Tough college professor fired because ‘students wanted high school’

by Grace

Do student evaluations carry too much weight and are they contributing to a dumbing down of college standards?

Business scholar Steven Maranville left a tenured appointment with the University of Houston to teach at Utah Valley University two years ago, but officials fired him after a one-year probationary period when they concluded his teaching did not suit their students.

According to a lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court, Maranville’s lawyers allege UVU administrators justified the dismissal based on student complaints that his “capstone” course in business strategies was too rigorous and his Socratic style intimidated them.

“A number of students liked him a lot and said so. The brass came in and liked what he was doing. [Maranville] wanted students to get together in small groups and chew over the topics they were studying,” said his attorney, Robert Sykes. “They get him up here and toss him under the bus because some of the students wanted high school.”

The lawsuit, which alleges breach of contract and fair dealing and state constitutional violations, touches on an issue that is raising concern in faculty groups nationally. Some believe universities’ use of student opinion in promotion decisions is eroding professors’ influence and creating incentives to make courses easy, lest they risk a torrent of negative evaluations. On the other hand, teaching-oriented universities like UVU aspire to be responsive to student needs and view them almost as customers.

Student ratings of instruction shouldn’t be the only measure, but they do provide insight into professors’ effectiveness, said Liz Hitch, Utah’s associate commissioner of higher education for academic affairs.

“Students are in the class every day. They know what‘s going on and know whether they are learning,” said Hitch, a former UVU provost whose dissertation examined student ratings. “If they consistently have poor evaluations, that generally is a problem.”

I view myself as a customer of my son’s college, but I am not interested in buying another high school experience for him.

Did Utah Valley University fire business prof for being too tough? – The Salt Lake Tribune, 10/23/11

HT Instapundit

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7 Comments to “Tough college professor fired because ‘students wanted high school’”

  1. PowerPoint curriculum – it’s taking over our schools. Alarming.

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  2. Just because you can beat a person senseless to “teach” them to behave the way you would want them to, doesn’t mean it’s the best or most effect method of teaching. And, remember, don’t believe everything you read in the paper. Even if it IS the Chronicle.

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  3. Jillian, this situation is probably more complex than portrayed in any report. Maybe we’ll learn the full details when/if this goes to trial. I haven’t heard any news about this since I wrote this post in Nov.

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  4. It’s wrong for anyone to take the side of professors only or the side of students only. There are good students and bad students, and there are good professors and bad professors.

    Even though I admire some professors, there are some seriously bad ones. For example, I happen to know a professor that NEVER lectures on that particular week’s readings. It is simply ridiculous. What’s the point of asking the students to read Ch 5 that week if you’re going to discuss the materials in Ch 3???

    The students are so confused in her class. The class is not hard because of course materials. It is hard because the professor’s teaching style makes no sense.

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  5. PowerPoint presentation is not always bad. Some professors’ handwritings are so bad that even their own TAs cannot read them. I have had professors admitting in class that they have bad handwritings, so that’s what motivated them to switch to PowerPoint presentations. There’s no shame in that.

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  6. OrangeCounty – I participated in a webinar yesterday that used an excellent PowerPoint presentation, so I absolutely agree that PP is not always bad.

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  7. This also happened to me………..wasn’t fired but the students complained so much that the dean removed me from my summer teaching assignments and “demoted” me to only teaching a certificate level night class when I came back in August. This was after there was an intense “investigation” into the complaints and a “hearing” between my dean, the VP and myself. This ruse of investigation included exergerated statements from students and half truths from the program director. When I was given 5 days for my rebuttle – I provided full e-mails which proved in my favor the exergerations and half truths. But the dean nor the VP gave me credit for my self exoneration. I had 15 years of EXCELLENT student evals………..and it is disheartening to me to think one small group (6 students) were allowed to ruin my professional career. Oh……..and have I mentioned that the dean is my EX husbands first cousin and also brought my personal financial information into her “investigation”? The proverbial straw was when My every move was recorded by the security camaras and I was accused of “financial aid fraud” because I let students out of class early. I was an emotional and mental wreck and finally quit (which is what I KNOW they wanted) just to maintain my sanity.

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