I think I agree with conservative Texans (and it scares me a little)

In the course of procrastinating/poking around on the Internets, I came across this CHE article, “Professors in Texas Protest Law That Requires Them to Post Teaching Details Online.” It’s behind their firewall, so I will paraphrase.  And let me say at the outset that I am obviously uncomfortable in finding that I agree with conservatives, let alone Texan conservatives.  I fear I am missing some of the more controversial points of this provision, so if anyone who knows better can correct me on what I’m not getting, please do so.

Here’s how the article opens:

Faculty members and administrators in Texas are speaking out about a recent state law that requires them to post specific, detailed information about their classroom assignments, curricula vitae, department budgets, and the results of student evaluations.

A conservative group whose administrators have close ties to Gov. Rick Perry lobbied for the law, saying it offers important “consumer protection.” Opponents counter that it has created an expensive and time-consuming burden and offers little benefit to the public.

Beginning this fall, universities will have to post online a syllabus for every undergraduate course, including major assignments and examinations, reading lists, and course descriptions.

Curricula vitae must include a faculty member’s teaching experience and contributions to professional publications. All of the information must be no more than three clicks away from the college’s home page.

Colleges are required to assign compliance duties to a campus administrator and, every other year, send a written report to the governor and legislative leaders.

Okay, I have some questions/concerns– what exactly does the law mean by “specific, detailed information,” for example?  And what’s the nature of this report to be submitted to the governor and legislative leaders?

Still… what’s the big deal here?  I mean, I have posted pretty specific classroom assignments, readings lists, course descriptions, and the like on the web for years and years.  Lots of people I know have some version of the CV up online, including me (though mine is not at all complete and it is a little out of date).  Basic results of student evaluations have been available to students at EMU for years, and there is a little site called ratemyprofessor.com that has been doing a problematic version of public student evaluations for years.  I think it would awesome if the administration would be a little more forthcoming about institutional budgets. And quite frankly, given all the horseshit reports that administrators make faculty write in the name of program review, accountability, and “strategery,” I think it is more than fair to make the administrators write a few horseshit reports themselves.

Here’s how the article ends:

Theresa J.C. Norman, an instructor of philosophy at South Texas College, calls the reporting requirements “a waste of time.”

Ms. Norman, who is also president of the South Texas Faculty Association, also resents what she sees as the law’s underlying assumptions. “You get the feeling that the government sees us as slackers,” she says. By requiring professors to list every assignment, she says the law interferes with her ability to respond to students’ interests and current events and shift to different topics during the semester.

Texas Tech University has spent $85,000 upgrading its server and hiring an administrator to train faculty members how to create digitally-searchable CV’s and syllabi that will meet the law’s requirements, according to Valerie O. Paton, vice president for planning and assessment.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst, wanted to protect students and tuition-paying parents at a time of rising college costs, according to her chief of staff, Chris Steinbach. “Enrolling in a course and finding that it’s not what you needed can be an expensive mistake,” he says.

If this law means that faculty have to give REALLY specific details about assignments to the point where it is not possible for changes/modifications to the course, then I would agree.  But is that what this law is saying?  Really?

And an $85,000 server upgrade and training for faculty?!? Really.  Really? How hard is it to slap a PDF up on the web nowadays?

Now, I will admit that I teach in a state and at a university that is considerably more left-leaning than Texas, and I also don’t teach in an area that is particularly controversial.  I mean, the public at large gets a lot more “excited” about the politics of teaching evolution in biology or “dirty books” in literature than they do about teaching the controversies about writing and technology.  I don’t think I have to worry too much about Teabaggers coming after me for English 328.

Still, what’s the big deal here?  What am I missing?

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