Student evaluations to be key component in professor evaluations
The final step of the 2014 faculty strike arbitration process concerning professor and course evaluations has been awarded. “The decision was narrowly focused on this one question, which was student feedback in job performance evaluations,” said Dr. Andrew Irwin, president of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA).
Irwin said evaluations are generally used for improving teaching and better understanding students. In previous years, professors could additionally include student evaluations in the evaluation that the senate conducts annually for pre-tenured professors or bi-annually for tenured professors. Karen Grant, Mt. A’s vice-president academic and provost, said these student evaluations were previously not mandatory for inclusion in professor evaluations.
As of the winter 2016 semester, student evaluations will be considered an integral part of the professors’ evaluations.
“[The arbitration award] does not apply to courses this fall but will apply to courses beginning in the winter session, and the intention of the award is that we would evaluate how that trial works […] it is a question of how the contract may be modified in the future,” said Grant.
“There will be a three-year trial period between 2016 and 2018, where the results of the student questionnaire about courses will be used in three components […] in their evaluations, in the tenure process and the promotion process,” said Irwin.
Annie Sherry, the Mount Allison Students’ Union’s vice-president of external affairs, tweeted that student evaluations as a form of professor evaluations “Has been an advocacy effort of the MASU for years.”
Representatives from MAFA and the administration said there are still some difficulties in coming to a concise interpretation of the arbitrator’s report. Irwin said that there were many ambiguities in the arbitrator’s decision. “MAFA still has concerns about the use of this kind of information for job performance evaluation, but we will have the trial [period] and see how that unfolds,” said Irwin. Grant also said “there are still things that need to be clarified.”
“It was a kind of a down-the-middle situation […] I won’t speak for the administration […] but the arbitrator definitely heard some for the concerns the union had about the use of these [evaluations] and he put restrictions about how they can be used […] it has to be a fairly minor component of our evaluation […] he was hearing from both sides and I think he believed there was some merit of the position of both sides,” said Irwin. After meeting with the MAFA executive, Irwin later wrote that there may be grounds for an appeal of the arbitrator’s award.