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Reshaping Professor Accountability

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Susqu chapter.

On the website Diverse Issues of Education, an article written by college professors called ‘Whose Responsibility Is It? The Role of Faculty in Student Success’ states that “Professors provide the collateral for the bag. Students earn that collateral through exerting their energy and effort toward obligations outlined in the contract. These represent the informational elements for success.” As a reader, I view this as the statement as we give the student the knowledge or tools to obtain the knowledge, and it is my job, as the student, to work my butt off to put in the work to obtain it. To an extent, I agree. As college students, I feel it is up to us to have more autonomy when it comes to our learning and to be more responsible for our learning. I don’t agree with the role of a professor to simply give us tools and expect us to get the work done ourselves. 

What I don’t understand is the sudden shift? How come a student’s performance in college solely projects the student’s ability, while in high school teachers are also to blame when a student’s performance dips below the expected outcome? As a secondary education major, one thing that has been stressed to me about going to teach high school is how my test scores will reflect on my performance and teaching ability. Yet, in the college setting, I feel as though I have repeatedly been witness to or been in a class where the majority fail and few flourish, and the students are often blamed as we are adults, and our efforts are called weak. When I reflect on those classes, I remember the professors, not the work. The confusing ways of phrasing assignments or their unapproachable demeanor makes it hard to ask questions, which made my success hard, but I ended up failing and losing a part of my tuition due to it. 

So, when time comes for course evaluations, I made sure that my experience was reflected in my commentary and critique of the teaching and instruction type. That way they could look at my feedback and insight as a student and see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. But after a few conversations with other professors at my old college, it was clear how little some see the feedback. Others mark the evaluations as unreliable, and some of that comes from real issues that arise. Inside Higher Ed cites one of those reasons being sexism towards female professors but suggests fixing the prevalence of issues by switching to a Likert type question prompt. Even so, in many of the articles based on college professors’ experiences, they talk about being aware of separating themselves from the critiques. Yet, less emphasis is put on the student’s words due to this basis that their feedback is unreliable at its core.

In many cases, students are passive and keep their complaints to their circle of friends and in very few cases they will take it to a department head. Some people are not even familiar with this as an option or aware it is an option until it is too late. As someone who went through this process to report a professor, I only found out I could do this because I cried to my adviser over an insensitive comment that singled me out. The Daily Nebraskan details how not knowing this proper channel of complaints resulted in lower grades and accommodations not being met. Sometimes even with these proper channels, the issues still go unresolved and student performance is affected and professors go unharmed by their failure.

Lou Buttino wrote for The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal in his ongoing articles about how to hold professors accountable for their practices and calls the disregard for accountability for staff “intentional” by the university. He looked into the board and legal systems within the college and how students are held to a vastly larger standard than the professors. Buttino’s words, I believe, perfectly describe his struggles with the board judgment, he says, “it quickly became clear that the process for judging accusations and disputes for students is vastly superior to that of the faculty. This is wrong. Faculty should be held to a much higher standard than their students. We are classroom role models. We are supposed to set an example and inspire imitation. But the mechanisms in place to uphold faculty standards are ineffectual.” I believe that as students, it is our role to change this. 

Now you may say, it is a part of the education system. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers, and you have to just sit through and try your best with the bad teachers. But this issue affects our education more than just confidence and grades, it affects the way we think and use the information. According to The New York Times, 45% of students see no gain and stay stagnant in their critical thinking and writing skills, which means in the over 20,000 dollars I spend to better my education on my subject, I will have barely, if any, improvement due to the teaching methods of these teachers. What can we do besides call out and ask for change.

Here are my top issues through my readings that would help in changing the narrative and shift more of the responsibility onto professors to hold up their end of the ‘contract’ mentioned by the Diverse Issues of Education article.

  • Reform Board Reviews of Faculty Complaints

Buttino brings up the differences between the disciplinary committees for students and faculty, where teachers are given more chances to defend themselves and prepare their defenses. He cites things like no file tracking a professional wrongdoing to determine a pattern or the way questions are handed out and responded. If we call for professors to be held to the same standards as professors, professors will be more inclined to follow their expected behaviors. By advocating for paper trails to be formed, there are things to look back on and reference to create cases against professors who consistently abuse their power and call for real action to happen to protect our education. 

