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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 1996

STUDENTS

January 31, 1996

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KU students want their evaluations of faculty to be open record, but faculty governance members don't like the idea.

Should education be viewed as a product, with students playing the role of consumers and faculty the manufacturers?

If so, should students have the right to know which faculty member offers them the best deal for their money by being able to compare faculty performance on student evaluation forms?

Those questions were the basis for a discussion Tuesday between Kansas University students and faculty during a meeting of the Senate Executive Committee.

At issue is a resolution being pushed by students that would open faculty evaluation results as public documents. Students anonymously fill out the evaluations at the end of each semester.

Proponents say making evaluation results public would tell students what to expect from classes and indicate the teaching effectiveness of individual professors.

But opponents argue that there is no reliable way of measuring a professor's performance by condensing hundreds of evaluation forms, and that such information shouldn't be made public because it's personal.

"I have a big problem with this because students do not sign the forms and they would not be held accountable," said Bob Minor, SenEx member and professor of religious studies.

He also rejected the idea that "somehow this is a product."

"Education," he said, "is something we do together."

But Scott Sullivan, a student senator who is sponsoring a resolution in favor of opening up evaluation results, said education can be a commodity for money-strapped students.

"When students pay their last $5 for a class, instead of going out for a burger, they are, at least in part, consumers," he said.

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs David Shulenburger said he feared that making faculty evaluations public would harm KU's promotion and tenure processes, and efforts to improve faculty teaching.

Sullivan said even if the measure is killed by university governance -- which has more faculty than student representatives -- he would file a Kansas Open Records request to force the university to disclose evaluation results.

Other universities that already have open evaluation results include Harvard and Michigan State universities and the University of Texas, Sullivan said.

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