Publishing professor evaluations face obstacles

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    A system to publish professor evaluations supported by a Student Government Association resolution that passed two years ago faces many hurdles, an SGA official said.

    Candace Ruocco, SGA academic affairs committee chair, said getting relevant and objective information about professors published for students would be time consuming and require a lot of extra work. The university already evaluates professors as part of a mandatory procedure at the end of the semester, she said.

    Every semester, the university compiles student-generated evaluations aimed at giving professors feedback on their course.

    Ruocco said another concern is that there are several adjunct professors, and it would require even more time to gather information from them.

    An SGA resolution passed in 2006 states the Academic Affairs Committee is in charge of developing a system to evaluate professors and publish the evaluations. Unlike bills, resolutions are nonbinding.

    Myra Mills, SGA parliamentarian, said getting students to take the evaluations seriously is another concern.

    “I think if students knew that the evaluations were going to help other students then they would take them more seriously,” Mills said.

    Mills said the program that closely resembles what the resolution aims to implement is a Web site called RateMyProfessors.com, which is not affiliated with TCU.

    RateMyProfessors.com is the Internet’s largest database of student-generated, collegiate professor ratings, according to the Web site.

    Catherine Wehlburg, executive director of the Office for Assessment and Quality, said the current course evaluations are designed to give feedback to faculty on their performance. Publishing the evaluations would be using them in a way in which they were not designed, Wehlburg said. The evaluation should provide information to improve the current course, not evaluate how a teacher might be viewed by a student, she said.

    Mills said among the things students may want to know about professors is information about their teaching style and their grading policy.

    Knowing how much tests are worth or if the professor grades attendance may affect a student’s decision to take that class, Mills said. Making that information available to students would be helpful resource, she said.

    Ruocco said the resolution is a good idea, adding she is interested in doing research and seeing if her committee can come up with a way to make progress on the resolution. She said she isn’t sure about what other information SGA would compile for the evaluation.

    Teresa Blackwell, a Spanish professor, said she has no problem with the information being published, but said she doesn’t think it would be beneficial to students. The purpose of the evaluations is for professors to see where they need to improve or what they are doing that students like, Blackwell said.

    As far as how seriously students take the current course evaluations, Blackwell said most students do take them seriously, and the evaluations are valid.

    However, Claire Sanders, a history professor, said she has a problem with the publishing of evaluations. Evaluations are part of personnel records for professors and are confidential, Sanders said. As for SGA-compiled evaluations, Sanders said she isn’t sure if she would want them published. It would depend on what information SGA is looking for, she said.

    Professors make adjustments to their syllabi over time, Sanders said. If students are going to use evaluations to see how a professor teaches, there should be a disclaimer stating that the student shouldn’t expect the professor to use the exact syllabus that has been published, she said.

    Christina Holbert, a sophomore music education major, said she would use the information if it were published because she would want to look at the different teaching styles among professors.

    “A lot of people have difficulties with teachers because of the way they teach, and if you have something to help you determine what the teacher’s going to be like a little bit, you could probably save yourself a lot of trouble in the long run,” Holbert said.

    Mark Munns, a junior neuroscience major, said the information would be somewhat useful, but the current course evaluations aren’t a good representation on how a professor teaches.

    RateMyProfessors.com and other programs like that have more useful information for students as far as how a professor teaches, Munns said.

    However, Ryan Frazier, a senior political science major, said if the information were available to him, he probably wouldn’t use it.

    “If the evaluations are published, it kind of defeats the purpose of them,” Frazier said. “They are supposed to be confidential thing between you and the teacher so that you can let them know accurately what their performance was.”