USenate Drafting Resolution for Public Course Evaluations

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While calls for public course evaluations have been swirling around since at least January, members of the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee are looking to finalize a resolution to present to the floor, according to Spec. A subcommittee will release a report assessing the current systems already in place at Columbia and other schools. Among the Ivies, Harvard’s open evaluations are often cited as one of the first of such measures and generally seen as a success.

The proposal has picked up momentum in recent months after Deantini and Prezbo endorsed the measure. Many others have expressed their support despite the initial resistance from some faculty members. Still, some issues remain to be worked out. As GSAS student Cristina Camille Perez Jimenez points out in Spec, TA evaluations should hold special consideration as they are “weighted as part of our ongoing pedagogical training.”

Currently, student-run CULPA remains the most popular option for evaluations, though samples a limited number of students. If passed, the new system would incorporate more quantitative data besides student testimonies. Some members of the USenate hope to make some of the evaluation data available by the end of the academic year.

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  1. BLAH BLAH  

    It's the damn weeeekeeennnndddd. Remind us to read this on Monday.

  2. You realize

    Crtinia, by admitting that what grad students do is not "employment" but rather "part of training", just completely undermined the basis for a graduate student union?

    • They're both  

      I actually disagree. The reality is that their teaching requirement is in fact both a pedagogical training and a job; the two are far from mutually exclusive. Because one's decision to pursue graduate studies is in many ways intrinsically linked to a desire to teach or research at a high level, usually at a university, training through experience, through teaching actual classes, is both a part of one's job training and one's educational pursuit, as the two are closely linked once one has progressed to this level in his/her education.

      It is well documented that many TAs use their course evaluations as supplementary information in job interviews and in future academic hiring situations as proof of their abilities; by this logic, the service that they're performing seems to be pretty akin to a job, especially because they are also being compensated (even if it is quite low, by almost any measure, as compared to the amount of work they perform and what their peer instructors with tenure receive).

      Likewise, the fact that one elected to pursue an education through graduate studies over other options indicates that he or she made a personal choice, enrolling in a program which they knew viewed teaching as an integral part of the educational experience. From this perspective, it would be almost impossible to say that teaching as a graduate student was not also part of one's educational experience.

      A graduate student union definitely should exist because part of the reality of being a graduate student is that one is employed, and marginally compensated, as a teacher. The expectations are no different than any other tenured individual teaching the same class, and one also gets reviewed as an instructor, not as a student instructor. Thankfully, because graduate students are also in the process of receiving an education, an education in a subject and in how to educate about various topics, they are most definitely students as well. The simple fact that they serve dual roles should not preclude any discussion of their being provided an ample bargaining arena.

  3. Anonymous  

    Really clever how you snuck the link to the Spec story in the middle, without acknowledging that all the information in this post comes directly from Spec. It's basically just a summary.

  4. been there done that

    • Kenny Durell  

      You're right; only SEAS and the Journalism School currently explicitly publish their course evaluations for student viewing (or in the case of SEAS, for anyone with an Internet connection), but that's still far from the majority of schools at Columbia. They're certainly leading the way at Columbia in open course evaluations, and through very different systems, but the whole point of this resolution would be so that all students, and not just a small subset, would be able to access the best education available to them. With the amount of student input culled each year via course evaluations, transparency of these results could go a long way to a more equitable and reasonable process in students selecting their classes and truly taking an active role in their own learning.

    • ...  

      fun game:

      1) read up on an instructor on culpa
      2) start talking to people individually to discuss the merits of, or problems with, that instructor with people who are currently in their classes
      3) start with one person and count how many you talk to until someone unconsciously and inadvertently parrots back an opinion that undeniably comes from culpa (be it a specific word, phrase, adjective or a sentiment that moves beyond a simple [good or bad] .. something that is clearly from culpa)
      4) your score is n

      if your score is low, you gravitate towards people who think for themselves. if your score is high, you gravitate towards people who repeat what they're told.

      do you think that you think for yourself? what does your score say about you?

  5. why bother  

    culpa has never led me astray

  6. Anonymous  

    Thanks for adding the sourcing!

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