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Policing Villanova For Crimethink

Here’s distressing news from Villanova, and I’m not talking about the release of a new paper from America’s Theological Sweetheart™ [1] either. This is a Wall Street Journal column by professors Colleen Sheehan and James Matthew Wilson, who say that the ideological mania for “diversity” is turning their school into a place where it’s very hard to get a liberal arts education. [2] Excerpts:

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.”

That is staggering. I’m not kidding. What kind of university puts its professors up for ideological monitoring by students? The professors say that this policy will make faculty afraid to teach about anything controversial, for fear of triggering students. More:

And what about sensitivity to social identities, given Villanova’s Catholic character? Those who teach courses about Catholic doctrine on marriage and the family may now live in fear that their own university will treat such views, and those who teach about them, as insensitive or worse. In fact, the “sensitivity” questions appear almost perfectly designed to stifle Catholic moral teaching in the classroom.

This is not a false concern. Several years ago, a friend who teaches theology in a Catholic university told me that he would not teach in a neutral way the Church’s own doctrines on sex and sexuality, or even quote Pope Francis on same in the classroom, out of fear that a triggered student would complain to the administration, and that the administration would side with the triggered student. I checked with other professors at this same institution, and they said yes, that’s how it is here. If a professor were dismissed under a “bias” cloud, he or she would have a hell of a hard time trying to find work at another institution.

So, this particular Catholic university graduates students who have been denied knowledge of the Catholic tradition of moral theology because professors rightly fear for their jobs and their careers if they present this teaching to students. This college I’m talking about is not Villanova, but under this policy that Sheehan and Wilson decry, why wouldn’t it be?

One last bit from Sheehan and Wilson:

The larger implications are even more disturbing. The new evaluations will allow a professor’s professional performance to be recast as a human resources or even a legal problem. Think about it: 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?

Read the whole thing.  [2]

It seems to me that a real opportunity is coming for educational entrepreneurs to create real liberal arts universities where real educations, free from ideological strangulation, can take place. Imagine being a professor in a college that didn’t shackle you like this. Imagine being a student in a college where the professor was free to speak her mind, to challenge you and be challenged by you. I had an education like that, at a state university in the 1980s, and it was wonderful.

It costs $68,000 to attend Villanova for one year. [3] Imagine paying that, or going into debt to pay that, to be taught in an environment where professors are afraid to present material to students for fear of losing their jobs. Back in 2015, I sat in on one of Prof. Wilson’s classes at Villanova, and called it “thrilling.” [4]Because it was!

It is a crime that a prize-winning scholar [5] like Prof. Wilson — or any professor — would have to worry about the Woke Stasi in his classroom. It’s a crime against him, and a crime against students who come to college to learn, not be coddled and indoctrinated into progressive militancy. What is wrong with Villanova? Time to end this outrageous policy.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [11]

UPDATE: It’s not just Villanova. A reader points out that Texas A&M is now going to institute its own version of indoctrination into leftist cultural politics. [12] From the campus newspaper:

New changes in the university Core Curriculum will start in the fall of 2019, affecting freshman entering that fall. The International and Cultural Diversity (ICD) credit requirements are being revised to include a 3-hour Cultural Discourse (CD) credit in order to promote students’ international awareness.

“The ICD requirement would include a new set of well-defined goals aimed at expanding a student’s cultural or international awareness,” the Faculty Senate’s Core Curriculum Council said in a factsheet. “The new CD requirement is aimed at helping our students engage in difficult conversations related to topics such as gender, race, religion and politics.”

So now Texas A&M wants all Aggies to be Social Justice Warriors. Even Texas A&M. Man.

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50 Comments To "Policing Villanova For Crimethink"

#1 Comment By Gus Nelson On March 30, 2019 @ 1:36 pm

To modify a quote from TS Eliot: This is how the college mind ends, this is how the college mind ends, this is how the college mind ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

“appropriated” from The Hollow Men.

#2 Comment By Yusuf On March 30, 2019 @ 1:52 pm

As someone who teaches in a university, I can tell you the real trouble arises from conservative and Evangelical students. I’m a moderate, fact-based professor, but half a dozen times over the years I’ve had either conservative or Evangelical students complain about me to the dean, for “wrong-teaching.”

Once it was because I was “anti-religious.” When this was investigated, it developed that the student meant I was teaching that Darwin, Freud, and other seminal thinkers created the anxiety that led to Modernism. (This was a World Lit survey class, and the modernist writers we were reading included Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, and T.S. Eliot.)

