Policy allows critique of profs

Sarah Hallonquist

University students will soon have the opportunity to give more detailed critiques of their instructors’ performances because of a policy change approved Thursday by the Student Senate and University Senate.
At professors’ discretion, students could then view this information via the World Wide Web.
The decision represents a culmination of more than a year’s worth of proposals and lobbying from student and faculty groups who grappled with changes to the evaluation system.
The new set of 10 questions will be incorporated into all evaluation forms used by the University’s four campuses by the end of spring quarter. They won’t replace any questions now listed on the forms.
Devised for expanding information for course selection, the questions focus on class structure, teaching style and student satisfaction.
In addition, the results could be available on a Web site that students could access via their user name and password. Professors would receive the information and have the option of releasing it for public access. Because student evaluations are legally considered private information, professors can’t be forced to reveal the data.
“I don’t think the questions are that threatening to faculty,” said Laura Koch, chairwoman of the Senate’s Educational Policy Committee. “It’s hard to say whether faculty would or wouldn’t release the information.”
In both senate meetings, members discussed the policy at length before approval. Faculty concerns centered on whether the information would be used in tenure or promotion consideration and in what form it would be released. Students raised concerns about the response format in the new questionnaire, dubbed “FORM SR.”
In the student meeting, Sen. Susan Daniels said the yes-or-no format on some of the questions was not an accurate measure for determining what a structured learning environment was for individual students.
“There’s no opportunity to say there was a change in teaching style,” she said. “It’s either yes or no; I find that not very useful.”
While she voted in favor of the motion, Daniels urged rewording of questionnaire responses.
Darwin Hendel, a senior analyst in the Office of Planning and Analysis who has been working on the project, said rewording of questions and responses could be handled during the implementation process this spring.
“It’s not intended to affect the quality of the courses,” Hendel said. “The intent is for student decision- making.”
Hendel said one potential outcome of releasing the data could be a decrease in students canceling and adding classes during the beginning of the quarter.
Plans for implementation of the new form will be discussed in April.