Course Evaluations To Be Released
*This article was updated on March 12, 2008 to clarify facts*
Eagleionline has confirmed that the law school will release some course evaluations data beginning this semester. The new policy marks a sea change from the existing system, which is completely opaque to the student body. The issue of student access to evaluations has been hotly debated for over a year on the pages of Eagleionline, in last year’s LSA election, and in the halls.
The faculty approved the new system on January 14th as students who neglected to fill out their Fall Semester evaluations waited for their grades to be released as a result. Their approval mandates all quantitative data on adjuncts for the past two years be released and creates an opt-in system for full-time faculty. Data will be released in paper form in the law library. Further investigation is underway into whether full-time faculty should be required to participate in the data release. One estimate from the administration is that students can expect about 75% of the faculty to participate this year, although that number is speculative.
Eagleionline has been a stalwart advocate for a more transparent system since its conception. Not only was data available to students prior to 1999 but it has always been troubling that students should have no access to their own data, especially when making course selections.
Last year Jesse Stellato wrote a stinging editorial proposing that quantitative data be released immediately (link). Eagleionline took matters into its own hands soon after by creating and administering its own evaluations system, footing the bill so students could see what their peers felt. Eagleionline guarded the system against outside eyes by admitting only those with bc.edu email addresses to the password-protected results.
The 2007 Fall Semester witnessed a regression when the administration, over student objections, instituted a policy that delayed the release of grades to students who neglected to fill out the official evaluations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this resulted in boycott, lazy and inaccurate evaluations, and general dissent.
The LSA first promised to act on the evaluations issue last year, soon after the current officers were elected, and circulated a 1L petition on January 29, 2008 advocating for an improved system. The petition called for the release of all evaluations data, including narrative responses. Although not explicitly stated in the petition, Eagleionline has learned that its purpose was to advocate for more reforms than had been approved by the faculty two weeks earlier. Also, the petition sought to encourage participation by faculty in any data release program.
Eagleionline strongly and wholeheartedly supports the faculty’s decision. It is high time that students have access to this data for their own uses and so students can be confident that their input matters to the faculty. We encourage the faculty to adopt a mandatory system for quantitative data and in the meantime express our hope that participation will approach 100%. A thank you is also in order to those faculty and administration members who encouraged students to voice their concerns. We have some terrific listeners on faculty and we appreciate them all.