Student Senate wants evaluation data released

University of Minnesota professors will be receiving an e-mail and personal appeals from the Student Senate encouraging them to release data from semester end evaluations.

Luke Feuerherm

University of Minnesota professors will be receiving an e-mail and personal appeals from the Student Senate encouraging them to release data from semester end evaluations. The last nine questions on the professor evaluations are intended to be public information, the results of which are to appear on the University Web site âÄî if the professor being evaluated chooses to make the results public. However, because only 10 percent of professors have opted to publicize those results, One Stop chose to stop updating the data on the site. The most recent data available on the UniversityâÄôs Web site is from 2007. Currently, 185 faculty members have opted to release this information. âÄúWe give them a link and then they must sign in and sign up,âÄù said Karen Zentner Bacig, associate to the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs. In order to make the data public, the faculty member must register online and then choose whether they would like to opt-in permanently or on a semester-by-semester basis. The Student Senate hopes its campaign will help proliferate faculty opt-in rates. âÄúWeâÄôll wait and see what kind of yield we get this semester from faculty,âÄù Student Senate chairwoman Kathy Julik-Heine said. âÄúIf itâÄôs a higher yield, then that will also improve the chances of getting the data online.âÄù The current University system is more sophisticated than the University of WisconsinâÄôs, which currently has no institutional requirements regarding course evaluations, said Eden Inoway-Ronnie, chief of staff at the Office of the Provost at the University of Wisconsin. The Associated Students of Madison used to post student course evaluations but donâÄôt anymore because they were not viewed often by students, Inoway-Ronnie said. The Student Senate and some faculty feel that public University evaluations can offer a valuable alternative to sites like RateMyProfessors.com. âÄúUsually the only [people] that want to go review things are ones that are not happy,âÄù said journalism professor Nora Paul, who opted in to public evaluations and sees them as more consistently gathered and pertinent than data gathered on other sites. Not all University faculty members agree on the value of course evaluations, however. Physics professor Kenneth Heller compared public University evaluations to RateMyProfessors.com, saying that both reveal more about a studentâÄôs enjoyment as opposed to what was learned by students. âÄúOne should make things public if they were the right questions. I donâÄôt think this group of questions is completely meaningful for students,âÄù said Heller, who said it is unlikely he will opt in. âÄúItâÄôs not a matter of what people like; itâÄôs a matter of what is valuable.âÄù Heller said he even prefers the âÄúhorribleâÄù RateMyProfessors.com service over a public University option because students are aware that the data from such sites is biased. Proponents of public evaluations do see value in the current questions, which have been amended by the Student Senate as recently as 2007. âÄúMy sense is we are probably doing pretty well now, after changes in evaluation questions were made,âÄù said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at the University. The senate will reconvene Feb. 18 and will meet with the Office of Measurement Services over how many professors have opted in.