Teaching Evaluation or Cyberstalking?
Snyder, Martin, Academe
MOVE IT OR HATE IT, the Internet continues to provide new and interesting twists on the higher education scene. Among the latest developments is the posting of teaching evaluations to publicly accessible Web sites-a practice that has in some instances proven to be a nightmare.
Daniel Curzon-Brown, a faculty member at the City College of San Francisco, is leading a crusade against what he judges to be vicious and defamatory attacks on faculty on the Intemet. The specific target of Curzon-Brown's wrath is a Web site that posts anonymous, and sometimes offensive, critiques of professors at his college. Curzon-Brown and other faculty members have documented numerous instances of vulgar, allegedly defamatory, and even life-threatening comments.
According to Curzon-Brown, the site's administrator does not usually ascertain whether those submitting critiques are actual students at City College, or whether individuals post multiple comments about the same instructor. A disclaimer on the site reminds visitors that the opinions expressed are those of individual students. Similar Web sites edit student evaluations and remove offensive comments.
Critics have for years pointed out the weakness of instruments for student evaluation of teaching. In this issue of Academe, Paul Trout discusses the problems associated with standardized teaching evaluations and the pernicious effects they can have on the level and quality of instruction. The Association's 1975 Statement on Teaching Evaluation acknowledges the complexity of evaluating teaching and the usefulness of student evaluations. But the Statement clearly recognizes that the primary role in evaluating teaching belongs to the faculty.
It is hardly surprising that faculty members have taken to heart offensive comments about their professional competence, teaching skills, or personal lives. Such criticism is never easy to bear. When, however, the Internet multiplies public access to such comments exponentially, it becomes possible for one angry student on an unregulated site to destroy a reputation or a career. The possibility that bogus evaluations may eventually find their way into a promotion or tenure process is not unthinkable. …