Faculty Misconduct in Collegiate Teaching

Article excerpt

Faculty Misconduct in Collegiate Teaching John M. Braxton and Alan E. Bayer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, 216 pp., $34.95.

CAROL J. AUSTER

OVER THE PAST DECADE, INCIdents of faculty misconduct in colleges and universities have captured the public's attention and caused academics to take a closer look at the philosophical and policy issues associated with ethics in the academic profession. Since much of the increased attention has focused on faculty in their role as researchers, John Braxton, associate professor of education at Vanderbilt University, and Alan Bayer, professor of education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, have sought to fill a gap in the literature with this study of attitudes concerning the expectations of faculty in their role as teachers.

Braxton and Bayer developed the College Teaching Behaviors Inventory (CTBI), a 126-item survey designed to measure the norms for behavior in eight categories, including preplanning for a course, examination and grading practices, and class interactions between faculty and students. Respondents were asked to rate each item on a five-point scale, from "very inappropriate behavior, requiring formal administrative intervention," to "appropriate behavior, should be encouraged." The survey was mailed to fulltime faculty members in ` four disciplines (biology, history, mathematics, and psychology) at several types of institutions. In all, 949 faculty members responded to the survey.

Although in the last chapter of the book the authors caution the reader about the limitations of their study, it is easy to overlook that their findings might have been different if, for example, tenured and untenured men and women faculty members in all disciplines and in all types of institutions were represented in proportion to their presence in the population of faculty in the United States. Moreover, norms may have changed in the decade since the study began or even during the six years of data collection from 1989 to 1995.

Five of the book's ten chapters are devoted to describing the survey results. The first of these chapters reports on "inviolable norms," those items for which the respondents' average rating on the five-point scale could be as low as four, described as "inappropriate behavior, to be handled informally by colleagues or administrators suggesting change or improvement." A factor analysis of thirty-three inviolable norms produced seven dimensions or categories of inappropriate behavior, including moral turpitude (e.g., "a faculty member has a sexual relationship with a student enrolled in the course"); condescending negativism (e.g., "an instructor makes condescending remarks to a student in class"); particularistic grading (e.g., "the instructor allows personal friendship with a student to intrude on the objective grading of his or her work"); and uncooperative cynicism (e.g., "a faculty member refuses to participate in departmental curricular planning").

Readers unfamiliar with factor analysis might misconstrue the individual items with the highest ratings to be the behavior that the respondents found most inappropriate, but that is not always the case. The inclusion of the average ratings for each of the items appearing in the tables assembled by the authors would have allowed the reader to make quick, easy, and interesting comparisons both within and across the dimensions. Luckily, the mean and standard deviations for each of the 126 items can be found in an appendix; they are grist for additional analysis. Some of the items, however, are distinctly odd, such as, "The instructor wears a sloppy sweatshirt and rumpled blue jeans to class. …