Another time, a student said I was “promoting feminism” in the classroom. This turned out to mean I taught work by a feminist, and thus spent class time explaining what feminism was.

So no, I’m not worried about “snowflake” trans students or whatever destroying my freedom to teach what I think needs to be taught in my classroom. That’s not where the problem arises.

[NFR: I think you’re missing the point here. The point is not that there will never, ever be snowflake students, of the left or the right. The point is that this is a policy instituted BY THE UNIVERSITY. — RD]

#3 Comment By Mr. Jones On March 30, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

You might be interested to learn (if you don’t already know) that Jordan Peterson has been talking about and working on creating an accredited online university (1/10th the cost!) in order to address some of these very problems. Youtube clips are available of him discussing this idea.

#4 Comment By davido On March 30, 2019 @ 1:59 pm

Kathy Hoffman, newly installed Arizona Superintendent of Public Education, is wasting no time turning the Dept.of Education into a wholly – owned subsidiary of GLAAD, announcing that “diversity & inclusion” is now a top priority. Teachers will be evaluated on foster this ideology in the classroom, just like at Villanova. To that end she is openly assisting LGBT activists in suing Arizona! Her press releases are replete with 12 year-old “gay” children and pleas for “safe spaces”, like they attend grade school in Raqqa.
These people are coming for your children.

#5 Comment By CK On March 30, 2019 @ 2:09 pm

I am stunned by Philip Terzian’s tweet. Not only has he still been giving money annual to a “Catholic” school which has been discriminating and discouraging traditional church teaching for decades, but this new, even more extreme policy only qualifies to the level of “possibly” stopping his donations. I’m sure he will send a strongly worded letter with this year’s donation.

Is the average Christian baby boomer truly this far gone? Give me an argument that the Christian faith and Western Civilization could possibly be adequately defended by losers like this. Any hope for reform in higher education is impossible as long as the money keeps rolling in.

#6 Comment By Kid Charlemagne On March 30, 2019 @ 2:13 pm

“What does the tenuousness of adjunct work mean for teaching and learning, and how does that affect the pursuit of justice? If your job hangs in the balance, an overriding concern is to keep the supervisor happy, keep your student evaluations uniformly positive, and keep your head down. For many adjuncts, the ideal is to come to no one’s attention.”

[13]

The US has decided that academic work – like so much else – should also be part of the “gig economy”. The consequence of that is fearful faculty, the tyranny of the loudest activists on campus and the mushrooming of administrators. Check out the parking lot of the campus nearest you if you can. Compare the cars admin. drives with the cars driven by most of the teaching staff.

Most people teaching at University no longer have tenure. Those signing on to teach at university will never get tenure once the older faculty retire.That means that there will be very little ability to push back at the demand that “content providers” must toe the line.

#7 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On March 30, 2019 @ 2:26 pm

This is indeed very bad for education, but the source of the problem is not ideology – it is the loss of purpose in higher education due to consumerfication and administrative creep. University education is becoming a business of providing customers with a product. The more making money from the business is prioritized the more focused the administration will be on satisfying customers rather than educating. There is a natural power struggle at every university between professors whose primary goal is making themselves more renown through research (or occasionally education) and administrators whose primary goal is making their position more important (or the university more profitable). Ideology and customer satisfaction can easily be used by the administrators as bludgeons to grow their own power versus that of professors. The way to fight this is to push back against education being a business, there are lots of liberal professors who will get a board with that and fight for intellectual freedom, but the more it gets made into a political conservative versus liberal debate the harder it will be for professors to oppose these sorts of things.

#8 Comment By P On March 30, 2019 @ 2:35 pm

Rod, you’re ignoring (on your blog, anyway) that liberal arts enrollment and graduation rates are in serious decline. A casual Google search shows the stats on this.

You are 100% correct on campus commissars. What needs to be pointed-out is that they’re policing a student population in decline.

#9 Comment By Philly guy On March 30, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

Villanova is the UPenn substitute when your parents don’t want you moving into the city.

#10 Comment By Beau On March 30, 2019 @ 2:44 pm

I have been investing a lot of time in recent years trying to understand what is happening at universities, and sadly, this is not surprising. In the past four months I have visited six liberal arts colleges with my high school son as he assesses where to apply in the upcoming months. I found it is getting more difficult to find an education that addresses difficult subjects for the sake of learning and stretching ones worldview. Of all the places I visited, I found Hillsdale College was most committed to a true liberal arts education (to be clear, I have no affiliation with the school).

