There is an interesting controversy at the University of California (Berkeley) after history professor Brian DeLay tweeted that it is time for the school to get rid of the use of end-of-semester student evaluations for hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions. Such evaluations have long been a critical measure of a professor’s credentials. However, Professor DeLay insists that such evaluations tend to be lower for female instructors and people of color. Thus, his proposal is to stop the use of evaluations for all faculty in decisions related to hiring or promotion.
DeLay noted that, as students finished this term, the evaluations are likely to disfavor women and minorities; “Over the next few weeks, students will get the chance to evaluate their professors and TAs. They’re going to get it wrong. They’ll be harder on women and people of color than on white men. Tenured white male faculty, in particular, should help their students understand this.” Citing a study showing systemically lower evaluations, he added that “tenured faculty – especially tenured white men – should explain this stuff to our students…”
However, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are a key input of students in the performance of faculty. To bar the use of SETs would radically diminish student voices in key decisions in colleges and universities.
What do you think?