Despite solid evidence that teaching evaluations are bias-prone, universities and colleges continue to rely on them. Many studies capture how students consistently rate female instructors lower than male instructors, and how students comment on non-performance related characteristics like appearance, tone of voice, and sexual orientation. Not only are teaching evaluations biased— studies show they don’t correlate with student outcomes. Victor Ray, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, summarizes the issue: “Using biased evaluations allows colleges and universities to punish those whose identities deviate from white male normativity.” Ray explains that biased evaluations can be used to justify biased treatment. For example, if a professor is denied tenure, an institution can make the argument that the denial is justified and not based on discrimination because poor teaching evaluations prove the professor does not merit tenure. Ray knows that increasing pressure to quantify performance means teaching evaluations aren’t going anywhere, but he says that until they are reconsidered and used more responsibly, this loophole will continue to protect and legitimize institutions’ biased decisions.
President Trump’s travel ban is still on hold. On Thursday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled 10-3 to maintain a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the executive order. While the court ruled on the injunction, not the constitutionality of the travel ban itself, it determined that the case against the ban was strong. They stated that the travel ban has less to do with national security and more to do with religious discrimination, with Chief Judge Roger Gregory going so far as to say that it “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The ruling states: “Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles — that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another.” It is expected the U.S. Supreme Court will rule either on this case or a similar one about the Trump travel ban in the fall.
Alithea Howes writes about her experience of watching her father transition from a man to a woman in the 1990s. When she was ten years old, her father explained that he sometimes liked to dress like a girl. Her parents were still together, and her father still presented as a man in public. Alithea didn’t think much of this until middle school, when her fears of what her classmates might think started to take over. At one point, she and her mother decided that as a birthday present, they would go to Disneyland together and her father could dress as a woman. Alithea reflects on how at the time, this seemed like a generous gift, but now, after learning more about her father’s experience, the memory makes her cringe. She imagines the message she was sending her father, “You’ve lived 40 years of lies, here’s one whole week to be yourself. Go wild.” But after the Disneyland trip, it was impossible for them to go back to the way things were, and her family worked out a deal that they would move and then refer to her father as “Aunt Hilary.” A few years later, her father had to go to court dressed as a man, and Alithea saw the pain in her father’s face. That was when she finally realized how little it mattered what her classmates thought. She writes, “In that one moment of empathy, my whole world changed.”