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 30, 2019 @ 2:46 pm

Yusuf makes an useful contribution to the discussion, except that he presents it as an either-or. Either he’s worried about pseudo-left infantile disorder snowflakes, or he’s worried about alt-right snowflakes, but God forbid we should discuss that there is a common methodological atrocity commonly employed by advocates of many viewpoints, and we need to affirm some methodological common courtesy.

#12 Comment By Sam M On March 30, 2019 @ 3:15 pm

Pretty simple response. The conservative students need to vote in a block. Pick the most liberal professors and give them all zeros in the inclusivity categories. That way, those scores will even out with the less progressive professors who score zeros from the super woke people.

Yeah. Just stuff the ballot box.

#13 Comment By charles cosimano On March 30, 2019 @ 4:08 pm

If it is a policy instituted by the University and the University is taking federal money, that can be construed as the University being an arm of the state and there is grounds for a big lawsuit.

That was the tactic used in the 90s to kill speech codes in the courts.

#14 Comment By Captain P On March 30, 2019 @ 4:45 pm

@ Yusuf – and does anything ever come of such complaints? At any institution but the most fundamentalist Christian college, a dean would laugh out loud when reading a complaint against a professor for “promoting feminism.” This is academia we’re talking about.

#15 Comment By Jonah R. On March 30, 2019 @ 4:52 pm

Yusuf wrote: “As someone who teaches in a university, I can tell you the real trouble arises from conservative and Evangelical students.”

Hahahahahaha!

And on how many of those occasions when conservative or Evangelical students complained did you actually fear for your job? How many times did you to worry that the majority of the administrators would either agree with them or be intimidated by them? How many examples can you find in the past two or three decades of a teacher at a secular college or university getting in any sort of real trouble because a conservative or Evangelical student complained? How many of those complainers against you actually went anywhere, versus how many of them were condescendingly humored by administrators until their egos were assuaged?

Come on, man. The dynamic on campus is the uber-woke progressives intimidating the more moderate liberals. There’s hardly enough of a conservative or Evangelical presence on most campuses to matter.

#16 Comment By Andrew in MD On March 30, 2019 @ 5:28 pm

@Mr. Jones: You might want to be careful about getting involved with one of Jordan Peterson’s education schemes: [14]

#17 Comment By Tom D On March 30, 2019 @ 5:56 pm

Regarding “international awareness” at A&M, I’ll note that a well-structured course on world cultures, perhaps including an overview of how the major religions of the world influence cultures in different parts of the world, could be a very useful thing. Because let’s face it — too many Americans are utterly ignorant of the world outside our borders, so it is certainly a reasonable role of our educational institutions to provide some teaching in that regard.

I’ll also note that a well-designed course would touch on Western Europe as well as the Middle East, Africa, Asia, etc. It would also include Christianity as well as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I’m not thinking of this from either a progressive or conservative viewpoint, and I suspect that a well-designed course would annoy the ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum.

Is that what A&M will be offering? I can’t tell from the excerpt, but I can hope.

#18 Comment By Moone Boy On March 30, 2019 @ 6:08 pm

I’m not the first to notice:

This is a purely cynical alliance by Administrations everywhere, to keep employees under their thumb, by using the increasingly infantile mob of students as their enforcers.

Of course they love the idea – it completely circumvents tenure and everything else.

#19 Comment By Blooky On March 30, 2019 @ 6:53 pm

Having seen more than a few people rolling their eyes during diversity training and the like.

There’s the old saying about how leftists want conservatives to shut up, while conservatives want leftists to keep talking. This sort of indoctrination may very well backfire.

#20 Comment By Ken’ichi On March 30, 2019 @ 6:57 pm

It seems to me that a real opportunity is coming for educational entrepreneurs to create real liberal arts universities where real educations, free from ideological strangulation, can take place. Imagine being a professor in a college that didn’t shackle you like this.

Except for when all accrediting bodies refuse to accredit such universities, making them mere “diploma mills” whose degrees are worthless. So expect investigation for “defrauding” the students who paid for those worthless pieces of paper to be added to all the “discrimination,” “hostile environment,” and so on lawsuits those “Woki Stasi” will launch, in courts with sympathetic leftist judges, when the professors fail to kowtow appropriately.