  • Flagging of Course Evaluations

While the course evaluations go to the department head or the dean of the certain college already, I feel as though there should be a new system to call out problematic trends in these evaluations. If the overall averages dip beyond a certain point, the department heads have to do a thorough review and meet with the professor to deal with the concerns. If it continues, there is a disciplinary action procedure put in place by the university. This way student suggestions and feedback have a direct impact on the classroom, and the professors. Now this makes the role of a professor even more stressful and scared of their students, but if implemented, will put more importance and emphasis on the role of their positions in the classroom. This will make them more responsible for the content and delivery to their students and drive them to work to build those connections which will positively impact their relationships. By having these measures set in place, this causes us as students to have direct responsibility for the student to pave the instruction and resources made available to them and other students. 

  • Reviews of Professors from Evaluations when registering

What if you were able to see a rating for each professor before you registered for the class? You would probably make different and more informed decisions on the classes you choose to take or be more prepared to enter a different academic environment. I propose a built in ‘Rate Your Professor’ that provides average scores of the evaluations that students can refer to when picking their classes. Through this process, it will teach students to research classes that can be transferred into researching companies to find one sustainable to their needs and requirements. This can also aid students in finding professors who will provide the necessary teaching style and engagement with students that will help them to succeed in the class and understand the material.

If we want to truly take autonomy in college, we as students must put in the work to change the systems meant to weaken our stakes. On average, every year a student spends $36,436 on tuition according to the Education Data Initiative. That is a high amount that most people will be indebted for to not have a say in the methods. Change does not happen when we stay silent and complicit with the injustices thrusted upon us. So talk and spread your voice. Go to your student government organizations. Talk to the deans and presidents when you get the chance. Make your feedback matter.


Buttino, Lou. “Faculty Accountability Is Terrible-Even Students Have Better Standards.” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, 10 May 2018, www.jamesgmartin.center/2018/04/faculty-accountability-is-terrible-even-students-have-better-standards/.

Cheree Wiltsher, Errick D. Farmer. “Whose Responsibility Is It? The Role of Faculty in Student Success.” Diverse, 26 June 2018, www.diverseeducation.com/students/article/15102733/whose-responsibility-is-it-the-role-of-faculty-in-student-success.

Cowan, Jon, and Jim Kessler. “How to Hold Colleges Accountable.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/opinion/how-to-hold-colleges-accountable.html.

Flaherty, Colleen. “Study: Student Evaluations of Teaching Are Deeply Flawed.” Inside Higher Ed | Higher Education News, Events and Jobs, 26 Feb. 2020, www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/02/27/study-student-evaluations-teaching-are-deeply-flawed.

Halonen, Jane. “Measuring up: How to Manage Those Dreaded Course Evaluations.” Chronicle, 1 June 2023, www.chronicle.com/article/measuring-up-how-to-manage-those-dreaded-course-evaluations.Hanson, Melanie, and Fact Checked. “Average Cost of College [2023]: Yearly Tuition + Expenses.” Education Data Initiative, 6 Sept. 2023, educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college.

Haley Lynch is a junior at Susquehanna University and acts as the Director of social media/Marketing and Vice President for HerCampus at Susquehanna. She covers topics ranging from pop culture to more serious topics that affect everyday students. Her work uses pop culture to understand deeper-rooted issues in society. Originally from Maryland, this is her first year at Susquehanna and she previously attended a different university in South Carolina. Since being at Susquehanna, Haley has done many things in varying roles and levels besides HerCampus. From executive roles with the Sex Ed club on campus to editor at Her Campus, she has kept herself very busy and on the go. All this is on top of creating her own art on the side. In her free time, you can catch Haley either watching Dance Moms (Team Chloe!) or writing short films. You might catch her dancing around her room listening to Fleetwood Mac or Boy Genius with her cat, Atlas, or sitting outside writing poems or stories. If you want to make a fast friend, simply reference Taylor Swift or ask her how the kids she babysits are doing and you will have won her heart.