Everyone knows there are risks involved when you fill out course evaluations. For some newer professors, these evaluations can be the difference between a stable job at Williams and a life wasted at Bowdoin, or—God forbid—B*tes.
But some faculty members can forgo these worries altogether if they’re fortunate enough to hold a tenured position. Professor Jonathan Thurmond of the Statistics department took some time at the end of the final Zoom meeting of his STAT 200 class to try to put students at ease about the daunting course evaluation process. Thurmond explained that he’s had tenure for years, so “you don’t need to worry about hurting me.”
Thurmond has been bothered for years by the kind words his students always leave for him at the end of the semester. “It’s like they think I’m just some delicate flower who can’t handle a few blows at my organizational skills or intelligence,” he said, gesticulating haphazardly. “But I want them to understand that it’s all ok, it’s all safe, I have tenure. We can have some fun here.”
This initial comment was met with complete comprehension from every student in the class, who had all filled out course evaluations before and all understood what tenure was. But Thurmond wanted to be absolutely certain that he was understood. “If I’ve done a bad job this semester, I want to know. If I’ve maybe done a horrible pathetic job and actively made your life more difficult for the last few months, please tell me. If you’re worried you’ve gone too far, you haven’t gone far enough.”
“Professor Thurmond,” began Jaylen Mansfield ‘22, “I was wondering if you could talk about—”
“Seriously,” reassured Thurmond, “I can take the pain.”
“Um, yeah,” responded Mansfield, “I was just wondering about Nash—”
“I guess I’m not really like other professors,” continued Thurmond, winking coyly as he spoke. “So if you have something you need to say about me, say it. Even if it hurts.” Thurmond leaned in closer to his camera. “Especially if it hurts,” he whispered.