Face truth, all of American Academia belongs totally to the left, with no space for any non-left “alternative” to possible be. Only real choices, either accept that it is unassailable enemy territory, and figure out ways for you to live and work and learn and pass on knowledge without colleges or degrees or professors or any comparable institutions. Or else, as one American blogger I read calls for, get Trump or other republican government to “go full Henry VIII Dissolution of the Monasteries” on all American colleges, public and private.

So now Texas A&M wants all Aggies to be Social Justice Warriors. Even Texas A&M. Man.

They will take all of American Academia (that they haven’t already), and make sure no alternative can possibly exist. Anyone who wants a college degree in the West will have to submit to and make public displays of “wokeness.” And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

>>Mr. Jones

You might be interested to learn (if you don’t already know) that Jordan Peterson has been talking about and working on creating an accredited online university (1/10th the cost!) in order to address some of these very problems.

He’ll never get it accredited. Western accrediting bodies all belong totally to the Left.

>>davido

These people are coming for your children.

And you can’t stop them.

#21 Comment By Dave Griffey On March 30, 2019 @ 6:58 pm

The ones who have spent the last two years screaming ‘Nazi!’ the loudest are becoming the ones most acting like them.

#22 Comment By James Kabala On March 30, 2019 @ 7:20 pm

CK: I am not sure if Philip Terzian is a Catholic or even a Christian (probably at least a nominal Christian, though – maybe Armenian Apostolic?).

The odd thing here, by the way, is that academic evaluations are increasingly criticized by the left for being biased toward female and minority professors. But administrators still like them.

#23 Comment By Mr. J On March 30, 2019 @ 7:33 pm

“Imagine being a professor in a college that didn’t shackle you like this. Imagine being a student in a college where the professor was free to speak her mind, to challenge you and be challenged by you. I had an education like that, at a state university in the 1980s, and it was wonderful.” – Rod

If those same universities succumbed to the New Left and political correctness, how do you think those of your remembered education could be stood up anew and resist?

It would have to be private and reject all federal money, like Hillsdale or something. And still, it would face political pressure. Then it would have to be replicated throughout the country. That’s hard to image, frankly.

#24 Comment By Jefferson Smith On March 30, 2019 @ 7:40 pm

@Thomas Hobbes has it right:

This is indeed very bad for education, but the source of the problem is not ideology – it is the loss of purpose in higher education due to consumerfication and administrative creep. University education is becoming a business of providing customers with a product. … Ideology and customer satisfaction can easily be used by the administrators as bludgeons to grow their own power versus that of professors.

A key weapon in that power struggle is student course evaluations, which have been an instrument of ideological policing (at least against nontenured faculty) since at least the 1980s. That’s the larger underlying problem here. At least Villanova’s making the abuses a bit more explicit.

#25 Comment By Roy Fassel On March 30, 2019 @ 7:50 pm

What is interesting about this case is that the reverse occurred in St. Louis during the 1970 with the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and their Concordia Seminary which trained their pastors.

The “powers” within the synod made a dramatic shift from reasonable progressive thinking in Christianity to an abrupt “fundamentalist” return of thinking by the new leadership.

The professors at Concordia Seminary were telling their students going into the pastorship that Jonah did NOT die in the whale and one could not take the Holy Bible literally. 45 of the professors and the synod parted ways and the majority of the students joined them…and Seminex was born in St. Louis.

A new synod called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) emerged and the theological differences between the two organizations is still discussed. The LCMS (the ST. Louis group) still teaches that the Holy Bible is inerrant, meaning Genesis is “literally accurate” and other writings such as the earth is the center of the universe, as so stated in the Holy Bible. Women preachers are still not accepted in the LCMA, but are accepted in the ELCA.

The tensions and stresses between different concepts of Christianity has always been so. It is said that something like 40,000 Christian groups/synods are preaching their versions of Scriptural interpretation.
Those differences will continue. The push sometimes comes from the Left (liberal) and other times from the Right(Conservative) That will continue and many feel those on the other side are surely going to hell. Christianity’s influence will survive these tensions. It always has.

Young people with more scholarship understanding of the Bible and scientific backgrounds interpret the meaning of Scripture differently. That, of course, will add additional challenges to an ever changing culture or universe.

