University looks to add diversity rating to faculty evals

Ball State University’s Faculty Council plans to allow students to rate the inclusiveness of classroom environments on end-of-semester evaluations.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the council agrees that such an assessment should be included, but hasn’t reached a consensus on the exact language of the question, nor whether it should be geared toward individual instructors or the university as a whole.

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“The university does not tolerate discrimination and is committed to work with diversity in a wholly positive way. Please indicate below anything in relation to this course that supports or runs counter to this objective,” an initial iteration of the proposed evaluation stated, though it was sent back to the Teaching Evaluation Committee after some faculty expressed concern over framing the question “in a negative way.”

“The language itself, some faculty had concerns about it,” Faculty Council Chairman Tarek Mahfouz elaborated. “It’s kind of pushing the question in negative way. These concerns were brought up.”

Some students, however, claimed the initial proposal wasn’t direct enough, including Black Students Association President Da’Prielle Fuller, who said the question “should directly ask” about each professor’s individual contributions to diversity on campus.

“The question asks about the university, not the professor,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “If we are going to have the question on a teaching evaluation, it should directly ask about that professor.”

While some objected to the question because the school’s new bias incident reporting system already serves a similar function, Fuller responded by expressing concern that some students might not know such a resource is available.

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“It is hard to learn in a space where you do not feel comfortable,” she asserted. “If my learning is affected by something [a professor] said or did in the classroom, it needs to be addressed and handled so it doesn’t happen to another student.”

Although its adoption has been tabled for the time being, Mahfouz confirmed that “the consensus of the faculty is that this needs to be included.”

“We were all in agreement that this is an essential issue, and data needed to be collected. But the question was, is it written in the right way or not?” he explained. “We’re trying to find the best way to include it in the evaluations, or the best way of including the data.”

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