What’s Current: Studies show student evaluations are biased against female teachers

College and university student evaluations of teaching are not only unreliable, they are significantly biased against female instructors.

Helen Lewis points out that London Bridge terrorist Rachid Redouane abused his wife, like so many terrorists whose first victims are their wives:

“Despite this, talking about male violence in the context of terrorism is treated like derailing – like you’ve mounted your feminist hobby horse when the grown-ups were talking. The people who control the discussion of Islamist terrorism don’t want to talk about this stuff. They see discussion of foreign policy, religion and ‘our values’ like old-fashioned teachers saw Maths and English: proper, respectable subjects. Talking about male violence is a bit . . . film studies. Sociology. You know. Softer, girly, less rational, all the ways we dismiss anything associated with women. And of course elevating it in our discourse would mean ceding some ground in the conversation to the experts in the field – who are largely women.”

Saudi woman Manal al-Sharif dares to drive as act of civil disobedience.

Solidarity at an all-female screening of Wonder Woman:

“One woman said she came to feel a sisterhood. Another said she was there because in her years as a comic book geek, she had only ever watched superhero movies surrounded by guys. Yet another came because she didn’t want to overhear fanboys cracking wise about Gal Gadot’s physique, or, for that matter, that of any other woman onscreen.”

Madrid tackles “el manspreading” on public transportation with new signs.

Susan Cox
Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.

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  • Kathleen Lowrey

    Yes.

    I don’t know if it is cool to link to one’s own stuff, if not please just don’t approve this and no hard feelings:

    https://artssquared.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/who-cares-moocs-cast-care-work-student-evaluations-and-the-work-of-evaluating-students/

    • ChoderlosdeLaclos

      I think it’s quite amazing that people with PhDs are paid as poorly as sessional professors are (they’re paid like fast food workers). It does show that the whole merit thing is bunk. None of this stuff has anything to do with merit. It has to do with traditional hierarchies.

  • Kathleen Lowrey

    Thanks. I don’t agree, though, that the high status of the tenured is what causes the low status of the untenured. It’s like saying unions are bad for non-unionized workers. What is bad for non-unionized workers is the lack of unions.

    At my institution, some of us are pushing for hiring ratios in order to stop the endless expansion of low-paid contingent hiring. The idea would be to have it worked into the contract language of full time faculty that the institution cannot have a lopsided expansion on the contingent side: contingent hiring has to be paced to to full time faculty hiring. This would have two good effects: one, it would mean contingent hiring would become more visible (admin would still find ways to hide it — throughout higher ed administrators keep these numbers off the books as much as they can, because they reflect so badly on the state of higher ed generally) (it also helps because invisible workers are invisible not only to outsiders but to one another — they can’t create solidarity among themselves easily if they can’t see one another). Two, it would force more full time hiring. Higher education is expanding on the demand side (more and more students pursue it) but the provision of it is increasingly done by “flexible” underpaid underprotected labour.

    It’s also a mistake to think that the problem with higher ed hiring is old professors who refuse to retire. What happens nowadays when senior profs retire is their tenure lines are simply closed. It’s not like if we could shift out the oldsters youngsters would get their jobs: those good jobs disappear forever, replaced by crappy jobs. The “greedy lazy senior faculty” is a lie university administrators like to tell to misdirect attention to where the real faculty hiring bottleneck is: it’s uni administrations refusing to fund full time hires.

    It *is* true, however, that not enough senior faculty use the considerable protections of their tenured jobs to speak up against the abuse of precariously hired junior scholars. This is morally terrible. But the message “why haven’t you retired already?” is part of the problem — it delivers the message to senior faculty that they ought to keep their heads down, everyone hates them for being doddery old resource-sucking leeches [note how often this exact message is directed to anybody powerful people wish would shut up]. The message they need to hear is that they have a responsibility to speak up.

    • fxduffy

      I know this is the union position, but unions are liberal, and not all that concerned with hierarchy.

      For many colleges and universities, only so much money is left after the tenured faculty are paid, and thus they can only dole out so much to the contingent faculty. This is why a heavily endowed college like Harvard has the highest paid adjuncts, and why some skimpily endowed have the lowest paid, as in 1200. a course in some private colleges.

      Besides in what other professions, are lifelong appointments given? How many workers in this country, having lost a job after the age of 55, are able to come close to matching the position or job they had? Professors and tenured teachers do not have to confront this drop off in status–which is another reason, they keep working.

      My angle on this (i said ONE chief reason) has zero to do with ageism, and has everything to do with small “d” democracy and plain old common sense.

      • Kathleen Lowrey

        Hi — just *in case* you still check back, I just wanted to say that you would probably enjoy reading Marc Bousquet’s book _How the University Works_. The trend has been to hire fewer and fewer full time faculty for years and this has *never* resulted in more money being allocated thereby to contingent faculty. If universities fired every tenured professor tomorrow they’d just take the money they saved and do other things with it.
        The “tenured faculty eat too much of a limited pie” argument is not true. First, the total pie has gotten bigger and bigger over the years while the numbers of tenured faculty are constantly shrinking as is the “faculty salaries” part of the pie (lbecause so many faculty salaries are contingent salaries, and there are fewer and fewer tenured faculty every year). Second, contingent faculty expand precisely because they are cheap. Universities don’t want to spend their money on faculty. They have zero interest in shifting resources amongst faculty. They want faculty to cost as little as possible, full stop. Third, I can speak about this — publicly on blogs, directly to my university admin — using my own name precisely because tenure exists. Many university admins would *love* to have all untenured faculty (not the best universities — because they know their “bestness” depends on tenured faculty) because then they could set whatever working conditions they pleased and fire anybody who didn’t like it. That’s the situation contingent faculty are in right now (as are far too many workers generally — I don’t get the part of your argument that seems to suggest everyone should be treated like crap once they turn 55 in the interests of fairness. To expand this would not be good. The thing to struggle for is to lessen it across the board, in universities and out of it, in my view anyway). It is true that tenured faculty who *can* speak up don’t speak up nearly as much as they ought, which is truly an example of faculty exploiting their own privilege, absolutely.