[15]

#26 Comment By AB On March 30, 2019 @ 7:52 pm

Texas A& M is owned and run by the State of Texas. Republicans have run Texas long enough that every Trustee of the university must have been appointed by a Republican governor. How can it be that Republican appointees are allowing this to happen? Can’t the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, fire somebody?

This is the story in every Deep Red State: The Republican legislators and governors allowed the hard left to take control of the universities without a fight–even when they had absolute power over them.

Its RINO’s all the way down. No wonder that we have Trump.

#27 Comment By Free Speech Advocate On March 30, 2019 @ 8:38 pm

Texas A&M leadership is on a very ambitious and aggressive track to be the ‘biggest and best’ state school system in TX, according to Texas Monthly magazine. They are gunning for the UT system.

For example, ya wanna have a law school? Just buy the one down the road outright— which is what they did.

So updating one’s ideological chops for this future is a predictable step (but couched in such banal language as to not alarm the trusting parent or alumni donor.)

#28 Comment By Deacon Nicholas On March 30, 2019 @ 11:26 pm

I teach (a contract gig) at the Catholic U. of America in D.C. and I’m happy to say it’s not like that. My courses concern American politics and I often refer to Christian values (I’m Orthodox, not RC). No complaints from students or colleagues, at least not yet.

#29 Comment By Mark On March 31, 2019 @ 8:24 am

“It seems to me that a real opportunity is coming for educational entrepreneurs to create real liberal arts universities where real educations, free from ideological strangulation, can take place.” Rod, you may be interested to know that a few Campion students in Sydney have gone down this route: [16]

#30 Comment By SB On March 31, 2019 @ 9:45 am

Thomas Hobbes and Moon Boy are right: this is what happens when the university becomes the (standard) corporation, and this is a grab by professional administrators.

Pet theory alert: The administrators like the “woke” bs because it requires more non-teaching personnel, whose numbers will swell various non-teaching units, which in turn will justify promotions and raises for administrators already in the system.

#31 Comment By mdc On March 31, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

If you want to see some minds blown, tell admissions recruiters that you won’t send your kid anywhere student evaluations are in use.

#32 Comment By AB On March 31, 2019 @ 1:34 pm

@SB: Pet theory alert: The administrators like the “woke” bs because it requires more non-teaching personnel, whose numbers will swell various non-teaching units, which in turn will justify promotions and raises for administrators already in the system.

The great bulk of these non-teaching personnel could be gone forever by July 1st. Just go talk to the Business School-they’ll fill you in. They have many names for it: downsizing, right-sizing, “getting rid of the dead wood.” By the time those boys are done there will big offices full of empty desks. They do it all the time at private companies. Yee Haw–Let’s Go!

#33 Comment By Rossbach On March 31, 2019 @ 2:55 pm

“The professors say that this policy will make faculty afraid to teach about anything controversial, for fear of triggering students.”
That’s the whole point, isn’t it? It’s a low-cost way to thought-police the university faculty.
Regarding Jordan Petersen’s idea of creating a low-cost, intellectually free university on line, internet service providers have already begun de-platforming clients with politically heretical views.

This will only get worse unless congress acts to grant First Amendment protection to Internet users. Talk about a month of Sundays.

#34 Comment By Egypt Steve On March 31, 2019 @ 8:43 pm

Obviously everyone on this site hates unions, especially education unions, and most especially Canadian education unions, but last August, at Ryerson University in Toronto, the professor’s union has won an arbitration case to eliminate the use of students’ teaching evaluations in promotion and tenure cases:

[17]

Personally I think this is good news for myriads of reasons, those cited in this post among them. I hope this is the beginning of a world-wide trend.

#35 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 31, 2019 @ 9:28 pm

internet service providers have already begun de-platforming clients with politically heretical views

Once upon a time, people with something to post actually ran their own server, and had their own lines connecting to the internet. Sure, for small operations, its more economical to got with an internet service provider, but a college could run its own servers instead of contracting that to the cloud.

#36 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 1, 2019 @ 12:53 am

AB says:

The great bulk of these non-teaching personnel could be gone forever by July 1st. Just go talk to the Business School-they’ll fill you in. They have many names for it: downsizing, right-sizing, “getting rid of the dead wood.” By the time those boys are done there will big offices full of empty desks. They do it all the time at private companies.

Nah, the business consultants would advise universities to keep most of the customer service administrators and marketers while replacing as many professors as they could with cheap adjucts to maximize short term profits.

One have to get somebody that understands the actual purpose of universities to trim away that dead wood.

