Nature of Academia · Teaching Political Science · This Week in Bad Journalism

Breaking News: Students with Higher Grades Give Higher Evaluation Scores

This article on the Chronicle defends student evaluations as “not worthless.”

We’ve talked about evaluations before, and the Poli Sci Bitches have strong beliefs that they are, in fact, worthless and biased against women.

But I just want to stop for a second and examine the claim that there is a 0.5 correlation between evaluations scores and student learning, because when I saw that, I was thinking, “I wonder how they measure student learning…”

It turns out, they measure student learning with grades.

Grades.

Yes, I took a look at a few of those studies linked, and while they do acknowledge the problem of using something like final exam grades to measure student achievement, that’s pretty much what many of them do.

So, there’s a 0.5 correlation between student evaluations of you and how well they did in your class. And this means that evaluations are measuring that you’re a good teacher?  Actually, I think the causal arrow goes the wrong way. You’re getting good evaluations because the students got good grades. Maybe you’re an easy grader!

But wait, it gets better.  In the blog post linked by the author of the Chronicle piece, there is a lovely chart showing a 0.53 correlation between course averages and evaluations.  But it’s a HYPOTHETICAL chart.  It’s hypothetical data, based on “what we would expect based on previous studies.”  Check it out. Hypothetical data.

hypothetical data

I get the point that the blog was trying to make with this hypothetical data scatter plot – that professors with low evaluation scores aren’t necessarily worse, that they don’t necessarily give worse grades (pardon me, they don’t necessarily “fail to incite student learning”). I heartily agree with the notion that ordinal evaluations of professors cannot be compared or used to say whether one professor is better than the other.

But to me, this is exactly the reason why student evaluations are worthless.

Being a Woman · Nature of Academia · Tenure

What’s the Deal with Service?

jerry-seinfeld-whats-the-deal

 

I am not teaching this summer.  You’d think that would mean time for research and maybe even some well deserved R&R.  But no.  I said yes to one too many committees.  Committees that exist for a purpose in the university or department but still provide essentially zero personal benefit for me.

Research exists that shows that women do more service than men and get less credit, and from my experience, this is absolutely on the nose.  And I think it’s worth taking a moment to think about both parts of that statement (do more, and get less) and how they relate to our experiences in political science.

1.Women do more service than men.  

In my department, administrative and service requirements are disproportionately left to women.  There are, of course, men who hold administrative positions in the department and serve on committees, but those are the “sexy” committees that do things people care about:  research, graduate education, maybe faculty senate if they like being in the spotlight and/or want to run for real office one day.  The boring jobs, like assessment, undergraduate curriculum, or scholarship committees are left to the small number of women in the department.

Research has also shown this is true of student groups and graduate advising, so-called “care work.” When I look around at who advises Pi Sigma Alpha, or who advises the College Republicans, I see a lot of women in those roles. A lot of times they’re just handed to people- “oh, hey, so-and-so retired so now we need someone to advise PSA”- but also a lot of  times, students approach female faculty to advise their groups because they think female faculty are more likely to say yes. Additionally, graduate students tend to drop by female faculty’s office hours more often to discuss issues they’re running into, again because they believe the female faculty are more likely to take the time to talk to them.

Why is this the case?  Some of it is probably due to subtle sexism, where women are expected to do the “chores” at work just like they’re expected to do them at home.  Also, women need to be more available and nicer to students than men do, or they’ll get shitty student evaluations. But I’m not going to shirk all of the responsibility for this; I say “yes” far too often, when I should say “no.”  We are more likely to be asked to be on the university Beautification Committee, and we should say, “No, I am spending my summer on research, not on selecting art for the library.”  But we don’t.  Or at least, I don’t.  I say yes.  And why do I say yes?

Well, I don’t want to be a Problem.  The Unhelpful One.  That’s not a good reputation to have.  In addition, this work needs to get done. Somehow, we have to decide what art hangs in the library, and nothing at a university can be accomplished with a Working Group. Also, while we’re being honest, part of my type A personality enjoys being a part of big decisions affecting general education, or knowing that everyone is going to see a painting that I chose- I feel a sense of (small) power that is rare to feel in higher education. And, of course, I say yes because I want to get the credit for it.

But wait…

2.Women get less credit than men.

I put my service on my C.V.  Maybe not the Beautification Committee, but the university strategic planning committee? Sure! Of course!  I’m spending my summer in biweekly meetings for that committee, you better believe I’m putting it on my C.V.

