Disclaimer: We here at Dissent vigorously support the scholarship program and have over the years done so in a variety of capacities. In fact, we recently helped raise more money for creating an endowed scholarship. Rebel Girl is even a former scholarship girl. Thank you Assistance League of Long Beach!
However, we are worried about the program. And we're not the only ones. In the past few months, Rebel Girl has received multiple requests for blog coverage of the program. People she didn't even know read the blog, came up and asked her why she hadn't written about it. She promised she would.
So, here she is, keeping her promise and doing so by way of passing along the concerns she has collected. She will resist the urge to go on and on 'cause she still has papers to grade and finals to give. You know how that is.
|A 1 x 3 inch box for "academic ability & accomplishment"|
The form used this year to solicit recommendations left something to be desired. Ahem. The tiny boxes where one was to submit thoughtful assessments so candidates could be judged deserving of monetary award or not were, well, tiny. How tiny? Too tiny. Even the students with the most modest of achievement deserved more. Considering the form could not be filled in on line, one either had to track down a typewriter (Rebel Girl owns an IBM Selectric) or simply do the best one could with a pen or pencil. The results? Not a pretty sight. And certainly not comprehensive. If it was her money that was being handed out, and Rebel Girl guesses at least some of it was, well, she'd like to think that there was more evidence submitted in order to evaluate candidates.
To be fair, recommenders could submit additional letters — as indeed, Rebel Girl, frustrated by the boxes and the whole set-up, did. She wonders how many others did so.
Well, as one venerable grizzled faculty member quipped, at least this form was better than last year when no recommendations were solicited at all! He shuddered to think of the results of that. Scholarships handed out using - what? - the students' own testimony (at times unreliable, perhaps self-serving)and transcripts. Scandalous. But that was last year.
Concern about the process by which the form was submitted was first brought to Rebel Girl's attention by a student who had asked for a recommendation — and echoed by several faculty members.
Despite the form's header of "Confidential" there was little confidentiality. The applicants were asked to upload or fax the forms themselves, which meant, of course, that they read the assessments written about them. As more than one faculty pointed out, there could be an opportunity to add later information as well, if say an applicant desired to give himself or herself a 5 instead of a 3 in "motivation" or "leadership ability." In addition, Rebel Girl was told by several people that because of this absence of confidentiality, some faculty simply gave the same "score" to each applicant — worried perhaps that the students would compare the forms after receiving them back.
Everyone she spoke with bemoaned the absence of the former system (last seen in 2009) where letters were solicited online, confidentiality intact, with electronic reminders about deadlines, etc.
Evaluation and Criteria
Rebel Girl did go on and on despite her promise not to. Sorry. And she could keep going, but she won't. So there.