Anonymous Evaluations

I’m very annoyed, people. We are supposed to fill out a review on the performance of our Dean and express our opinions on whether we want his contract to be extended for the next four years. The evaluation is supposed to be anonymous for obvious reasons.

We all get evaluated anonymously. Students write anonymous evaluations of my work every semester. We write anonymous evaluations of our Chair and submit them online. Every Associate Dean gets evaluated through an online polling system that preserves everybody’s anonymity.

In the case of the Dean’s evaluation, however, the process can hardly be seen as truly anonymous.

We are supposed to fill out the evaluation forms by hand, put them in an envelope, place that envelope inside another envelope, and write our names on it. This is supposedly done to ensure that one person doesn’t make 70 photocopies of the survey questionnaire and fill them all in to rig the process. We are promised that the outer envelopes will be discarded and nobody will know our names.

I see no reason to believe those promises. If the administration suspects me of being a liar who is capable of rigging the process, then why am I supposed to grant them the benefit if the doubt? We all know what makes some people suspect everybody of dishonesty.

I also wonder what makes it so impossible to evaluate the Dean in the same way we evaluate everybody else, namely, through online polling that doesn’t require one to provide one’s name in any context.

The worst thing about this is that I have no possibility to voice these concerns. If I were to ask a question about it at the Open Forum that is coming up or send a message to the faculty members, this would be an immediate sign that I wasn’t going to write a glowing review of the Dean’s work.

I wouldn’t be so worried about this if I didn’t have a very strong reason to suspect that the Dean is aware of what I wrote in my last “anonymous” review of his work. I really dislike the “just wait until I get tenure” mentality but this is the only time when I actually thought that after I get tenure I will be able to address this instance of unfairness.

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12 comments on “Anonymous Evaluations

  1. Your evaluation is not mandatory. So you freely choose whether or not to evaluate and to add comments. If you so wish, you can wait until you secure tenure.

    You may want to reflect on the names of those brave Americans who signed The Declaration of Independence. If the revolution had failed, they would have been hanged. by the British government. What is being asked of you is far less dangerous.

    • Your comparison to the revolution made me laugh. The stakes were higher then for failure, but the consequences for victory were also much more far-reaching. Here, ask yourself – the stake for failure might be a career damaged permanently for petty reasons when one’s work is otherwise sterling. And the consequences of submitting evaluation honestly? I’m not in academia, so I don’t know what effect this will have on your department – maybe a great change for the better, I don’t know. But just weigh the risk of career damage against the best-case scenario of positive change your evaluation could bring about. If you think the risk is great but the potential for positive change is modest, then maybe wait until you have tenure.

    • // If the revolution had failed, they would have been hanged. by the British government. What is being asked of you is far less dangerous.

      Charles, do you really behave so in your private life? Most people are very afraid to lose jobs, especially in hard economic times, and put up even with workplace bullying to provide for their families and themselves. Some people would tell them to complain (and be fired) or outright leave the bad job, and then blame those lazy, entitled unemployed.

      I don’t say Clarissa is in this situation. F.e. unlike those poor people, she has a great job. I wouldn’t have endangered that in any way in her place. If the Dean is in place for years [my last “anonymous” review of his work], giving honest evaluation wouldn’t change anything anyway, which is very different from revolution example.

      • This Dean is known for persecuting people he happens to dislike. Those people are always women. And he has an intense hatred of foreign languages. Probably because he is Hispanic.

      • Now I became afraid that you mentioned it here at all. Why wouldn’t he find you and read it? May be I am over imaginative, but I wouldn’t put it past him to Google people he dislikes, or even do some Internet research. I would have made this post private, if your blog has this ability. And not filled out anything at all. But it’s me, and you, of course, know the entire situation better.

        I fully agree witth EK:
        “the stake for failure might be a career damaged permanently for petty reasons when one’s work is otherwise sterlingthe stake for failure might be a career damaged permanently for petty reasons when one’s work is otherwise sterling”

        As for “the potential for positive change”, it seems to be non-existent, according to your description.

      • If he starts doing things like that, then that would mean he is completely insane and no actions of mine will change anything. I still believe that things have not gone that far. :-)

  2. “This Dean is known for persecuting people he happens to dislike. Those people are always women. And he has an intense hatred of foreign languages. Probably because he is Hispanic.”

    Sadly yes. Where I work, Hispanic professors promote foreign langugage illiteracy.

    And yes, this evaluation is sadly pointless. Goes to show how there are always forms of authoritarianism lurking in our universities.

  3. The Dean is constrained by publicity. If it turned out that he overtly discriminated against you because you are female and because you criticized him anonymously surely he would be removed. No institution could now get away with that. The risk, I suppose is that he discriminates less obviously, awarding you lower salary increases etc. Unfortunately, that tends to be the way with bureaucrats. So you may well allow discretion to be the better part of valor for the time being. I never did so, but then I lived in better times from the viewpoint of the academy. Then universities were designed for true scholars and a limited cohort of able students. Now for the most part they are not, swamped out by numbers and budget expansions. As Kingsley Amis so correctly put it back in the 1960′s: ‘ More means worse’.

    • “Then universities were designed for true scholars and a limited cohort of able students. Now for the most part they are not, swamped out by numbers and budget expansions. As Kingsley Amis so correctly put it back in the 1960′s: ‘ More means worse’.”

      Good point. I agree. We should rise the level.

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