Faculty Senate considers student evaluation options

The Sam Houston State University Faculty Senate met on March 13 at 3:30 p.m. in Austin Hall to discuss the proposal of transferring paper evaluations to an electronic faculty evaluation system.

Peter Cooper, chair of the Faculty Evaluation Committee, attended the meeting to discuss implementation procedures for the proposed evaluation system, which could replace the current paper-based system.

David E. Payne, vice president of Academic Affairs, sent a letter to Cooper in September requesting that the Faculty Evaluation Committee develop a plan for the implementation of electronic faculty evaluations.

The new electronic evaluation plan could begin in the fall of 2003 if the university administration approves the plan and decides on that time frame. However, Cooper said the committee is working to develop options that appeal to the faculty’s diverse views on the topic.

Cooper requested feedback from the faculty in order for the committee to properly identify concerns of the faculty members.

“To give (the faculty) control of the process I think it is significant in giving (faculty) the ability to control the system,” Cooper said. “We didn’t want the faculty to gain any advantage or disadvantage.”

The Faculty Evaluation Committee offered the faculty implementation options for the evaluation process in order to fit the needs of both the faculty and the students.

“The decision to go or not to go must be a departmental decision, so a whole department goes or stays with paper evaluations,” Cooper said.

If the process is approved, faculty would be able to select one out of five options for each class where student evaluations are performed during each semester.

Free evaluations are an option which will expand the amount of time a student has to perform the evaluation without geographical restrictions.

Campus evaluations are another option, which would require students to perform the evaluations on campus, but not restrict the time in which the evaluation should take place.

The restricted time evaluation option would require students to evaluate professors on campus and during business hours.

A supervised evaluation option would require students to complete the evaluation at a designated computer laboratory, a scheduled time and under the supervision of the instructor.

“I resent time taken out of my classroom to do the evaluations,” one Faculty Senate member said.

The committee’s final option was a class-scheduled evaluation, which is similar to the current system; however, the faculty member would be responsible for coordinating the availability of the facilities.

SHSU professor Mary Gutermuth expressed her concern about the proposed electronic student evaluations system.

“I would rather have the paper for one because it is easier,” Gutermuth said. “We feel there is a pressure from the administration to do this.”

Cooper said the administration is not willing to go ahead with the proposed electronic evaluations if there is a strong opposition from the Senate and the SHSU faculty.

“The whole point is that you have control over the process,” Cooper said. “I do not think there is any evidence in the sphere to suggest problematic differences from paper and online (evaluations).”

Valerie Muehsam, chair of the Faculty Senate, said the faculty’s concern is student participation in the evaluations if the electronic evaluations system is implemented.

“In the past there has been 80 percent participation (in faculty evaluations) and we are worried that it will go down,” Muehsam said. “Student evaluations of faculty are a large part of our evaluation process.”

The Academic Policy Council must approve the electronic evaluation process before the system is implemented at the university.

SHSU faculty members are sending their questions and comments to the Faculty Evaluation Committee.

Muehsam gave a brief report from the APC meeting that was held on March 5 after Cooper’s discussion of the electronic evaluation system.

At the APC meeting the council discussed the wireless network at SHSU and university mobilization, which means that the university will refund money for military reserves.

The APC also supported a proposal from the research council for research enhancement funds.

Muehsam said SHSU President James Gaertner spoke with the colleges about possible cuts because of the current budget status. The changes Gaertner proposed are speculative at this time since the university does not know exactly how much it will have to cut.

Gaertner said there could be faculty reassigned times or cuts in pool faculty, which are faculty who sign a contract with the university each year, but are not guaranteed a job by the university. Increases in class sizes, few salary increases unless promoted, a possible hiring freeze and possible program cuts and consolidations were also listed by Gaertner as budget reduction options.

However, Gaertner said construction plans would not be interrupted on campus since those programs are funded separately from the university.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be on April 10 at 3:30 p.m. in Austin Hall.

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