I first heard from a colleague of mine that New York University dismissed a faculty member for making tests too difficult; only later did I learn that it was Professor Maitland Jones, who tried to teach me organic chemistry in 1971-72. I didn’t learn all that much, and deserved the grades I got (C+, C-). It never occurred to me to blame him.
I had as a sophomore discovered that reading The New York Times over a third or fourth cup of coffee in the dining hall was much more pleasant than going to my first class of the morning, organic chemistry lecture. The course was taught with 19th century technology: blackboards that slid up to reveal another board underneath. I decided that if I got to class before the boards were all filled and the first erased, I could hurriedly copy everything (whatever it all meant) into my notes. Not a successful learning strategy!
Although I still cringe when anyone mentions organic chemistry, the experience didn’t ruin my life. I learned some things about being a student and went on to a career as a college professor.
The moral of this story is surely that college sophomores aren’t qualified to evaluate the level of rigor of their courses. Student evaluations provide a valuable source of information on whether professors come to class on time, end on time, attend their office hours, and other such mechanics, but couldn’t faculty in the department, a department head, or a dean have actually attended his lectures, evaluated the exams, and produced a professional evaluation?