#37 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 1, 2019 @ 5:52 am

@Egypt Steve:

Yes, that arbitration decision is very good news. Thanks for posting it.

#38 Comment By Mark On April 1, 2019 @ 8:54 am

Students should be free to complain about their professors, but we need to establish if the student is competent enough to judge if an offense has truly been committed.

To do this, we will establish a skill testing question that they will have to answer before we take their request seriously, such as “what is the derivative of the function f(x)=X^2?” or “Find the zeros of the function f(x)=2X^2 + 5X + 12”.

Of course this is in jest. But I seriously doubt any of the students doing the complaining these days could solve either question, which in itself is concerning.

#39 Comment By Sid Finster On April 1, 2019 @ 10:56 am

If you treat students as “customers”, then don’t be surprised when the institution seeks customer feedback.

#40 Comment By Elijah On April 1, 2019 @ 11:33 am

“What needs to be pointed-out is that they’re policing a student population in decline.”

And yet universities are spending like crazy on this diversity programming, even though it brings nothing to the table in terms of revenue. It’s just more administrative bloat.

But when money starts to become tighter – in public universities, at least – you won’t be able to dislodge any of these “administrators” without a crowbar and some dynamite.

#41 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 1, 2019 @ 11:36 am

Students should be free to complain about their professors, but we need to establish if the student is competent enough to judge if an offense has truly been committed.

To do this, we will establish a skill testing question that they will have to answer before we take their request seriously, such as “what is the derivative of the function f(x)=X^2?” or “Find the zeros of the function f(x)=2X^2 + 5X + 12”.

Not a bad idea at all. And more relevant, student complaints should be subjected to a coherence test: does the complaint state facts, criteria, and apply those criteria to stated facts. If so, then a serious inquiry should be made, whether the stated facts are true, and an examination made, whether the criteria offered are published, enforceable regulations, and whether the facts found to be true sustain the conclusion.

All other complaints should be in the circular file.

#42 Comment By tpkatsa On April 1, 2019 @ 2:16 pm

“It seems to me that a real opportunity is coming for educational entrepreneurs to create real liberal arts universities where real educations, free from ideological strangulation, can take place. Imagine being a professor in a college that didn’t shackle you like this. Imagine being a student in a college where the professor was free to speak her mind, to challenge you and be challenged by you.”

This sounds like a pretty good description of Hillsdale College, Liberty University, and a handful of other conservative institutions.

What is ironic is that the left-wing professoriate made this bed and now they are complaining because they have to lie in it.

Of course, those who really lose out are the students.

#43 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 1, 2019 @ 4:31 pm

Mark says:

Students should be free to complain about their professors, but we need to establish if the student is competent enough to judge if an offense has truly been committed.

To do this, we will establish a skill testing question that they will have to answer before we take their request seriously, such as “what is the derivative of the function f(x)=X^2?” or “Find the zeros of the function f(x)=2X^2 + 5X + 12”.

Of course this is in jest. But I seriously doubt any of the students doing the complaining these days could solve either question, which in itself is concerning.

1) Student complaints are a completely different thing from student evaluations. Student complaints require initiative on the student’s part. Evaluations are a waste of everybody’s time, and probably objectively harming education, but give administrators something to quantify. Complaints should be taken with a grain of salt, but looked into.

2) I can only speak for rather elite institutions, but if you think SJW nut students don’t know basic calculus you are quite mistaken. On the other hand, the vast majority of the country has never taken calculus independent of their politics.

#44 Comment By CatherineNY On April 1, 2019 @ 7:07 pm

The Villanova President (whom I know) and Provost have posted a reply to the op-ed. Most notably, they say that the surveys are not used to evaluate professors, so no one is going to lose his or her job over this. You’ll find their reply at this link: [18]. I think it is possible to be concerned about the inclusion of some of the questions highlighted in the op-ed without thinking that the op-ed was the best way to deal with the situation (spoiler: I don’t). I would like to add that the Villanova Humanities Department, where one of the op-ed authors teaches, is a remarkable haven for real scholarship and the kind of teaching I hope my own children will experience in college. Here’s the description from the Department’s webpage: “For fifteen years the Department of Humanities has offered students at Villanova an innovative curriculum that seeks to explore the most important questions of human life. Through an integrated series of courses, we ask the big questions about the meaning of life and the reality of truth, beauty, and goodness in our world, seeking answers that accord with faith and reason.

