UT-Austin professors join movement against analytics company
- Members of the University of Texas at Austin's Faculty Council voted to make a recommendation to the institution that it not use Academic Analytics, a data company known for creating tools that identify low-performing faculty, in particular when it comes to matters of promotion, tenure, salaries and curriculum, among other issues, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Faculty members at UT-Austin join a growing national rebellion of professors against the company, arguing that the firm's data lacks accuracy and prevents growth opportunities for employees, as it produces false rankings. The language of the resolution notes the data "are likely to skew, redirect, narrow, and otherwise have an outsized influence on the type and quality of scholarship produced by UT-Austin faculty."
- Concerns from UT-Austin instructors follow a 2016 statement from the American Association of University Professors, warning against "objective" data models in general, in particular Academic Analytics, saying "some of the firm's metrics are without any qualitative dimension." The document noted that at the time, the company "claims 385 institutional customers in the U.S. and abroad, representing about 270,000 faculty members in 9,000 Ph.D. programs and 10,000 departments."
Faculty buy-in for university initiatives is a key component of effective implementation when it comes to technology or plan adoption. That's why when the word "productivity" used to assess faculty, it can lead to potentially difficult situations, said James Ball, president of Carroll Community College.
“If we used the word ‘productivity’ with faculty, if we used the word ‘throughput’ with faculty, we were going to be in big trouble,” said Ball. “Those are difficult conversations to have on campus. Everyone starts to get a little paranoid about ‘am I going to have a job?,’ and though they won’t come out and tell you that, that’s what’s in the back of their minds.”
In particular, when it comes to the use of data analytics to measure faculty performance, pushback against the data company centers around inaccurate assessment, where supposedly objective scores are produced for professors. The growing faculty rebellion against this measure shows instructors say in how they are being analyzed is highly valued, and Ball can attest to that, adding that sometimes faculty members are best at measuring data for their institutions:
Getting faculty members more involved in performance metrics and benchmarks may be more effective than adopting a third-party analytical tool. Examples of college leaders doing this include Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe, who created steering committees around concerns noted in campus-wide surveys. Robert Morris University President Christopher Howard said he realized it can be hard to get support for change, but often ideas for innovation that come from faculty members receive more support.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education UT-Austin Professors Join Campaign Against Faculty-Productivity Company
- The University of Texas at Austin Office of the General Faculty Resolution from the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility Concerning Academic Analytics
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