What If Students Could Fire Their Professors?

April 26, 2015

“Welcome to Iowa State University. May I take your paper, please?”

A bill circulating in the Iowa state Senate would rate professors’ performance based on student evaluations. Just student evaluations.

Low-rated professors would be automatically fired — no tenure, no appeals.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican, argues that too many students are taking on student loan debt but not getting their money’s worth in the classroom. “Professors need to understand that their customers are those students,” Chelgren told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Though the bill appears unlikely to pass, it has made national news because of the broader debate around student debt, the cost of college and what, exactly, students are getting for their money.

And therein lies the paradox. Yes, students are paying, often handsomely, for their degree. But they’re not exactly customers, either. They’re participants in an experience — one that is meant to be challenging, even grueling.

And that’s why simple satisfaction surveys may not be the best measure of professors’ performance, as our previous reporting explains.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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