College Math Teaching

November 6, 2013

Some ethical matters for university professors

Filed under: academia, editorial — Tags: , , , — collegemathteaching @ 11:45 pm

This post from College Misery hit home:

This article entitled “When Students Rate Teachers, Standards Drop (NOTE: if you really want to read the article, just google the title and it should pop up free without having to pay; Defunct Adjunct googled it and it popped up the second time s/he searched for it; or read the summary below in Defunct Adjunct’s comment; it’s nothing new we haven’t heard before, which is why it doesn’t matter too much if people read it; I’m using it more as a segue to my main point). It basically states that when we want to get good evals, we–consciously or unconsciously–let our standards drop. Those of us posting on here complain when we see our colleagues doing this. But is it more complicated than that?

On this blog, we have the motto not to care more than the student does, but is another of our unspoken mottos that we care what the students think of us entirely too much? Or is it that we don’t care, but we know administrators care, and that means we feel we are helpless to do anything about it and then become resentful about it, thereby needing a blog where we can fight back?

This is one issue. Now as far as the Wall Street Journal article: it was opinion; the only data supplied is that the number of self-reported study hours per course is dropping as grades are rising. I think that grade inflation is a fact; I am not sure it is brought on by student evaluations…..or some other factor or number of factors.

But the second major point of the College Misery article is this:

I have been fairly content and proud of the kind of work I’ve been doing in my career. I’ve felt accomplished and have felt as if I have been contributing positively to society. But recently, I feel like I’m working for a company that supports unethical business practices (by admitting students who won’t succeed, and whom we can immediately tell won’t succeed), unethical treatment of its employees (by hiring adjuncts in exchange for shiny pebbles and rotten apples, not to mention overworking everyone!), and unethical promises to society (that we are churning out a workforce ready to take over). This makes me feel like I’m contributing to this culture.

Now I have to modify this: many times, we admit students who have a *low probability* of success in college period, but sometimes we admit students into a major who have an infinitesimally small chance of success (e. g. admitting “math majors” with a math ACT of 17!!!!).

So, when is administration just padding the tuition numbers (“hey, you want a job, don’t you?”) or when is the administration giving someone grossly under qualified a shot? After all, low probability is not zero probability, but then again SOMEONE wins the lottery every time, right? I’m sure that someone, somewhere died from being struck by a falling meteor, right? What probability is too low?

It is hard to tell, isn’t it?

(Related article from the Los Angeles Times)

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