Being that I have been asked in the past to promote the on-line evaluations at Queens College, and seeing that I'm both president of my student association and have been asked to join the Academic Senate's committee on redesigning student evaluations, it seemed a good idea at the time to promote this semester's evaluation process.The listserv post: "Your peers at LISSA would like to remind you that one of the few methods that we, as students, have to change the make-up of our MLS program is by ANONYMOUSLY filling out teacher evaluations. Ensure that the Queens keeps those great teachers with scholarship and real-world experience who are always ready to lend a hand, and help us get rid of those "teachers" who post our grades before we even hand in our final papers (over 10% of you have shared that pain with me). It takes less time than it took for you to read this email."
The result: Apparently absolute chaos! Word is the department flipped out, made copies of this email and was talking about it non-stop. One teacher called me into an office to discuss it, and another (who didn't see it) simply came up to me and asked what the "controversial email" was about.
The truth: There is nothing wrong here. No names were given. The professor who gave me a "talking to" was more concerned with trying to get students to come forward when situations like this occur so that something concrete can take place to solve the problem. S/he also though I must have been very angry when I wrote the post and was concerned for me (I wasn't upset in the slightest, but why argue?). The professor that asked me what the email was about actually laughed when s/he heard and failed to see why anyone would care. A couple other teachers I spoke to since the dreaded posting never even mentioned it and were their normal friendly selves.
The situation: There are some people in academia who suck. Some of them suck so much that they actually don't bother doing the work for their students that they are required and paid to do. I had to deal with it and so have many others, which is exactly why I wrote what I did. Here's another thing, there are some people in academia who rock. that's why I mentioned them first (everyone seems to forget about that part of the email).
The trouble: So many students are afraid that if they give a teacher a bad evaluation it will come back to them. They even believe that teachers check handwriting in order to find out who said what. Here's a reply I made to one such concerned student: "I've been teaching for ten years. 1] we get the student comments A SEMESTER AFTER THE CLASS, so there is nothing that can be done by the teacher! 2] the evaluations are on-line so a] there is no handwriting, b] don't you type all of your assignments? so how do they know your handwriting? and c] who are these teachers that are memorizing people's handwriting? you all look alike to us, and 3] the reason why there are so many crappy teachers in this world is because people aren't destroying them in evaluations, and so they get tenure!!! Our department is filling with adjuncts, now and only now is the time to make a difference." I could have written a ton more such as teachers don't memorize writing style either, but I was in a hurry and just threw down some thoughts off the top of my head.
The final point: (I promise, final point) If a department has even one teacher that isn't doing their required work, than that whole department should be outraged--not at the idiot who actually was stupid enough to write it down and send it in a mass email and thus be the focus of the venom of the secretly guilty teacher for all time--but at anyone who would dare drag down the department's reputation and belittle the hard work that is being done just because one member has the audacity to cheat (yes, it counts as cheating but is really robbery). The department should go out of its way to crush that teacher (or teachers, let's be realistic and, honestly, I was referring to more than one teacher--double outrage!). Queens College, the CUNY system, higher education itself, should thank me for having the courage to stand up to injustice and for the rights of the students (you know, the ones that are paying money for a service that some of them are not receiving).