Texas Profs Under the Microscope–or the Panopticon

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, here are the lead paragraphs from an article about a new law in Texas:

May 6, 2010
Professors in Texas Protest Law That Requires Them to Post Teaching Details Online

By Katherine Mangan

Austin, Tex.

“Faculty members and administrators in Texas are speaking out about a recent state law that requires them to post specific, detailed information about their classroom assignments, curricula vitae, department budgets, and the results of student evaluations.

A conservative group whose administrators have close ties to Gov. Rick Perry lobbied for the law, saying it offers important ‘consumer protection.’ Opponents counter that it has created an expensive and time-consuming burden . . .”.

I wonder who will comb through all this information to find evidence of things unappealing to Governor Perry. Whoever they are, they need a hobby. I certainly hope none of the professors is advocating Texas’s seceding from the Union because that would be anti-American and unpatriotic in a Perryish sort of way.

By accident, and although I don’t live in Texas, I’m almost in full compliance. Syllabi from current and previous classes appear on my university web-page, as does my updated CV. I’m not chair of a department, so I don’t have access to a budget anymore, although I can provide a three-word description of departments’ budgets at my college (excluding salaries, which are a university-budget matter): “small and lean.”

Besides, aren’t the budgets at state colleges/universities already accessible, having been approved by the legislature? I wonder if the law applies to private universities, including faith-based ones: separation of church and state and all that.

I don’t know if my syllabi go into enough detail about assignments to satisfy the law, but the local culture on my campus is to create syllabi on the long, detailed (tedious) side. May I respectfully suggest that Texans pick up a good novel or book of poetry instead of reading syllabi?

“The results of student evaluations” is a vague requirement. One kind of result is that one is tenured and/or promoted–or not–based in part on such evaluations. Another is that one may receive a teaching award–based in part on colleagues’ perceptions of the evaluations. There is also “Rate My Professor,” online, but the samples tend to be very small. If the law is referring to making the evaluations themselves available online, then I wonder what the legality is of that. Are personnel files from the government and businesses in Texas posted online?

I do like the honesty revealed by the word “consumer [protection].” Supporters of the law no longer see students as young scholars but as mere consumers of “product.”

A longtime friend and colleague would derive immense delight from “complying” with this law. Oh, my, the information he would make available to the governor and his friends. They would rue the day . . . .


2 Responses to “Texas Profs Under the Microscope–or the Panopticon”

  1. A Longtime Friend Says:

    Why not translate my syllabi and other materials into Latin?

    If Texas legislators want to protect consumers, maybe the solons should publicize their patrons, cronies, and co-conspirators.

    • O. Says:

      Yes, translate the syllabi into Latin or, in honor of Arizona, Spanish, latter-day Latin. A bolder proposition: Since Texas legislators dictate high school curricula via textbook-control, why don’t the legislators educate while the educators legislate? Such a job-swap couldn’t hurt.

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