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Jeffrey Sachs
Quick thread: Villanova University will be giving students an opportunity on their course evaluations to report whether their prof exhibited bias in the classroom, particularly on issues related to things like race, religion, gender, and political viewpoint. This is a bad idea.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
First, here's some recent coverage. A critical editorial in the WSJ from two conservative profs: And the typical primal blerg from The College Fix:
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Cons are especially outraged, believing this to be a new front in the SJW war on religious values. Here's Sohrab Ahmari with a representative take. Ahmari's views on academic freedom are absolutely sterling and in no way utterly hypocritical, so you know he really means it.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
(In a since deleted tweet, Ahmari cheered on Orban's shuttering of CEU and banning of gender studies in Hungary. I am still steamed about this.)
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
OK, so I don't really trust any of these outlets or commentators, but they are correct on the fundamental point: Villanova's bias reporting policy is a terrible idea. But not (just) for the reasons they think.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Present a bunch of random students with the same syllabus for a hypothetical "Race, Gender, and Inequality" course. White male students are far and away the most likely to perceive bias.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Give students the same course content, but switch up the race and gender of the instructors. If the prof is female or a minority, students will call the material "controversial". If the prof is male or white, they won't.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Students with aggressive communication habits (teachers, you know what I'm talking about) are more likely to perceive political bias even after controlling for the ideologies of all involved.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
And the biggest factor in whether students perceive bias is likability. If a conservative student likes his prof, he thinks she's conservative. If he doesn't, she's a liberal. Same for liberal students.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
To be clear: I don't think that the commentators above are wrong to be concerned about Villanova's new policy. It is quite likely that some liberal students will perceive bias where none exists, especially on topics where liberal beliefs might be "threatened".
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
(Though I hasten to add that conservative students are MUCH more likely to cry bias than liberal ones. Whether that's because faculty really are biased against conservative ideas, or if maybe conservatives are just primed to be suspicious or sensitive, is a complex question.)
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Regardless, it is a big mistake (and from the point of view of building solidarity against the policy, a dumb one) to think that conservative faculty will be the only or even primary ones harmed. Because chances are good they won't be.
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Curious what and the people think about this. And if not through course evaluations, how should universities try to identify faculty bias in the classroom, political or otherwise? Or is that the kind of thing universities should avoid?
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Replying to @JeffreyASachs
Important follow up. It seems to me that if the university IS going to go down this route, they need to swear on a stack of bibles that these evaluations will not be used in hiring/firing/promotion decisions. Even then, I don't know if I'd trust them.
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Musa al-Gharbi Apr 1
But, of course, the more interesting component to your question is what should we do if not this, in order to get a feel for the day to day (or can we?). This is something we think about *a lot* at HxA, and to be honest, we don't really have a solid answer yet. But working on it!
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Jeffrey Sachs Apr 1
Work faster!
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