Joint committees recommend release of course evaluations with policy stipulations

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 5:30pm

Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, discussed student course evaluations at Monday's Senate Assembly meeting, updating the assembly on their initiatives to create policies for the release of evaluations.

Last fall, the Faculty Senate voted to defer releasing course evaluations until policies on the release were in place and there were changes in the structure of the evaluations to be viewed. Two committees, composed of faculty and representatives from Central Student Government were charged with performing these tasks.

The recommendations have been sent to University of Michigan Provost Martha Pollack for review, Weineck said. If approved, course evaluations will be released starting fall 2016.

The policies suggested include a stipulation that allows course evaluations to only be released to students, preventing their release to other UM community members or the public. Additionally, course evaluations would only be released if one of two thresholds are met: a 50 percent participation rate for the class overall or a minimum of 30 evaluations total per class.

“We decided to put the threshold in to encourage participation,” Weineck said. “The students told us they wanted this information, so it seemed a good idea to say, ‘OK, you can have this, but you need to provide the information as well.’”

Another suggestion made by the committee was to allow faculty facing difficult life situations or emergencies to opt out of release of evaluations for that year.

“This will be rare,” Weineck said. ”Obviously, if every teacher opts out then it will make the data less meaningful.”

The committees also worked on modifying the questions asked on course evaluation surveys.

“These questions are much more targeted and the committee worked with quite a bit of research to see which questions seemed to be meaningful and worthwhile asking,” Weineck said.

Central Student Governement has been advocating for the release of course evaluations since 2011, when the assembly made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of the Provost for all course evaluations data. In a recent interview with The Michigan Daily, LSA senior Cooper Charlton said the body hopes evaluations will be released to students by fall 2016.