But no one actually looks at my C.V., and I get the sneaking suspicion that no one in my department actually knows I’m on the committee at all.  I’m representing our department at the university level, making decisions that will absolutely affect our recruitment and advising internally, but no one even knows or cares that it’s happening. It’s that classic problem the hospitality industry has- if you do a good job, no one says anything. It’s when you mess up someone’s order (get known as the Woman Who Said No) that people leave scathing reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor (say you can’t be tenured because you aren’t “collegial”).

When you get a publication and tell your colleagues, you might get some recognition, a congratulations, a mention on the department’s social media page.  When you make a decision on the QEP Committee, you might tell your colleagues. And they’ll go, “Oh, there’s a QEP Committee? What does that stand for?”

3. If we count service, where should it count?

Like I said before, these decisions have to be made- someone has to serve on these committees, and someone has to make sure student groups don’t run amok.  This is a mandatory part of higher ed.  But these things aren’t valued.  I’m not arguing that it should be as much a part of a tenure decision at a major research university as research, obviously, but it should count for something. We’ve started a culture of “Cite Yoself!”  Can we work on a culture of “Brag On Your Committee Achievements?” (Maybe someone can make it more catchy, though…?)

Someone has to be on committees and do administrative work. Women do more service, and we aren’t getting credit for it.  I’m going to try to say NO more often.  And when I do pick the library art, I’m going to email it to every member of my department. YES, in fact, I DID select that lovely lighthouse print.

You’re welcome.

Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia

7 Things I’m Going to Accomplish This Summer

Summer is almost upon us, with most of our fellow political scientists either in the process of giving finals, grading finals, or submitting final grades.  I can see the Promised Land. We’re almost to summer, guys.

So, here are the

7 Things I’m Going to Accomplish This Summer:

  1. Finish my APSA paper.  Okay, okay.  START my APSA paper.
  2. Get an article out for review.  I’m like thisclose to finishing this article up.  Just a few more tables and I’m good to go.
  3. Start a new article.  I’ve had ideas cooking all semester, and I haven’t had a chance to actually get any of them on paper.
  4. Work on that new course prep.  I’m finally getting to teach the course I’ve been begging to teach for years this fall. Which means I need to actually write it.
  5. Revise curriculum requirements.  The committee that I shouldn’t have volunteered for has been slacking. Summer will be the time to catch up.
  6. Read more political science.  Pretty sure I haven’t picked up a journal since my second baby was born.
  7. Get that July conference presentation ready.  I forgot I submitted to that conference. Probably need to figure out what I’m going to say.

 

hahahaha guys. I’m totally kidding.  Let me write the real list:

Thing I’m Going to Accomplish This Summer:

  1. NETFLIX.
Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia

The 5 Types of Couples in Political Science

At first, I thought it was weird how many political scientists are married to each other.  I mean, do they actually talk about political science at home? How horrible is THAT?  I’ll leave my political science at the office, thank you very much.

As I’ve been in the discipline for a while, I’ve seen my share of political science couples, and in traditional Poli Sci Bitches format, I’m presenting you a list of the 5 Types of Couples in Political Science:

  1. The Famous Power Couple.  These are political scientists who probably met in grad school, and have been together ever since.  They both have extensive CVs and awesome books. Maybe a few of them are co-authored with each other, but their individual contributions stand alone. Everyone knows who they are, and if they’re on the job market, universities go out of their way to make sure they both get full time faculty positions.  Celebrity Couple Equivalent: Beyonce & Jay Z. Even Obama wants to hang out with them.
  2. The Imbalance of Power Couple.  So, one of them is a star with a CV that goes on for days, and book deals in the works.  A rising star in the discipline, maybe. On some editorial boards and making a name for him/herself.  But the political science spouse? Not so much.  Maybe some good teaching evaluations, but not many publications.  The spouse gets hired too, of course, but no one in the department is very happy about it.  Celebrity Couple Equivalent: Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe. She didn’t even remember him in her Oscars acceptance speech.
  3. The Spouse Who Gets Hired As Staff.  One political scientist, and then another political scientist who somehow gets hired to do advising or run the Model U.N. program or something.  Weird, right?  It’s great for the department because building inroads in administration can be helpful. Also, getting gossip from the Other Side is nice. Everyone likes the Staff Spouse because staff make our lives easier.  Celebrity Couple Equivalent: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. We love them, and the fact that he’s more famous than she is doesn’t bother anyone.
  4. The Couple With A Guy Who Likes Students. A Lot. So gross, but sadly too common.  In its “best” form, this political scientist collects pretty young female grad students to “mentor” but doesn’t cross the line.  At worst, the guy cheats on his wife with undergrads.  Yes, I’m calling it a guy, because it almost always is, but women who cheat on their husbands with students are also equally gross, for the record.  Unfortunately, the guy has tenure and the nature of academia means that running him out is an uphill battle.  Celebrity Couple Equivalent: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Don’t sleep with the nanny, Ben.
  5. The Non-Academic Spouse Couple.  This person married smart and doesn’t have to talk about political science at home.  The spouse probably has a way cooler job than political science (professional chef! movie critic! hacker!) but is usually ignored at political science events anyway.  Celebrity Couple Equivalent: George and Amal Clooney.  Remember when all anyone cared about was her baby bump at her U.N. hearing?

