Monday, May 30, 2005

Bureaucratically incompetent, too 

The University of Oregon has decided to slow down on a plan to have tenure and post-tenure review of faculty include a review of their "cultural competency," acccording to the Chronicle of Higher Education. (That link will expire Friday, after which you might prefer this article from the Seattle Times.)

"I was hired to teach chemistry and do research," said Michael Kellman, a chemistry professor. "I wasn't hired to be evaluated and even interrogated about cultural competency, whatever that is."

In a letter to the president, David B. Frohnmayer, 24 professors called the draft plan "frightening and offensive." They complained that it would spend too much money on "diversity-related bureaucracy."

Mr. Frohnmayer said in an interview on Thursday that administrators had "taken a step back from the draft plan, given the extent of the response."

"We're wedded to the objectives of the plan, but not to particular steps in any lockstep way," he said. "We're a community that lives to move with a greater sense of consensus."

Indeed, the plan itself is expansive, covering 22 pages and full of new plans for expanding "cultural competency". A major flaw of the plan is that it doesn't take the time to define what it means. The university sent it to another committee with the usual CYA language of "it's a draft" and "we just wanted to begin a dialogue". Here's the language in the draft, though (I've edited down to the first three points; the others are not as enlightening):
Faculty � in conjunction with the University Senate & Senior Administration
  1. Require faculty course evaluation forms to assess classroom content, climate, and openness to multiple viewpoints.
  2. Revise 3rd year, tenure, and post-tenure evaluation criteria to assess ongoing skill building and demonstrable commitment to cultural competency.
  3. Tie evaluation of cultural competency to raises, promotions etc.

That third point is not covered anywhere, but it's a nightmare bureaucratically. And while I'm quite happy to see any statement in favor of viewpoint diversity, its appearance in this document worries me. I don't necessarily believe that a leftist sociology prof is going to have her raise or promotion stopped by a student evaluation from a conservative student who was shouted down in her classroom. That would be a violation of her academic freedom, right?

Of course, the school has already been in the news once this month from a program to set aside seats in popular classes for math and English, and one prof in the Chronicle story isn't too happy about all this sunlight.

Not all faculty members were disturbed by the diversity plan. Matthew Dennis, a
professor of history, said some critics had overreacted, although he acknowledged that the plan could have been written better and agreed that not defining some terms was a mistake.

"There are reasonable concerns that can be worked out, especially if reasonable discussion aren't disrupted by incendiary discussions coming from off campus," Mr. Dennis said.

He could be referring as well to blog coverage by John Rosenberg and Dave Huber. He probably isn't talking about these puff pieces in the New York Times (there are six all together). And get a load of this, from the last paragraph.
This month, as the plan was sparking controversy, its chief architect announced that he was leaving the university. Gregory J. Vincent, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity at Oregon, is moving to the University of Texas at Austin to become vice provost for inclusion and cross-cultural effectiveness.

Those job titles are a doppelganger for the continued encroachment of the diversity cops.