Throughout much of the semester, members of Central Student Government and the University’s Faculty Senate have debated whether students should have access to course evaluation data, as well as how and when a potential release should occur. On Wednesday, LSA Student Government joined the conversation by passing a resolution in support of the online release of student course evaluations.
LSA SG treasurer Patrick Mullan-Koufopoulos, an LSA sophomore and co-author of the resolution, said the resolution shows that students want course evaluation data released.
The resolution acknowledges the body’s ability to obtain course evaluation data via Freedom of Information Act requests, which members of the assembly say they plan to use if the release of the evaluation results does not occur in a timely fashion. Several representatives moved to strike any mention of FOIA, saying it seemed too aggressive, while others considered the language necessary.
“We’re sending the message we’re willing to go to whatever lengths to get the data, rather than work with them,” said LSA senior Jake Dailey, the assembly’s external relations officer. “At this time I feel like we’re just threatening our relationships with the faculty. I would hate to see this turn anyone against us that has previously been an ally.”
Dailey said he does not want faculty to interpret the resolution as a demand.
“What we’re instead trying to do is work with them and find the solution that makes the most sense and not just strong-arm them if it doesn’t work out,” Dailey said.
The University’s Senate Assembly voted earlier this year to support a delay for the release of course evaluations after University officials expressed interest in their release by the end of the semester. Faculty expressed concerns with the repercussions of releasing the data if students aren’t given the tools to interpret it correctly, as well as criticisms of the current methods used for conducting the evaluations.
Currently, a committee led by James Holloway, vice provost for digital and engaged education, will explore potential alternatives for conducting the evaluations and a committee of four faculty and four students is considering the best methods for releasing course evaluation data that will be gathered with the new instrument. That work is expected to wrap up by April, allowing the new instrument to be implemented by the fall. In October, SACUA agree to release course evaluation data in full to academic advisers by January.
At Monday’s meeting of SACUA, CSG President Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior, continued to press faculty to move up the timeline for the data’s release.
LSA junior Julia Gips, the body’s academic relations officer and a co-author of the resolution, said the faculty initially voted to support a delay in releasing the data and noted that it is the responsibility of LSA SG to take address their constituent’s concerns.
“We’d really like to advocate for students, however we’re not being unreasonable,” Gips said. “I know that the FOIA scares a lot of people.”
Gips said currently students can individually employ FOIA to gain access to course evaluation data, and by passing the resolution the assembly would simply look into the process for their constituents.
Mullan-Koufopoulos said mentioning FOIA was not a threat to the administration, but rather a show of strength on behalf of LSA SG. Gipps said the evaluations would ideally be released next fall with faculty assistance.
“If the faculty end up letting us down again, then we’re going to have to take action,” Gips said. “If the faculty choose to ignore what the students want then the students should do something about it.”
“There is some progress being made, but by that same merit they’re stagnated right now,” said LSA junior Joey Hansel. “I do believe that this resolution — while it does come across as a bit harsh with the FOIA — does tell faculty that not only is Central Student Government interested in this, not only is Rackham Student Government interested in this, but the third-largest student government on this campus is also strongly interested in getting this going.”
Ultimately, the lines regarding the FOIA were preserved and the resolution passed with 16 for, three against and three abstentions.
A resolution was also brought to the floor at Wednesday’s meeting in support of a joint student-faculty task force to improve the instrument employed to conduct teaching evaluation.