Volume 92, Issue 5

Friday, June 12, 1998

hakuna matata


Shooting blanks at professors

By Sabrina Carinci
Gazette Staff

Some Western students have been taking advantage of instructor evaluations by expressing slightly more than just suggestions or constructive criticism.

Complaints of abusive, obscene and inappropriate comments were reported by 28 per cent of faculty members said Greg Moran, VP-academic.

Moran suggested the only way to stop students from responding to the evaluations in offensive manners would be to take away the anonymity of the forms. "We don't want to do that," he said.

"There were positive comments as well," Moran said, adding there will always be students who will take the anonymity of the evaluations to their advantage and say things they might not otherwise say.

Rubin Chelladurai, director of the office of institutional planning and budgeting at Western, said the universal teaching evaluations, which contain a numerical evaluation as well as space for a written evaluation, are a fairly new idea, introduced last year.

"The numerical side is scanned and the back side is typed-up and sent to the professor," said Chelladurai. He added comments written on the back of the form are confidential so the content of the negative comments are not available.

Harry Murray, a psychology professor at Western and member of the Provost Advisory Committee on Teaching and Learning which approved the evaluations, said the committee reviewed the evaluation form based on a series of surveys and statistical analysis.

The evaluation responses were quite positive, Murray said and explained the university will continue using the same evaluation form despite the complaints.

"I don't think it is a very big problem," he said, adding there were only four or five people who actually complained to Moran.

"I am in favour of anonymity – it's more candid and more honest," Murray said. He added students need to know why they are filling out the evaluation forms and what they will be used for. "Many students don't know they are used when discussing promotion and tenure."

Peter Hill, VP-student issues for the University Students' Council, also said he believes students should be reminded of the importance of the evaluations. "I would recommend that their seriousness is explained before the evaluations are given to the students."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998