by Jesse Saffron
Student course evaluations are supposed to encourage professors to improve their classes and help departments identify faculty members’ strengths and weaknesses. More often, however, they spur grade inflation and cause academic standards to slip.
After all, a great way for colleges to maintain high enrollment (and their revenue streams) is to keep students happy. Happy students, of course, give favorable course reviews.
Not surprisingly, such evaluations have become major factors in decisions related to hiring, promotion, and the granting of tenure. As a result, non-tenured faculty have been pressured to do whatever it takes to receive positive feedback from students.
George Leef discusses this harmful trend in today’s Pope Center feature. Much of the blame for it rests, he argues, on entitled college students who want to coast through college, rather than be challenged in class.
Moreover, the desire to appease such disengaged students has given rise to some truly pathetic behavior on the part of faculty. Around evaluation time, some professors have resorted to baking cookies and assigning easy, “puff” papers. Others allow students to hand in late papers or complete numerous extra credit assignments.
“[It is] worth noting that more than a few dedicated educators who couldn’t stand the ‘keep ‘em happy’ imperative have left teaching. They have been replaced by the brownie bakers, deadline extenders, and extra-credit givers who are content to abase themselves and undermine academic standards for fear of bad evaluations by students who really shouldn’t be in college in the first place,” writes Leef.