Faculty senate approves online prof evaluations

By Hailey Hudson

Corrections: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Professor Sharon Bruns and contained an incorrect vote count.

The Faculty Senate laid to rest the paper Teacher-Course Evaluation Process (TCEP) at their Feb. 28 meeting. No later than the 2008-09 school year, evaluations will be accessible online, through Blackboard.

The TCEP is considered an outdated system said MJ Paradiso, Student Government Association (SGA) vice president for academic affairs. He said its flaws are mainly convoluted format and its lengthy processing time.

In the end there were four votes against the proposal and two abstentions, and the issue sparked debate on the Senate floor. The main source of hostility stemmed from the uncertainty faculty members expressed allowing students to access evaluations themselves, online, instead of being “forced” to fill them out during class.

“Are people going to be sober when they’re doing this?” asked Professor Alan Zaremba.

In response, a senate member said, “What makes you think they’re sober in class?”

An initial shock filled the room and then timid laughter ensued.

Provost Ahmed Abdelal kept the meeting on track, and said teacher evaluations are a serious matter.

“We want to make sure that the tenure-track faculty are competent,” Abdelal said.

Paradiso who was the principal architect said the new form represented a “change in culture,” and acknowledged such a change could be difficult at first.

“We should have a student voice in everything; especially in this,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean James Stellar.

Sharon Bruns, a senate member, said the percentage of students expected to completely and diligently fill out the new evaluations is 50 percent, which she called an unsatisfactory percentage of participation.

“We don’t want a 50 percent response rate, we want closer to 80 to 90 percent,” Bruns said.

Paradiso said going online would not only increase student participation, but would also benefit professors by allowing a shorter processing period.

Currently, the scanning and editing of evaluations takes months. The new forms would already be typed and legible, cutting the processing time down a substantial amount, he said.

The website “Rate My Professor” was brought up during the meeting. While the site is viewed as a beneficial resource by students, the faculty expressed scorn of the student use of the website.

Professors said they felt the new evaluations would allow students to turn to an accurate source of evaluation when choosing future classes.

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