is based on desire and fantasy, which leads all to readily to insanity.
Maybe that idea of Independent Rating Of University Degrees doesn’t sound so bad now.