27 March 2014

In a separate posting today, I wrote about the majority of the open session on 27 March 2014, i.e. about tuition increases. Here I want to discuss two other loose ends: strategic mandate agreements and board representation.

The administration just announced the new boutique metrics that Carleton is proposing to the province for our evaluation, two of which surprised me. First, Carleton proposed that counting the number of external adjuncts will be beneficial to us. They justify this as showing collaboration outside of the university. They may be right, but additional adjuncts are also a cheap way to get research and teaching. The case could also be made that we appoint additional adjuncts in lieu of hiring additional faculty.

The second new metric is average teaching evaluation scores. This is currently high, with a 3-year average of 4.47 out of 5, so close to the ceiling that it is likely that the average will decrease! There was also something totally disingenuous about the current 3-year average, namely that the questions asked on the teaching evaluation form changed last year. The 3-year average is mixing apples and oranges, but hopefully the province won’t notice that we are pulling such a dubious statistical trick. It is possible that those who wrote our strategic mandate agreement were unaware of this change in teaching evaluation questions because none of them teach. But that too is problematic. The good news is that teaching evaluation scores are positively correlated with course marks and the recent Ottawa Citizen analysis shows that we have modest grade inflation. So, if we can keep up that grade inflation, our average teaching evaluation scores should approach their asymptote.

Carleton’s Board of Governors is typical for such organizations in that most substantive work is done in committees and that the most important committee work is done by the executive committee. This does not bode well for diversity of ideas because currently the chairs of all Carleton Board of Governors committees are male. Furthermore the executive “committee shall be composed of the Chancellor, the President, the Chair of the Board, the Vice-Chair of the Board, the Past-Chair, either the Chair or Vice-Chair of standing committees and two additional Community-at-large members to ensure representational views” (from terms of reference). Ensuring representational views is a superb notion. Yet the board’s executive committee has few women, no students, no staff, and no faculty. This sort of hypocrisy and gender bias cannot reflect well upon the reputation of a progressive university in the 21st century.

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