Needed information

At some point during the four or five years you spend at NIU, chances are good that you will find yourself sitting in a class where the professor cannot or simply will not teach. In fact, I am willing to bet that more than a few of us have already suffered through the boredom, confusion and frustration of a class like this. Unfortunately, there is very little that students or administrators can do to remedy such a situation. As University Legal Counsel George Shur told me last Monday, there has “probably never” been a tenured professor dismissed for poor teaching.

Though we have no power to fire inept instructors, there is a way students can work to protect themselves and their peers from teachers who are apathetic, belligerent, or unable to speak English fluently. The Student Association’s Academic Affairs Committee is working to publish a booklet of voluntarily-released teacher evaluations, and we need your help.

This year the SA’s efforts will be limited to acquiring and publishing the empirical data from general education and core-competency classes, but in years to come, we’d like to see our work grow to include all of the classes offered here. Universities across the nation have instituted procedures to make student-teacher evaluation results accessible to their paying students, and it’s high time that Northern Illinois University catches up with its competitors. If the information is helpful to administrators in making important decisions regarding merit pay and promotion, it would certainly be valuable to students who want to ensure they won’t be wasting their time or money in a three-hour class.

Releasing evaluation records to students would benefit most professors and most departments. Right now, students do not put much effort into evaluating professors because they know they’ll never see the results. But if students knew they were recommending professors to their peers, I really think that the accuracy of most composite student-teacher evaluations would climb. Professors who demonstrate their desire to teach and who put a lot of effort into their classes will be rewarded for their hard work; those who can’t teach or those who won’t put forth the effort will be held accountable for their apathy.

Next week, professors in Gen Ed and core competency classes will be receiving letters asking them to release their recent evaluation records to the Student Association for inclusion in a booklet that we intend to make available before the end of spring semester. I hope that these professors will demonstrate their concern for the academic environment at NIU by cooperating, and from the many conversations I’ve had with department chairs and instructors, I’m looking forward to very positive results.

I want to make it clear that the Student Association is not out to “hunt down” those professors who are not doing their best in the classroom. We are, however, going to work hard to provide a service to students that is long overdue at NIU. Publishing student-teacher evaluations is one of the very few methods we have to hold professors accountable to students.