SA requests department forms

By Karen Craven

That class. That completely awful class, with that terribly boring teacher. If only there was a book, like a Bible of the best and the worst teachers, all of this torture could be prevented.

Well, the Student Association is trying to publish that Bible, but if history repeats itself, the SA is in for an uphill battle.

The last time the SA published a book with students’ teacher evaluations was in the fall of 1990. The book took two years to compile but was not repeated.

In the 1990 book, a standardized evaluation form was used for classes whose professors volunteered to participate. However, this year the SA is asking for departmental evaluations, because the standardized forms took too long to make and distribute.

Anthropology Chair Fred Smith said, “It’s like comparing apples and oranges. They (SA) will never have success trying to get all the departments’ evaluations.”

SA President Abe Andrzejewski said about the last evaluation book, “I looked through this book and a teacher I have now was listed. Let me just say, I wish I had the book before I registered.”

Whether the students deserve to know vs. the teacher’s privacy is the debate waged over the SA’s push to publish the departmental teacher evaluations. The departmental evaluations are used in personnel decisions concerning salary increases, promotions and tenure.

There is not a standard teacher evaluation form at NIU. Each department has different student teacher evaluation forms and uses them in various ways. Some departments do not require the faculty members to administer them at all.

In most departments, the evaluations are used as part of each faculty member’s yearly merit evaluation. Departments weigh the teacher evaluations differently, but their absence could hurt the teacher’s opportunity for promotions.

Donald Cress, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said, “We get silly about evaluations. But it’s the only way that teachers have of evaluating themselves.”

Since some departments do not require the evaluations or have any repercussions for not administering them, it is possible for a professor not to administer evaluations at all. Cress said, “We had a tenured professor a couple of years ago who didn’t administer the evaluations. We didn’t give him a pay raise for a couple of years until he shaped up.”

Andrzejewski said publishing the evaluations will be good for both teachers and students. “We think students deserve better teachers, and if this will help improve teaching here, then we’d like to do it.

“Students will be suspicious of the teachers who don’t release their evaluations. It will look as if they have something to hide,” Andrzejewski said.

When the SA published the book of teacher evaluations in 1990, it was the first time since 1968. Many teachers were skeptical because the original book had wrong names and numbers printed.

The SA also released an assessment of the student evaluation process in 1977, in which it suggested that a universal form be used by all departments and that the results be published. However, it was not until 1990 that the SA was able to do so.

Some of the problems with the book were funding it. Also, after it was printed it was not utilized.

Andrzejewksi said he has no idea why the evaluations were not published after 1990. He said, “It’s a terrible waste to go through all the work of getting them published, and not continuing it. Students need to know they will have access to these.”

Cress said, “I was at the University of Tennessee a couple of years ago and asked the librarian for the evaluation book that they publish. No one had ever asked for it before, and they had been doing it for years.”

The SA would like to make the books accessible to all students by keeping copies in the library reserve room and in the departments. The funding for the book will come out of Academic Affairs.

The SA will start its push for the release and publication of departmental student teacher evaluations at 2 p.m. today. The AdHoc Committee to Publish Teacher Evaluations will meet in the SA’s conference room in the Holmes Student Center. All students are welcome to attend.

“I was at the University of Tennessee a couple of years ago and asked the librarian for the evaluation book that they publish. No one had ever asked for it before, and they had been doing it for years.”