William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Research on student teaching evaluations is vast. An examination of this research demonstrates wide disagreements but also substantial consensus of authority for the proposition that student evaluations should be used only with extreme care, if at all, in making personnel decisions. A number of reasons cause administrators to use teaching evaluations for personnel decisions. The literature, however, is virtually unanimous in its condemnation of norming student evaluations in order to rank classroom performances. Current cases on academic freedom indicate some retrenchment by the Circuits from broader pronouncements in earlier Supreme Court cases. This paper concludes that the use of non-validated student evaluations alone without any other criteria for teaching effectiveness raises substantial problems in faculty retention and promotion decisions. It also suggests that such an approach in the right case might violate academic freedom and the First Amendment.