 

parksandrec

Being a Woman · Nature of Academia

A Day in the Life of (One) Academic Mom

Americanist Bitch is an academic — and a mom. Here, she gives a window into what that’s like in her individual day-to-day.

Because The Bitches really love that this important conversation was started. However, we felt it important to point out that the original description, while amusing and true for the author and for many mothers in academia, was a very specific and, honestly, quite privileged* point of view.  Different institutions and family situations make for very different days!

5:30 a.m. I wake up early, before the kids, to try and answer a few emails I received over night. The more emails I answer now, the more time I have later for class prep and maybe even- dare I dream it- research!

7:00 a.m. The kids are awake and getting fed and dressed. Man, I will be excited when the baby can change his own clothes and isn’t drinking bottles anymore. It’s hard to get dressed myself when he wants to latch onto my leg like a leech, which is most mornings. I need to find a nicer dress, because I’ll be seeing the President of the college at that reception thing later…

8:00 a.m. I take the kids to school, because my hours are more lenient than my full time, regular office-working husband’s. I get asked for the 14th time why I don’t come to more of their morning coffee socials, and could I please remember to bring more changes of clothes for the older one.

9:00 a.m. I’m finally in my office, a glorious hour of uninterrupted work time ahead- just kidding, my door is immediately slammed with student after student. I work at an LAC, where office doors are always open and students are ALWAYS around. Can I advise them which classes to take next semester? Can I sign these forms? Hey, you missed class yesterday, but NO I will not re-teach the entire hour just for you right here in my office.

10:00 a.m. I’m in a committee meeting. We’re deciding which faculty will get sabbaticals next year. I haven’t been here long enough to catch all the references from the old timers, but supposedly that guy in English has been waiting for years so it’s his turn. Hey, if I get tenure, maybe I’ll get a sabbatical! Does sleeping count as scholarly work? I have like, 5 years to catch up on. While they fight over who has contributed to the college longest, I squeeze in 3 extra slides on my PSCI 100 lecture about executive orders.

11:00 a.m. I’m meeting with more undergraduate students. Forget research- they still don’t understand the difference between federal courts and state courts. They really do want to learn (most of them, anyway), but geniuses these kids are not. Remember when I got to do original research on courts? No, I can’t either.

12:00 p.m. I’m teaching, lecturing, guiding, discussing. Classes are small enough that I can call on students by name. This is nice for building an atmosphere of fear, which I need because I’m a young woman in a male-dominated field.

1:00 p.m. Still teaching. In fact, I’ll be teaching for the next 2 hours as well, because my MWF are back-to-back and this is my 4 class load semester.

4:00 p.m. Another committee meeting, or more meetings with students. I MIGHT have five minutes to chat (bitch) with a colleague in the hallway about how the administration might be taking away our free parking spaces. Like I have more room in my paycheck for $50/year parking passes at my place of work?! Shit, we missed that reception thing with the President. We’re going to pay for that later, when they talk about our “collegiality.”

5:00 p.m. I retrieve the kids, and try to remember if we have food to cook in the fridge. Eh, better stop at Wal-Mart anyway because I KNOW I’m out of wine and it’s already been a long week. Is it a bath night? Can I convince my husband to let me work on a conference paper for an hour after dinner? It’s “due” in a week and I haven’t even started.

