The Central Student Government Assembly deviated from its usual meeting spot in the Michigan Union on Tuesday night, convening in Pierpont Commons on North Campus to discuss course evaluations and increasing awareness of on-campus mental health services by including information on syllabi.
A chunk of Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to discussing the Faculty Senate’s decision Monday to vote against the immediate release of student course evaluation data. The CSG Assembly has previously pushed to make these course evaluations available to the public, and introduced a resolution last year to do so.
Public Policy sophomore Jacob Pearlman, CSG general counsel, noted that the course evaluation results, which provide a mechanism for the University to gauge professor proficiency, were originally made available to students in print form before the transition to electronic feedback.
LSA junior Sean Pitt, CSG chief of staff, said releasing course evaluation data will allow students to form expectations of courses without resorting to third-party sources like the website RateMyProfessors.com.
“We have all this data collected about previous students’ experiences,” Pitt said, “Our goal is to make it easier for them to make decisions based on their peers.”
CSG President Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior, said the immediate release of course evaluations is not the only ongoing conversation between CSG and faculty governance.
“The second conversation is about a continued shared collaboration with faculty to make sure the instrument of gathering course evaluations is not only accurate, but it’s efficient to give us some substantial feedback,” Charlton said.
In this case, “instrument” refers to how the evaluations are designed. Comparative Literature Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, who chairs the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, has said the current instrument negatively affects the quality of data yielded.
“In my 17 years at the University of Michigan, I have not heard from a single person that thinks this is a good instrument providing good data,” she said at an Oct. 12 SACUA meeting. “In sum, nobody thinks that these are good data. And whatever they are, they were not designed to assist students in choosing classes; it is the wrong instrument for that. So what we’ve been saying at the Senate Assembly, it’s not that we don’t think students don’t have a legitimate interest in having more and better information on how to choose classes, but we think at a world-class University it behooves us to design an instrument that can actually deliver the data needed for that purpose.”
Charlton said ideally, CSG wants to course evaluations to be released by Winter 2016.
CSG Assembly also considered a new resolution Tuesday to support featuring information about University mental health services in course syllabi distributed at the beginning of each semester.
LSA junior David Schafer, who co-authored the resolution, said inspiration for the resolution came from the recent emphasis raising awareness about sexual assault prevention on campus. The University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center added language about Title IX and sexual assault awareness to course syllabi this semester.
“I thought that was a fantastic idea,” Schafer said.
Schafer said the resolution will aim to spread the message that there is a direct correlation between mental health and academic results — as well as inform incoming students who may be unaware of the services available to them.
“No student should come to the University of Michigan and be shut off to these resources because they don’t know these resources exist,” Schafer said.
Public Policy junior Gabe Dell, who co-authored the resolution, said these resources are not currently being utilized to their full capacity.
Schafer said to approach the resolution as professionally as possible, CSG went through key departments on campus devoted to mental health assistance. He added that the resolution has garnered support from Robert Winfield, the director of University Health Services and the University’s chief health officer, and Todd Sevig, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
LSA junior Sierra Stone, a representative on the Assembly, said the resolution is the culmination of many meetings with both Sevig and Winfield.
“This isn’t something that we just threw together; this is something we’re all really passionate about,” Stone said.
Schafer said the policy recommended by this resolution is not groundbreaking, adding that the inclusion of campus resources and the advocacy of proper language, particularly in the case of sexual assault by example, has already been implemented at schools like Columbia University, Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota.
Schafer said the potential mental health resources outlined on syllabi would not necessarily be exhaustive. He added that the resources listed would prominently include but not be limited to UHS and CAPS, among others.
Should the resolution be approved by the Assembly, Schafer, Stone and Dell would approach University Provost Martha Pollack with their recommendation for its adoption.
Correction appended: Jacob Pearlman is a Public Policy sophomore, not a junior.