SGA fights for transparency in teacher evaluations
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
As another quarter comes to a close, students are beginning to receive those persistent email reminders to fill out course evaluations. For those students who choose to ignore the incessant emails, they may soon find an incentive to fill them out.
New SGA President Caroline Winsett and Vice President Casey Clemmons are following in former President Anthony Alfano’s footsteps in making course evaluations public information for DePaul students. According to Winsett, this would be “a more secure and accurate methodology” for rating courses than Rate My Professor or word of mouth.
SGA is working with Academic Affairs, information services and the faculty in every college to try to make this happen. To support their request, they’ve compiled data from 39 different colleges and universities across the country about public course evaluations. More than half of the schools in the SGA report have already made their evaluations public to students or have plans to do it.
Winsett feels that public course evaluations allow students’ voices to be heard. If the plan goes through, students will be able to log onto Campus Connect, click on a “View Recent Course Evaluations” tab and see bar graphs with an average of ratings. The data will not include individual students’ comments about the course or feedback about the particular professor who taught the course.
Nonetheless, some faculty members are opposed to the idea. Winsett said most of the faculty she talked to felt comfortable with the idea, but others remain worried. Jacqueline Taylor, the dean of the College of Communication, said the majority of the faculty in her college is opposed to public course evaluations.
“They feel like it’s their personal information,” Taylor said.
SGA gave a presentation to the college last week about public course evaluations. Some professors argued that it would be better to make syllabi and course descriptions available instead. They don’t feel the course evaluations are necessary for students to make decisions about which courses they want to take.
It’s no surprise that more students than professors would advocate for public course evaluations. But it may be surprising to some students which teachers are opposed and which are not.
“A number of the faculty who are arguing this and opposing it are stunning teachers,” Taylor said. “They get amazing evaluations.”
This could be because professors are afraid students will make decisive judgments too quickly. “People need a chance to teach a class for the first time, get better at it, teach it for a year, get better at it,” Taylor said.
Ultimately, the president and provost of the university will make the decision about whether or not course evaluations will be made public and how this rule will be implemented. Right now, it seems it will be up to each college to decide. The College of Computing and Digital Media and the law school have already made course evaluations public for their students, but the rest of the colleges are still trying to make a decision.
Some students fill out course evaluations quickly without much thought or don’t fill them out at all, a problem for the university. But making course evaluations public to students might enhance the importance of the evaluations in their eyes.
“It would influence my decision,” Emily Rachel, a graduate women’s and gender studies student, said. “It creates a different accountability for professors and students.”
Whether or not the course evaluations will be made public for students in all colleges at DePaul, there’s one thing this debate brought to light for both students and faculty.
“In this college, and I think across the university,” Taylor said, “we take course evaluations very seriously.”