Influence of student evaluations limited

By Trigie Ealey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 15, 1996

The Faculty Senate passed the post-tenure review proposal at an emergency meeting yesterday, while limiting the role of students in the process.

After months of work, the Senate voted 37-6 to pass the proposal, which was amended at least 15 times during the meeting.

While most of the debate centered around terminology and the elimination of redundancies, the Senate did discuss the role of students in the review process.

Student Faculty Sens. Lauren Sliger and Patrick Williams proposed an amendment stating that student evaluations would be contained in the annual review process and would carry equal weight as peer evaluations.

While most senators who spoke on the issue said they supported the idea of student evaluations playing a role in annual reviews, some had concerns about giving students as much say in evaluations as peers.

"Students leave the university and most don't have to live with the consequences of their judgment," said Sen. Robert Gore, a physiology professor. "The faculty stay here."

Other senators were concerned because not all faculty members are reviewed by students.

"Some faculty are not reviewed by students," said Sen. Robert Feltham, a professor emeritus in chemistry.

The Senate amended the proposal to say that, where applicable, the reviews will include assessment of student-teacher evaluations. The reference to the evaluations having the equal weight of peer reviews was stricken from the final document.

At the end of the meeting, Feltham made a proposal to make the document applicable to administrators who hold tenure or continuing appointments, and teaching and research faculty.

Feltham said that while faculty are being reviewed annually, not all department heads and administrators receive the same reviews.

"Any system of review of individuals with continuing appointments must apply equally to all," Feltham said. He said the system would lack credibility if not applied equally.

Sen. Marlys Witte, professor in surgery, said she opposed the bureaucratic system being set up to have everyone reviewing everyone else.

"This system creates mediocrity," Witte said. "We become clerks filling out forms."

She said the program will result in teachers spending too much time away from students. She said such a system is "communist or fascist" and creates an atmosphere in which certain faculty are targeted.

"They don't go after deadwood, they go after firewood," Witte said. "People who are outspoken are targets. What we are fighting for is our right to teach, not our fat jobs."

Student Regent Jonathan Schmitt, who sat in on the meeting, said he was happy the Senate was submitting a proposal.

"It is important that they define some accountability," he said. "However, it is essential that we include student evaluations."

He said the students are the consumers and their role should be "primary."

The Senate needed to approve the proposal so it could be submitted in time for the Arizona Board of Regents' meeting to be held at Arizona State University Nov. 1.