6:00 p.m. I’m too tired to cook dinner and my husband isn’t home yet, so McDonald’s it is. Those Happy Meals must have addictive properties, because to my kid no other restaurant exists. I get a McDouble with no cheese and that’s it, because I haven’t had time to work out in 6 years so I need to watch the intake. Did I remember to buy an apple to go on the side? Shit, did we have enough money in the account for what I just spent at Wal-Mart?! I think we got paid last Friday…

7:00 p.m. Nick Jr. for the kids because I need time to answer more student emails. They get really touchy if it takes too long (read: longer than 3 hours) for a faculty member to answer, and I have to be sensitive to that because we’re a tuition-driven institution. What time is my husband getting home again? Guess I’m not working on that conference paper until MUCH later. Hmm, I can’t remember what I’m teaching in theory tomorrow… No, theory is not my field, but everyone at my institution has to teach a little bit of everything.

8:00 p.m. Hubby is finally home, exhausted. But glad he’s around, because sometimes he travels for days at a time.  It’s a bath night so to the bathroom we go. We exchange pleasantries about our day while the kids splash. I have my tenure review coming up, so he tells jokes to get my mind off the million ways that could go wrong. He doesn’t really get why academia is so weird, and why I’d work this hard when I don’t even get to do that much research.

9:00 p.m. The kids are put in bed. They won’t be asleep for awhile, but I need to work on that conference paper like, yestermonth. Many faculty members at my institution no longer go to conferences, but I have dreams about moving up so I need to stay up in the field and network my ass off. Is there a conference going somewhere cool next year? I could add a couple days and make it a vacation…. hahahaha just kidding what’s a vacation?

10:00 p.m. Still writing. Still getting student emails.  Also trying to catch up on bill paying, because I have hospital bills from 4 years ago that we’re still paying off.  The constant thrum of bank account balances and bills is always running through my head.

11:00 p.m. I get in bed, mind whirling. I think about picking up a fiction book to read but no, I need to pull out Rousseau and brush up on Emile for tomorrow (God, I hope it’s Emile tomorrow). I finally fall asleep 30 minutes later, without having read much. Let’s be honest, the students haven’t either.

2:00 a.m. The older one needs to pee, and her yelling wakes up the baby. Fantastic!

5:30 a.m. I’m yanked from sleep by my alarm, so I can try to get another 30 minutes of email writing. A new day begins. I hope I have time for research today! Eventually, I will catch up on emails and student meetings and committee meetings and that new pre-law program the administration wants me to start…

*Americanist Bitch also acknowledges that the above description also entails certain privileges, like the tenure track, and a supportive husband. Non-tenure track or adjuncting moms, single moms in academia- what’s YOUR day like?

Hilarious But True · Nature of Academia

The Five Stages of Getting an R&R

You’ve spent months. Maybe years. You’ve run every permutation of your model that could possibly exist.  You’ve gone back and forth with your co-author six thousand times over the best way to word this section on the definition of the word “liberal.”  How many cups of coffee did this take? How much wine?  There’s no way of knowing. You finally submit your article.  You watch, daily, at the Editorial Manager portal.  “With Editor.” “Under Review.” “Required Reviews Completed.” Dear God, here it comes. The Decision.  A rejection. An acceptance. An acceptance with minor revisions.

Oh.  It’s a Revise and Resubmit.

Stage I: Denial

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This article was perfect. What do you mean R&R? This can’t even be right. I’m sure they just checked the wrong box when they submitted their recommendation. Let me re-read the letter. “Dear Author, We enjoyed your article but think it needs major adjustments before we can-” well, fuck.

Stage II: Anger

sparta

Did you not SEE the blood, sweat, and tears that stained the .pdf file?  “MAJOR” revisions? Who do you think you are, Mister or Madam Editor? And don’t think I don’t see you, Reviewer #3.  Did you even READ what we wrote? I’m insulted by your absurd suggestions. You’re just pissed we didn’t cite you. You know what? I’m not even going to revise this at all. This journal is clearly a joke.

Stage III: Bargaining

no-time

“Please, Editor, I will never throw conference shade again if you’ll just accept this article as it is.”  “I’ll make you a deal: what if I promise to volunteer as a discussant for every conference I ever go to again?” “How many articles have I reviewed for your journal? Don’t you owe me?”

Stage IV: Depression

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I’m never going to be a serious scholar. I’m never going to get tenure. Everything I do is terrible, and Reviewer #3 is right: this isn’t even worth being published at all. I should just scrap everything I’m doing and go work for the federal government. And hate it. Like Ron Swanson.

Stage V: Acceptance

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Now wait just one second. An R&R is great. I’m emailing my coauthor right now to tell her about it.  All we have to do is make a few changes, it’s no big deal. Reorganize, reword that definition of “liberal” (because that’s definitely what Reviewer #3 hated most), and add some footnotes. This is great news! I’m putting it on my CV.  Let’s get to work.

