Role of Student Evalutions Should be More Defined

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Last Thursday in Harney Plaza, a number of students protested in support of Andrej Grubacic, an adjunct sociology professor that USF’s School of Arts and Sciences has decided not to bring back next fall.
A group of students met with School of Arts and Sciences Dean Jennifer Turpin two weeks ago in her office about Professor Grubacic’s situation.

Dean Turpin told the students that evaluations are the best way for them to voice their opinion.
Some students have rumored that evaluations unanimously giving professors 5’s or 1’s are thrown out.
The rumor has been growing in the past few weeks. The Foghorn has investigated the claims and found the following.

According to Dean Turpin, the rumor  in question is false.

In an e-mail sent to the Foghorn, Dean Turpin clarified that “evaluations are not discarded (or thrown out) based on results, no matter whether a faculty member was rated with unanimously a 1 or a 5.”
During the tenure review process in which full-time faculty are evaluated for tenure and/or promotion, student evaluations are one component of the process.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the USF Faculty Association and the University, the USF administration may intervene “to take corrective action” or deny tenure based on “inadequacy in teaching.”
Student evaluations contribute to determining a professor’s adequacy.
In the case of part-time faculty, evaluations are reviewed each year by the relevant associate dean or dean and department chair.

This is part of what Dean Turpin described as the “course assessment process.”   The above regulations and process concerning student evaluations are followed by all colleges at the University of San Francisco.
It is unclear how great a factor these student evaluations are in making the ultimate decision of whether or not to retain a professor.

In both cases, the role of student evaluations is very vague.

The wording appears to leave room for department chairs and deans to use their own discretion in deciding how much weight student evaluations will carry in relation to other determining factors when deciding the fate of a professor.

A professor’s performance in the classroom and his or her ability to motivate and inspire students is the most important part of a professor’s job, and the best way to assess that performance is to hear from students in those clases.

However, we at the Foghorn understand that students may have ulterior motives when filling out evaluations, i.e. their grade in the course, the difficulty of the course, and/or their personal relationship with the professor being evaluated.

In theory, the evaluations should be an accurate account of the professor’s teaching style and course material, but that is not the reality of this particular situation.

The Foghorn staff does not take issue with how much of the whole the evaluations are in the process.
What we do think is that the role of the evaluations and the other factors should be more defined.
Students have the right to know how big a part they play in the process.

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