Right now, students can answer questions to evaluate professors at the end of the semester on things like feedback timeliness and the clarity of a course. However, inclusiveness of a classroom is not part of the evaluation, and it won’t be.
At least, not for a while.
Faculty Council met Sept. 7 for the first time this academic year. Among announcements for new council members came a discussion about adding a new topic to end-of-term professor evaluations.
As presented to faculty council, the proposed addition reads:
“The university does not tolerate discrimination and is committed to work with diversity in a wholly positive way. Please indicate below anything in relation to this course that supports or runs counter to this objective.”
The question was drafted by former Associate Provost for Diversity and Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity Charlene Alexander back in April.
It’s open-ended, leaving a response box for students to describe their professors’ actions toward diversity.
Though no council member voiced concern about leading a discrimination-free classroom, some were wary of the addition’s place on the evaluation.
“An evaluation carries a lot of weight for a lot of things, among them… tenure,” Tarek Mahfouz, chairperson of faculty council, said.
And tenure is exactly what some council members were afraid the new question would inversely impact.
“I know our department takes comments very seriously for promotion and tenure. This is an anonymous comment for the person who is teaching the course,” Jim Rybarczyk, a chemistry professor, said. “I don’t feel it has any place to be in here.”
Mark Hill, an anthropology professor, agreed, adding that these questions are meant to focus on a professor’s aptitude purely from an academic lens.
“Is this really the right place for this question?” Hill asked.
Others were concerned the negative sentence structure of the language could encourage an unfavorable response.
Though Mahfouz clarified the decision to use data collected from professor evaluations to determine tenure is up to each individual department, at the end of discussion, a motion carried to send the new question back to the teaching and evaluation committee for revisions.
Mahfouz also asked that each department take the next month to write a diversity-based question that could be answered fairly in future professor evaluations.