Bargaining regarding faculty evaluation is challenging in an environment in which administrators throughout higher education have successfully imposed corporate-style forms of evaluation and supervision that many have come to accept as normal, despite their incompatibility with principles of academic freedom and peer-review. Student surveys of teaching are increasingly central to this management strategy, despite the growing body of evidence indicating bias against historically marginalized groups in student survey results. This paper presents a case study of contract negotiations undertaken in 2016 at Dutchess Community College (SUNY) in Poughkeepsie, New York. During these negotiations the college administration sought to expand the use of “student evaluations of teaching” (SET) despite significant evidence that student feedback provides limited meaningful evaluative content concerning teaching and is shaped by gender, racial, and ethnic bias, as well as bias against academic rigor. We describe our effort to maintain a peer-based evaluation of student survey data, including the published research we used during negotiations and our experience with interest-based bargaining. We also analyze the strengths and weaknesses of our approach and results. These results include a successful effort to maintain the practice of limiting review of qualitative student feedback to peer-based review between faculty and department chairs within academic departments, although there was a limited but significant expansion of administrative oversight of some quantitative student survey data. Additionally, we were able to restrict the role of student feedback with contract language that limits the use of student survey results in faculty evaluation and requires that all consideration of these data be undertaken with evidence-based insight that student feedback is an important but limited vehicle for understanding the effectiveness of an individual’s teaching. Finally, an all-faculty committee of full-time and part-time faculty charged with evaluating the survey form and process was contractually established.

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