Some public universities in Texas plan to reward professors who receive high marks on student evaluations, but TCU will not join these efforts anytime soon, Chancellor Victor Boschini said.
The university is always willing to consider new ways to reward faculty, Boschini wrote in an e-mail. However, he would like to see research on the subject, he added.
At Texas A&M University, up to $10,000 will be awarded to professors who rank highest on end-of-semester evaluations, said Rod Davis, manager of communications media at Texas A&M. Davis said he and the university’s student government see this as a positive way to acknowledge professors.
Others, however, including some faculty members, are skeptical of students evaluating professors and worry that this system could encourage professors to make their courses easier.
Manochehr Dorraj, professor of political science, said he sees positives to A&M’s policy, crediting the institution for rewarding good teaching and encouraging faculty to invest more time in their work. However, he remains wary of potential dangers, he said.
Dorraj said a drawback could be the temptation for professors to make their courses easier to cater to the students because faculty whose classes are more difficult are sometimes evaluated negatively by students who are just looking for an easy A.
A peer-review process could help decide whether a faculty member should receive the bonus, he said.
“I like to think most of our students are mature enough to distinguish between a good professor and an easy one,” Dorraj said. “But at the same time, I have come across faculty who get poor evaluations because they teach a demanding course.”
The A&M system implemented the Student Led Awards for Teaching Excellence last semester at its main College Station campus in addition to its Kingsville and Prairie View campuses, Davis said.
Students were responsible for making questionnaires, distributing them to faculty and evaluating them. The professors voluntarily chose to participate, Davis said.
“We purposely set this up so that it would be student-run,” Davis said.
The student senate voted to approve the system, while the faculty senate voted against it, he said.
“Some faculty have said this is a popularity contest,” Davis said. “They can say that if they want to, but it’s kind of an insult to the students, who are the ones formulating the questionnaire.”
Frank Ashley, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Texas A&M, assisted the students in areas that required expertise, such as polling the questions and calculating the statistics to evaluate them, Davis said.
Five hundred faculty members from the three campuses chose to participate and be evaluated last semester, Davis said. The results are currently being tabulated and will be released in late February.
Funding for the faculty awards came from a grant that A&M system Chancellor Michael D. McKinney took out of a $1 million budget. McKinney is seeking $12 million to extend the program to each of Texas A&M’s nine campuses, Davis said.
Davis has not heard any complaints from students concerning this system, and said he sides with the student leadership in supporting the idea.
“These teachers don’t get paid enough, he said. “So if they do a good job, let’s help them out and encourage them.”
Such a system would probably not be necessary at TCU because good teaching is so highly valued, Dorraj said. Relationships between students and professors are very important and professors are encouraged to invest time into their teaching, he said.
Matt Maurer, sophomore business major, said he thinks that implementing such a reward system at TCU could potentially lower the integrity of the staff. He said that while faculty may not blatantly make their courses easier, professors might curve more exams, lessening the gap between the student who works hard and the one who just gets by.
Dorraj said he would never make his classes easier for a pay raise, even if TCU decided to adopt a system similar to that of Texas A&M’s.
“Nothing worth while comes easy in life,” he said.