Regents to hear report on Friday classes, course evaluations

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 2:33am

Two topics that have stirred up debate this semester within the faculty Senate Assembly and Central Student Government — course evaluations and Friday classes — will receive attention at Thursday’s meeting of the University Board of Regents.

The University will also consider proposals related to the University of Michigan Health System, including a multi-million dollar project to construct a new outpost in Brighton, Mich.

During the faculty governance report, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs will address the release of course evaluation data, which the Faculty Senate overwhelmingly voted against on Oct. 27. Many faculty members raised concerns with the instruments currently used to evaluate courses, and as a result, felt releasing the data could be harmful.

Some faculty expressed concerns with the potentially negative effects a professor’s race, gender, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation could have on their ratings, regardless of how well they teach the class. Faculty also fear that course reviews from previous years could influence how a course’s current students evaluate the class.

October’s vote to support delaying the release of course evaluation data yielded the creation of two committees. One, jointly run by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs and Central Student Government, will determine protocols for the eventual release of the data. SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck said this committee’s work would likely wrap up by April 2016.

James Holloway, the vice provost the vice provost of global and engaged education, will lead the second committee — comprised of one faculty member, one student and evaluation experts — to determine whether the current course evaluation instrument is in line with best practices. If it is not, the committee will be charged with recommending a new instrument.

The Board of Regents will additionally hear from CSG President Cooper Charlton, who will discuss CSG’s continued commitment to reaching a solution concerning the publication of course evaluations.

The faculty governance report also reports on the widely debated topic of Friday classes, following a Faculty Senate resolution urging the provost to promote and provide incentives for professors to teach 100- and 200-level classes with a Friday session. The resolution recommends that classes with lecture components regularly schedule a lecture on Friday in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse within the University community, specifically among first- and second-year students.

Also on Thursday’s agenda: a $175 million proposal to construct a 320,000-gross-square-foot facility in Brighton, Mich. Though UMHS currently operates a facility on the property, the University is aiming to meet the rising number of ambulatory visits within the health system. The new facility will include a musculoskeletal center, sleep lab, operating rooms, radiation oncology and ambulatory treatment center, as well as lab and pharmacy services. The project is intended to meet the needs of the Brighton market, which is about 30 minutes from Ann Arbor.