Faculty told student evaluations don’t play into tenure, promotion decisions

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Acting Provost John Fischer sought to reassure faculty about a new approach to student evaluations of courses at Bowling Green State University.

Starting next fall, students will answer the same six questions regardless of the course they are taking, and these questions can be answered online, not just in class. These will be in addition to specific questions posed by particular academic departments.

A presentation on the Teaching and Learning Evaluations drew fire from faculty when a report was presented at last month’s Faculty Senate meeting. The criticism included a charge that colleges and universities were using such quantitative data to justify employing more part-time faculty, even though the methods of gathering those evaluations is flawed. The faculty online discussion group has been active with back and forth about the issue since that meeting.

Fischer told Faculty Senate that the new evaluations would not be used for any promotion, tenure, or re-appointment decisions. Those are covered by the contract with the BGSU-Faculty Association. The evaluations serve more institutional purposes.

“We need a university measure that will give us some sense and data of how students think we’re doing on teaching and learning,” he said.

While written comments are more helpful, Fischer said, there’s no way to gather and summarize that data.

Each of the six questions will have a space for written comments. He noted that when the College of Education and Human Development put its evaluations online the number and length of the written comments increased dramatically.

Asked by senate member Craig Zirbel if these are the six questions he would have chosen, Fischer equivocated. He said he was reluctant to say anything that could reflect negatively on the working group that put together the proposal over the past two years. He did allow he may have included a couple other questions.

During the January Faculty Senate discussion, David Jackson, president of the Faculty Association, said that all the questions were directed toward the teaching side with none addressing student participation and effort.

Also in his presentation, Fischer encouraged faculty to meet with students when they tour campus on Presidents Day, which is the largest visitation day for BGSU.

Many factors play into whether a student will enroll at the university, he said. “The highest is the chance to interact with faculty in the programs they are interested in.”

In his report to the senate, Interim President Rodney Rogers said that the university’s tuition guarantee was being well received by prospective students and their families. Starting in the fall semester, first-year students will be guaranteed that their tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, and out-of-state surcharge fees will not change during their four years at BGSU.

Almost all Ohio universities will have similar programs in place by fall, Rogers said.

However, there is no unanimity about how this affects the cost at regional campuses, such as Firelands. Rogers said how it will apply to Firelands is still being discussed.

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