Inside Higher Ed, Should Students Be Asked if Professors Are Inclusive?:
Ball State University promotes diversity and does not tolerate discrimination. Everyone says they can agree on that.
But the best way to gauge how professors live up to that standard isn’t quite settled, as the Ball State Faculty Council discovered in its most recent meeting.
Last year, Charlene Alexander, who was then the university’s associate provost for diversity and director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, introduced an open-ended question for the Faculty Council to potentially use on the teaching evaluations that are offered to students at the end of a course. Alexander has since moved on to Oregon State University, but the council took up the question in this month's meeting.
“The university does not tolerate discrimination and is committed to work with diversity in a wholly positive way,” the text reads. “Please indicate below anything in relation to this course that supports or runs counter to this objective.”
The council was hesitant to adopt the proposal, however, and instead sent it back to a committee to come up with alternatives, while at the same time announcing it would take solicitations from departments on different language for the text as well.
"People did not like the wording of it. It just didn't fit the tone, or how it sounded with the rest of the questions [in the evaluation]," said Melinda Messineo, interim associate provost for diversity and interim director of the Office of Institutional Diversity.
Additionally, Messineo said, the question was, in a sense, outdated. It was developed at the same time the university was developing a bias-incident reporting system. That system is now live, so there's a way to collect data that the evaluation question would have collected — perhaps more, given the array of questions that the person reporting the incident can address, and the fact that offenders aren't just limited to professors. At the same time, Messineo said, one of the concerns raised was that, even with the question included, the university wouldn't necessarily be able to act on any of the answers.
"This question will want to accomplish something different now that we have the bias-incident [reporting mechanism]," said Messineo, who attended the Faculty Council meeting. "What we're hoping to do with the evaluation question is talk about an inclusive teaching environment, which is a different angle."
Da'Prielle Fuller, president of the Black Students Association at Ball State, said that she wouldn't lobby for the question as it currently stands — but still wants a question on teaching evaluations.