Our curriculum focuses on concrete questions that matter in living a good life. We enlist the great minds of the ancient, medieval, and modern world to help us in this endeavor, drawing deeply on Villanova’s Catholic Augustinian tradition. Humanities faculty are specialists in complementary disciplines, including theology, philosophy, political science, economics, history, literature, and architectural history. Together we have crafted intersecting classes that equip students to debate, analyze, and discern how best to live a deeply human life.” This is not a department designed for or by social justice warriors for the benefit of snowflakes.

#45 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 2, 2019 @ 1:50 am

@CatherineNY:

The Villanova President (whom I know) and Provost have posted a reply to the op-ed. Most notably, they say that the surveys are not used to evaluate professors, so no one is going to lose his or her job over this.

I’m sorry, but you’re getting played. Not only is that not Villanova’s policy, it’s not even what the president’s and provost’s response really says.

This is from page 63 of Villanova’s current “Full-Time Faculty Handbook,” available via Google:

25. COURSE AND TEACHER SURVEY (CATS)

The University administers a Course and Teacher Survey (CATS). … The results are tabulated by the Office of Planning and Institutional Research (OPIR). The full individual reports are made available to faculty members at a later date. The results of the surveys are sent to department chairs and deans, and may be used as part of faculty evaluation. Summaries of the CATS reports are also sent to faculty members, via their chairs, for inclusion in applications for promotion and/or tenure. (my emphases)

(Note that the last bit sounds voluntary: You MAY include them in an application for promotion or tenure. Hey, you don’t have to! But how’s it going to look if you don’t? So yeah, basically you have to. And anyway, the first part isn’t voluntary.)

The “Adjunct Faculty Handbook” (separate, naturally) says this, page 33:

EVALUATION OF FACULTY

Adjunct faculty members are evaluated by their department chairs or program directors, and evaluation systems vary from department to department. Most departments ask adjunct faculty members to submit syllabi and tests, and in many cases adjunct faculty members are observed by other members of the department. The results of the Course and Teacher Survey (CATS) are also reviewed. (my emphasis)

So that’s that. Yes, the surveys absolutely ARE used to evaluate faculty. Yes, people will be and no doubt have been losing jobs at Villanova over them. As at most universities.

But wait, didn’t the president and provost just assure us of the opposite? Well, no, not if we read carefully. Their response consists of several paragraphs of cringeworthy rhetoric of the kind that top university administrators generate as easily as breathing — “here at Villanova we do all things well, we’re all about diversity and inclusion, our heroic founding mission is ever present to our minds,” yadda yadda (I’m paraphrasing) — but the substantively important sentences are these:

Student evaluations are important: Surveying students about their experiences in the classroom is not only a reasonable response, it is the only way to know how well we are meeting the challenge of creating an authentically diverse community of scholars. ….

Although the op-ed makes it appear as though we are using this tool to evaluate faculty for employment decisions and identify faculty members’ beliefs, the purpose is actually to provide guidance for internal self-improvement.

“The purpose is actually” is deliberately vague, I think in order to mislead. The basic defense of the whole student-evaluation regime has always been that it was originally set up to provide guidance to professors themselves. The Villanova brass are hoping (a) we’ll take that as what they mean by “internal self-improvement,” and (b) we’ll understand them to be saying that the evaluations will have no other uses. In fact, though:

(a) “Internal self-improvement” doesn’t necessarily mean “just for the instructor’s own use.” It could as well mean “to help the institution internally self-improve by alerting department chairs and deans to instructors who need to be brought into line.”

(b) The evaluations obviously will have other uses, even according to these guys. They say as much in the earlier sentence I quoted: “Student evaluations are important… [as] the only way to know how well we are meeting the challenge of creating an authentically diverse community of scholars.” The “we” there obviously includes university decision-makers like themselves, i.e. people who exercise power over instructors through hiring, retention and promotion decisions. (I say “instructors” because the more serious, though not the only, threat the evaluation regime poses is to non-tenured faculty and adjuncts, of which Villanova seems to have the usual copious supply.)

So basically, even without the proof of this from the faculty handbooks, the op-ed confirms the critics’ claims — just in language artfully designed to hoodwink the wider public. Which, to be honest, is what administrators at this level get paid to do, and they’re usually very good at it.

#46 Comment By tweesdad On April 2, 2019 @ 3:06 am

CatherineNY thanks for the link to Villanova’s response. How can I get those 5 minutes of my life back after reading that bleeding-heart hogwash?

