WSU Professors Balk at Internet Evaluations

WSU Professors Balk at Internet Evaluations

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The idea of posting professor evaluations on the Internet is drawing debate at Weber State University.

The only information made available to students is a rating of professors and courses listed in binders at a desk in the basement of the university's library, where "nobody even knows it's there and nobody even uses it," student body President Kyle Poll said.

That's why some students want full professor evaluation results available on the Internet.

"We feel faculty evaluations give students a clear picture of what to expect before taking a class," Poll said. Having the information online "would mean just a couple of clicks to get to the teacher evaluations."

Professor evaluations are compiled and used by universities to make decisions on employment status, tenure and salaries.

Weber State student leaders have told members of the Faculty Senate that if the university doesn't start doing it, students will post their own evaluations of professors online.

Student leaders, however, acknowledge these evaluations can be unprofessional, rating teachers on looks, easy grades and handwriting, among other categories.

"What kind of an evaluation is that?" Poll said. "It would be better to use school staff and have it under WSU control."

But many faculty members worry they will be judged unfairly, tempting some to pander to students by making course work easy for good ratings.

"To endorse this as an institution has major implications. It matters tremendously," said Senate Faculty member Erik Stern, a performing arts professor. "People have very strong feelings on this."

A committee of student leaders and faculty has been working since last spring on professor evaluation formats. But one of the committee's suggestions -- asking students to rate professors on their command of subject matters -- is off the mark, some teachers say.

"How would the students know if the professor knows the subject matter? It seems like this question could put power into the wrong hands," said Faculty Senate member Susan Matt, an associate professor of history.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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