Reject student evaluation of faculty

by E Wayne Ross on March 3, 2009

Houston Chronicle: Reject student evaluation of faculty

“Now what I want is facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life… Stick to Facts, sir!”

Thomas Gradgrind, 

Hard Times

My thoughts drifted the other day to the opening passage from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. The occasion was a meeting of fellow professors at the University of Houston, gathered to discuss a modest proposal from the board of regents. In the interest of greater efficiency, the regents wanted professors to post on the Web a variety of statistics: how much they earn, how many A’s and B’s they give, how many students they teach, and how much these same students earn once they graduate.

It is endearing that Texas — home to the Bush Administration, which cooked the books on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and Sir Allen Stanford, who is alleged to have cooked the books of his financial empire — is saddling up to catch allegedly AWOL academics guilty of earning in the high two figures. Yet this is the goal of Jeff Sandefer, a board member of the Texas Public Policy Center, a private think tank in Austin devoted to free market principles. (Among the Center’s senior policy fellows are Arthur Laffer, whose theories have justified cutting marginal tax rates of the nation’s wealthiest citizens, and Grover Norquist, director of Americans for Tax Reform, who recently compared the estate tax to the Holocaust.)