They claim that the survey questions are for “self-reflection” then brag that many of the faculty are rated “top of the scale” – so the administration ARE monitoring the results after all.

Even if not used for tenure and promotion, these questions assessing “wokeness” are bound to have a chilling effect on faculty who are not yet on board with the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion agenda and all of its odious bureaucratic apparatus. The Provost’s statement not-so-subtly implies that this agenda is essential to their mission (so anyone questioning it had better watch out.)

I can guess which professors helped create and voted to include these questions, and I doubt it came from a place of “unity and love”, more like “conform or else”.

#47 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 2, 2019 @ 4:10 am

Correction: “even without the proof of this from the faculty handbooks, the op-ed reply confirms the critics’ claims,” I meant.

#48 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 2, 2019 @ 2:33 pm

Even if not used for tenure and promotion, these questions assessing “wokeness” are bound to have a chilling effect on faculty who are not yet on board with the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion agenda and all of its odious bureaucratic apparatus. The Provost’s statement not-so-subtly implies that this agenda is essential to their mission (so anyone questioning it had better watch out.)

I have to agree with tweesdad on this. And also, may I add that the op-ed from Professors Sheehan and Wilson came from Villanova faculty members themselves. Professors aren’t right about everything, but like everyone else, they’re very likely to know on what basis their own jobs are being evaluated. That’s their bread and butter. It’s a bit odd to dismiss what they say based on some vague but nicely upbeat phrases from administrators. (“Vague but Nicely Upbeat,” in Latin, is the inscription on the university administrator’s coat of arms.)

As I said above, ideological policing has been a key purpose of student evaluations for decades now. In a sense it’s even more easily done when the questions aren’t explicitly ideological, because then the inevitable vagueness from students that they produce can be seized upon and read in any ways that administrators wish. That said, it is also and further disturbing if they specifically prompt for ideology.

[NFR: As I’ve said before, my two best professors in college, the ones who stretched my mind and filled me with wonder, were both lefties. The idea that they could have been made to suffer professionally by the university for their political and cultural views disgusts me. — RD]

#49 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 2, 2019 @ 8:14 pm

[NFR: As I’ve said before, my two best professors in college, the ones who stretched my mind and filled me with wonder, were both lefties. The idea that they could have been made to suffer professionally by the university for their political and cultural views disgusts me. — RD]

There was quite a bit of ideological policing from the right back in the McCarthy era — and also what we now call no-platforming, except directed then against leftist speakers. When I first went to work for the University of California in ’87, I had to sign a loyalty pledge still left over from that era. (No problem, I figured; it’s a pledge of loyalty to the US and California constitutions, and hey, I’m plenty loyal to the constitutions as such — it’s just my interpretations of them that might not perfectly accord with the McCarthyites’. I wasn’t asked about those.) Before that, the tenure system developed in the first place because universities were coming to realize that they were losing the intellectual credibility they needed under the old system, when everyone knew that an angry phone call from an influential donor or community bigshot to the college president could get a professor fired.

The problem today has shifted the other way around, and it’s true that the most urgent threats to free thinking on campus now are from the left. But I think what’s been consistent throughout is that means have always been sought and usually found to make professors toe the line, which means: Don’t cause the administration any grief. You can do that by being an internal critic as much as more so than through your “external” politics. Student evaluations were a godsend to administrators in this regard, as has been massive “adjunctification” — the latter because it meant very few instructors had tenure protection, and the former because it allowed the laundering of administrators’ criticism through what looked like some kind of objective “evidence” of “job performance.” If you’ve got hundreds of anonymous, generally very vague, hastily written evaluations from students, it’s seldom difficult to find a few that are critical and hold those up as dispositive while ignoring all the rest. This “one weird trick,” combined with weakening tenure, allows you to fire almost anyone you find troublesome for any reason.

#50 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 3, 2019 @ 3:08 pm

There was quite a bit of ideological policing from the right back in the McCarthy era — and also what we now call no-platforming, except directed then against leftist speakers.

Yup. And if its wrong as a matter of constitutional principle, which the Supreme Court belatedly so ruled, then its wrong no matter who is speaking. You can’t with any integrity decry the Legion of St. Joseph stoning people leaving a Paul Robeson concert in Peeksfield, and at the same time applaud a mob chasing Charles Murray around campus.