At a northeastern college the chair of a department also chaired a tenure and promotion committee that made a negative decision on an untenured associate professor. The associate professor under consideration had published many books and articles, and his publication record was better than the majority of tenured faculty at the institution. However, he had offended other of the senior faculty politically by outshining them. He was accused of lack of collegiality. The promotion committee rejected the tenure application, and that became news. Ultimately, the university's chancellor rescinded the committee's decision. Fast forward five years. Another professor, this time a full professor, offends the same departmental chair. The chair accuses the full professor of harrassing a female professor. The accusation of harassment is not referred to a personnel or EEO office, but is raised in a public, departmental meeting without investigation or hearing. The charges are discussed publicly. The departmental chair demands that a vote of censure be taken against the full professor. The full professor states that he was helping the untenured female professor and discussing a course with her, and that she does not claim that she was harassed. In other words, he was acting collegially. I deduce a simple conclusion for the politically incorrect: if you are collegial, you will be called a harasser. If you are a talented hard worker, you will be said to lack collegiality.
In today's Pope Center article, Jenna Robinson delves into the sad history of freshman summer reading programs. Unfortunately, the books that schools usually choose are either feel-good fluff or politically tendentious tracts. Her conclusion: "Universities have one chance to make a first impression on students; they should use that opportunity to choose books that are rigorous, that challenge students to think critically about new ideas, and that genuinely introduce them to university work and intellectual life." For the most part, universities blow that chance.
At the Chronicle, April Kelly-Woessner has an incisive piece on outcomes assessment at her university and in higher education at large. She argues that the nation is less concerned about measuring how much students have learned than with ascertaining whether universities are being efficient stewards of funds to educate. Her summary of the problems with outcomes assessment is compelling. Peter Wood's 2009 evaluation of the movement reached similar conclusions.
A blogger whom I assume to be a University of Delaware grad writes here about the latest manifestations of the school's diversity mania. It has recently established a new Center for the Study of Diversity (how much skepticism do you think there will be as to the benefits of it?) and that student course evaluations now include a question asking what lawyers would consider a leading question: were you prejudged by the professor based on your race, ethnicity or gender?