 

Being a Woman · Departmental Politics · Nature of Academia

Do Women Support Women?

CAR: In the famous words of Taylor Swift, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  What do we think about her statement?

MT: I do think there is a general problem of women not supporting each other, even when it’s not costly to do so.

CAR: Do you feel like you’ve generally been supported by other women during your career as a political scientist?

MT: There have been women who supported me, and women who actively did not. What about you?

CAR: I absolutely feel that I’ve been supported by other women. When I was pregnant during graduate school, a female faculty member took me out for coffee (half-caf for me!) and helped me navigate how to stay on target to finish while still taking time for myself and my baby. I’ve also had so many positive experiences with women at conferences:  whether it’s going to each other’s panels, nominating each other for awards, or even just having drinks (no boys allowed!).

MT: I’ve had some of those experiences, but I’ve also had a woman tell me, “You won’t succeed as a serious academic if you have children.” I’ve had another woman tell me to “Back off her research agenda.” My favorite, though, was at a conference. I was the only woman on the panel, and afterward, a female journal editor approached every man on the panel to talk to them about submitting something to her journal. But she skipped over me, telling me my outfit was cute.

CAR: Ugh. I did once watch two women in one department argue over which one of them was the one who studied Eastern Europe. They both studied Eastern Europe!

MT:  It’s artificial competition.  I think women perceive a finite number of jobs/achievements/awards available to us, so we feel the need to be competitive rather than supportive.  I see women all the time who get jealous when their friend gets a promotion, even if they’re in completely different fields or places in their careers.

CAR: I definitely think there is a perception that there isn’t enough room for more than a couple of women. Think back to our post about the 7 people in every political science department. Even WE wrote that there is “The Woman,” as though there’s only room for one.  I know we WANT there to be plenty of room for women, but maybe there simply isn’t yet, so we’re defensive about our little corner of political science.  So I think that’s one reason woman fail to support each other. What are others?

MT: I know this sounds petty and shallow, but I think women are hard on very pretty women. Beauty standards in our society have been discussed other places, so for our purposes, let’s acknowledge that they exist.

CAR: I think there’s something to that.  I mean, how many times have you heard something like, “She only got the job because she’s pretty/skinny/has big boobs/etc.?”  If women are even unintentionally buying into that perception, then we’re going to get even more defensive about our corner of political science.

MT: It’s hard just to know you’re not as pretty as someone else, or not perceived as being pretty. Because then you feel like you’re failing at what (society says) a woman is supposed to be there for. You’re right, it plays into defensiveness.  If people already say you got your job because you’re a woman, and then a prettier one comes along, it’s no leap to worry you’re going to be replaced.  That can’t feel good.

CAR: Conversely, knowing someone might be dismissing your hard work and contributions to the discipline because, “You only got the job based on your looks,” can’t feel good either!

MT: Of course not. So, all kinds of women end up feeling defensive and, thus, less supportive.

CAR: Exactly. So maybe we aren’t as supportive of each other as we should be. Maybe we all need to recalibrate our thinking. How can we change our behavior to be more supportive? How can we make Taylor Swift happy?

MT: I think we can focus on “make sure you’re doing your stuff right,” versus, “make sure that other woman isn’t doing better than you.”

CAR: I like that. It’s not a competition.  I have a couple of things I try to do personally to keep myself in a pro-women mindset. First, I consciously try to make sure that some of my professional role models are women. I think it helps me keep away from the mindset that successful people are men/masculine, and helps me try to emulate successful women and feminine behaviors.  Second, I try to build individual relationships with women in my discipline/department/university. I think the defensive instinct is easy to overcome if you just get to know that women who’s way prettier than you are. She’s probably struggling just as much as you. 😉

MT: I love the idea of consciously seeking out female role models and building supportive relationships. My number one reminder to myself is that this is not a zero-sum game. Parts of it are, sure (only one person can get a job) but most of this career isn’t.  We can all succeed at the same time!

CAR: Agreed! And we haven’t even started talking about the differences in experience between women of different backgrounds (ethnicity, socioeconomic, etc).

MT: That’s an important conversation, too.  Women, tell us your experiences! Have you been supported by other women? Undermined by other women? What are your strategies for being supportive?  What do you do when faced with an unsupportive female colleague?

CAR: As Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”  Keep up the great work, women in Political Science (and every other field)! You rock!

wild-tutu-shaking