Faculty body raises concerns with new course evaluation tool

Monday, March 28, 2016 - 5:39pm

Professor of Physics Gus Evrard discusses the launching of Art 2.0, an online tool offering data about course enrollment, at the SACUA meeting in the Fleming Building Monday.

Professor of Physics Gus Evrard discusses the launching of Art 2.0, an online tool offering data about course enrollment, at the SACUA meeting in the Fleming Building Monday. Buy this photo
Haley McLaughin/Daily

 

The University of Michigan’s release of course evaluation data continued to be a topic of controversial discussion among faculty at Monday’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting.

On Friday, the University relaunched a tool initially only available to faculty, ART 2.0, which now allows students to see select data from course evaluations for University classes. The launch came after months of dispute following the University’s initial announcement that they were exploring releasing the data, which drew significant pushback from faculty over concerns of bias and misuse. Joint committees of SACUA members and Central Student Government representatives have been working over the past few months in an effort to mitigate the concerns, and recommended the release of the data with several stipulations in February. How many of those stipulations will be followed with the University’s tool wasn’t clear Monday.

At the meeting, Physics Prof. Gus Evrard, team leader for ART 2.0, said the release of course evaluations with the tool aims to be an alternative to sites like RateMyProfessor.com.

“Despite what you may think of ratemyprofessor.com, every time I ask my class if they use it, all the hands go up,” Evrard said.

The course evaluation tool does not currently use faculty-specific data, but starting in fall 2016, instructor-focused data is set to be released. The goal, Evrard said, is to offer in-house data to students who want to know more about the classes they are signing up for.

“ART 2.0 is a reboot,” Evrard said. “It’s a reboot that comes in under the direction of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse and partly is motivated by the desire to go beyond the 20th-century experience.”

SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck said she was concerned with the tool providing extensive course evaluation material, noting earlier faculty concerns.

“We’ve just spent about a year hashing out data and creating committees to see how to do this,” Weineck said.

Kinesiology Prof. Stefan Szymanski said he is worried about faculty information being made available to other fellow faculty members because he fears that not every faculty member at the University has their colleagues’ best interests at heart.

“Among people of goodwill, there are never problems really,” Szymanski said. “But sadly, we are not 100 percent goodwill.”

SACUA proposed several modifications for ART 2.0 to Evrard, including making data only available to faculty for the courses they teach. SACUA also suggested that only questions recommended by the body for the course evaluations be included on the tool.

Along with evaluations, the committee also discussed the new sexual misconduct policy for students, announced last week and slated to be publically released on April 6. Weineck said though the new policy featured an appeals committee for students who want to appeal the charge against them, this same benefit has not been provided to faculty.

Over the past year, SACUA has expressed multiple concerns about the process by which faculty are investigated for sexual misconduct issues, releasing a report last year that charged the University’s procedures lacked due process. In the fall, the University said it would make several changes to the policy for faculty in response to the concerns.

“Faculty should be able to appeal the report and not just the sanctions,” Weineck said.

The addition of an appeals committee for faculty violations is set to be discussed more in-depth at the upcoming Faculty Senate meeting  — a gathering of the entirety of faculty governance — April 18.