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Letters to the Editor

Ocean of Disinformation on Climate

Almost a year has passed since the September 2014 People’s Climate March, which was supported by our union. The important UN-sponsored conference on climate change in Paris is only a few months away. How good are its chances to limit the coming climate catastrophes? Not good at all, as things stand.

In 1997, about the time of the Kyoto negotiations, US policy, as clearly signaled by deeds more than words, was to do nothing about the problem. There has been no change since, and the world has had to put up with it.

As for the global accord to be concluded in Paris, there is no talk of common legislation or common financing. Governments are in the process of submitting plans for their targets on greenhouse gas reductions. The New York Times reported on these, and notes that experts say targets are almost certainly insufficient. That’s all. Is there any hope left? The situation is widely known; now we also have Laudato Si, the encyclical of Pope Francis, in which he tells it like it is. There are positive initiatives by President Obama, by Mayor de Blasio, but there is also an ocean of disinformation. Our best chance lies in spreading correct information as widely as possible. Clarion could have a part in this.

Adam Koranyi
Lehman College

Clarion Editor Adele M. Stan responds: Clarion welcomes articles from members who are engaged in the fight against climate change and the battle for sustainability. Send us a pitch at astan@pscmail.org.

40 years of research unheeded

The important and well-reasoned article by Shomial Ahmad, “Student surveys under scrutiny” in the July 2015 issue of Clarion, brought to mind that serious discussion and research about this topic has been going on at least since the 1970s. In a 1972 issue of Science magazine, psychologist Miriam Rodin and mathematician Burton Rodin published an article titled “Student Evaluations of Teachers” that noted, “Students rate most highly instructors from whom they learn the least.”

Here are two quotes taken from the end of their paper that I believe reflect their conclusions: 1) “There is evidence that student evaluations, to a large extent, tend to reflect the personal and social qualities of an instructor, ‘who he [or she] is’ rather than ‘what he [or she] does.’” 2) “The major defense for defining good teaching in terms of good scores on the student evaluation forms is based on an analogy between the student and the consumer … However, the present data indicate that students are less than perfect judges of teaching effectiveness if the latter is measured by how much they have learned.”

As Ahmad’s article points out, a valid measure of student evaluations for teachers has not yet been devised, and I am not sure that one ever will be given the difficulty of validating such an instrument. If such an instrument could be devised, it might be useful as a feedback mechanism for improvement. But with the increasing and simplistic desire of administrators to reduce a teacher’s competence to a single number, it behooves all instructors and the union to be very careful in how student evaluations are allowed to be used.

If readers have difficulty in finding copies of the full text of the articles mentioned, I would be happy to supply them by email (hcarroll123@comcast.net).

Harvey F. Carroll (emeritus)
Kingsborough Community College

Pricey keys at Hostos

Thank you for publishing the July 2015 article regarding our key replacement policy at Hostos and its fee rates. At our last Labor Management meeting in May, we brought to the attention of David Gómez, then the Hostos acting president, the problem of this long-running policy with its high replacement fees. The policy has been in place since before Dolores Fernández was our president (1999-2008). With the other Executive Council members of our chapter, I asked Dr. Gómez to revisit this policy and consider eliminating this punitive approach, which stands in contrast to the modest fees charged for replacement keys at other CUNY institutions. We are looking forward to our first Labor Management Meeting with Dr. Gómez, now our newly appointed president, to learn of his decision concerning our request to bring Hostos’ key fees in line with those of the other colleges.

A point of clarification regarding your story: Although the fee the college administration charges faculty and staff for the replacement of master keys is indeed $100 (including bathroom keys), the fee that I was charged for the lost key to my office was $25, as it was not a master. Nevertheless, compared with the fees charged for replacement keys at all the other CUNY campuses, which range from $0 to $15, our key replacement fees are much higher.

Lizette Colón
Hostos CC Chapter Chair

Corrections to July 2015 issue

In a caption for the photo at the bottom of page 6, we mistakenly labeled PSC member Marjaline Vizcarrondo (second from right, top row) as a student. We regret the error.

On page 7, the photograph of Alex Vitale (bottom, right) should have been credited to Stephen Lovekin, not Dave Sanders.

In the byline and photo credit for Alice Ollstein’s page 9 article, “Scott Walker’s war on the University of Wisconsin,” the author’s name was misspelled.