Roundtable The Battle over Assessment and Ranking of History Departments

AHA Session 77
Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 203 (Hynes Convention Center)
James R. Grossman, American Historical Association
Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Loyola University Chicago , Carol S. Lasser, Oberlin College , Earl Lewis, Emory University and Gerald Zahavi, University at Albany (State University of New York)

Session Abstract

Business management tools and personnel increasingly dominate both private and public institutions of all sorts. Heavily influenced by business models and trends, university and college administrators have in recent years adopted such tools and subcontracted with management firms to make important resource allocation decisions. "Business analytics" (BA), a current hot trend in management schools, seems to be sweeping the academic realm, with all sorts of tools -- descriptive modeling, data mining, forecasting, simulation, and experimental design software -- being introduced to measure scholarly productivity and departmental and program quality.

In the wake of the most recent financial crisis, with BA promoters claiming ever-more-urgently that such tools will optimize decision making in a period of diminishing resources, it is hardly surprising to find American colleges and universities in the center of a major cultural and intellectual battle over the relevance and validity of new scholarly assessment tools and methods with critics arguing, among other things, that the assessment methods are seriously flawed and may have unanticipated and deleterious impacts on scholarly activities.

The panelists will assess the validity of some commonly used assessment instruments and the claims made by their proponents and critics, exploring the consequences for history (and humanities departments more generally), of their growing use. They will also explore alternative models of humanities and history department assessments.

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