Tenure Lawsuit Challenges Privacy of Student Evaluations

March 30, 2015 / Phil Lesch

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 26th, 2015

Should the confidentiality shrouding students’ evaluations of college instructors always be protected, even if it might conceal violations of the law?

A California state court is expected to take up that question on Thursday in response to Pomona College’s refusal to grant access to such records to a former professor suing the college for discrimination.

Lawyers for Alma Martinez, to whom the private college denied tenure and who was dismissed as an assistant professor of theater in 2013, are seeking copies of students’ evaluations not only of Ms. Martinez but also of faculty members who, unlike her, received tenure at Pomona in recent years.

In asking a state Superior Court in Los Angeles to compel Pomona to hand over such documents, her lawyers argue that the court cannot fairly weigh her claim of being discriminated against as a Hispanic woman without giving them access to the student evaluations that informed the college’s tenure decision.

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