Monday, June 2, 2014

Change the Faculty or the Students?

The Daily Bruin carries a piece about an outside Academic Senate review of the Anderson School and the problems faced by women faculty.  An interesting question emerges: Change the students or the faculty?

Women faculty at the UCLA Anderson School of Management consistently experience an inhospitable work environment and fewer career advancement opportunities than their male peers, several university reports reveal.  In a University of California Academic Senate report obtained by the Daily Bruin that was conducted during the 2013 fall quarter, reviewers identified the school’s current climate for women faculty as one of the primary challenges facing the business school.  Another internal report reviewing gender inequity at the school back in 2006 likewise identified several problems for women faculty, such as negative student behavior and gendered differences in promotional decisions, and outlined steps to address it.  Eight years later, however, the same issues remain, and many female professors at the school say the reports continue to reflect reality...  One issue is some male students challenging the authority of female professors in disruptive ways.  The school’s reliance on student evaluations in the performance review process amplifies this particular issue. When the students who challenge the professors’ authority in the classroom then become responsible for evaluating them, it can sometimes hinder career advancement for female professors...

Blog readers will recall our posting links to a series of articles on the Harvard Business School which also pointed to an unproductive student-led atmosphere.   Here are links to those earlier postings:
In short, there seems to be a selection bias in student admissions that leads to misbehavior which is then tolerated or at least not discouraged.  Keep in mind that we are not talking about undergraduates or even just-out-of-college grad students.  We are talking about grad students generally in their late 20s or older.  If there is a problem of basic civility and normal adult behavior in the classroom, just tinkering with the student evaluation system or giving it less weight relative to peer review (as the Senate report apparently suggests) won’t solve the underlying problem. 

Changing the student atmosphere isn’t the whole story here.  But it seems to be an important part of the story.  And it would require a change in admissions practices.  More women students in the classroom might help.

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