STUDENT POLICY COMMITTEE
6-April 1998, 9PM
Converse Red Room
Prof. Frederick Griffiths of the Ad Hoc Committee on Tenure Review addressed the SPC.
The committee can be reached via email at ADHOC-L@AMHERST.EDU
The reaccredidation committee, constituted of faculty/administrators from a dozen or so
colleges, was disappointed with our process for soliciting/evaluating teacher evaluations.
The return rate of student letters, solicited at the conclusion of a non-tenured prof's class
and as that prof goes up for tenure review, is abysmal. 8-33% . Atrocious.
In tenure evaluations teaching weighs pretty equally with scholarship. But the teaching
evaluations are so inconclusive and vague and unreliable that scholarship ends up playing
more than its fair role.
The Ad Hoc committee had an open meeting on 24-March, at which it solicited student
opinions, and Griffith's conclusion from that is that the letter writing process causes a lot
of problems. Letters are to be written in the thick of finals, which is a hassle for students.
Many students were in favor of a mandatory/ effectively mandatory evaluation system, i.e.
fill out a letter or don't get your grades, or fill out a letter in the last class period (so
everyone there is effectively 'required' to fill out an evaluation). SGO Rec. Sec Eric
Budish suggested a combo of 'effectively mandatory' with 'entirely optional': evaluations
given out and collected at the last class session, with an attachment of the sort "fill this out
and mail it in if you'd like to make more extensive (than 20 minutes worth of) comments."
A terrible idea, if you ask me.
Griffiths asked for SPC input, which he got for quite some time:
Aubdan Haydel: a requirement of some sort is a good idea. We need something beyond
quantification (e.g. rank prof's engaging-ness from 1-5), though. Big ups to the first
twenty minutes of last class idea. Perhaps something web-based?
Gene Alexeyev: distribute letters with three weeks to go in semester, and withhold grades
if not returned.
Chip Turner: anything besides a letter, which allows for reflection, would hurt the
credibility of student input.
Nichelle Carr- Students might not be multi-faceted in their response to a vague letter.
Need firmer questions, less open-ended than currently.
Prof. Dale Peterson- Another combo-idea is to do some sort of 100% return thing at the
end of semester-classes, in concert with opportunity for reflection when the professor
actually comes up for tenure.
Jon Prokup- 100% response rate combo'd with something substantial. No quantification!!
Susan McWilliams- doesn't like last day of class idea, because it doesn't leave room for
afterthoughts, after a grade-problem or finalpaper-problem, perhaps.
Vanessa Olivier- In favor of coercion, but students are more likely to say what they feel if
they're not too forced. Force by threat of grades-withheld is too drastic.
Gena Hatcher- an end of class evaluation letter should be looked at as a class requirement,
like a final paper or problem set. Coercion, preferably of this sort (i.e. no diff in kind from
the 'coercion' that makes us do our tests/problemsets/papers), is the best and only way.
Prof. Suzanne Dougan- there is a real feeling among the junior faculty that teaching is so
poorly evaluated that they're better off caring about scholarship!! Institutional
commitment to evaluation process crucial.
A straw poll was taken by Prof. Griffiths. SPC in favor of 'coercion' vs. 'Non-coercion'
by a 3 to 1 margin.
Rebecca Stair- feeling amongst students that our voices don't count. Reinforces the
'culture of apathy', and the 'not particularly caring about one's education'. We need to
feel as though we have a voice.
Todd Sutler- over time, evaluation process will become old hat, and it will be an accepted
part of the 'culture' that our opinions count.
SGO Pres. Paul Rieckhoff- We need to evaluate *currently tenured profs*. This college,
which always brags that we can't out-research Harvard, but we sure can 'outteach-'em',
needs to make an *institutional commitment* to evaluation of teaching.
Prof Griffiths- how damaging is the symbolism behind the fact that tenured profs don't get
reviewed? What sort of message does this send??
A straw poll was taken by Prof. Griffiths. The SPC was UNANIMOUSLY in favor of
review of tenured profs.
Paul Rieckhoff- this college has unwittingly created two distinct classes of professors,
because it doesn't evaluate senior faculty.
Nichelle Carr- there is a widespread belief that there is "shadow-boxing" with respect to
our evaluations of junior faculty, that is, that our letters get quoted out of context by
departments with a tenure-agenda.
Bilal Muhammed- is there a way to ensure that tenured faculty respond to criticism in
Paul- 800 votes cast in the SGO E-Board election, highest turnout in years. Big ups to the winners:
Pres- Tom Gray '00
VP- Rebecca Stair '00
Treas.- Eric Budish '00
Corr. Sec.- Anna Bender '01
Rec. Sec.- James Dubick '99
'01 Pres- David Azoulay
'00 Pres- Rajah Menon
'99 Pres- Eric Lanard
SLC- Vanessa reported that the writing center is stubbornly sticking to English, i.e. it
won't help out with papers in foreign languages. Currently, the French department does
something akin to this, maybe other departments can follow lead.
Jon Oliver reports that the Senior Class will hold a thesis-draft bonfire, prob. On May 8th.
Annual theme house review, survey tie-in with SPC elections this Thurs. Campus
wide email network; SGO Pres, VP, Corr. Sec will have full access, class pres's will have
access to their class.
Admissions Financial Aid
discussing minority recruitment, faculty 'academic recruitment' phone-a-thon of
distinguished accepted students is underway.
lighting on hill being addressed, particularly in light of study that most traffic goes on
back roads up hill.
Trustee Committee on Student Life
much concern that 3 faculty of color are leaving Amherst, how do we retain fac of
color in future?? Profs. Johnson, Gooding-Williams, and Phillips.
Jon Prokup on SFC
Jon announced intentions to form an ad hoc committee to reform/refine the SFC.
Included will be talks on sub-chair accountability, reimbursement delays, and student
activity fee investments. The committee will be open to volunteers.
Rebecca Stair on abolishment of diversity seats
diversity seats may or may not be illegal under Mass state law. They're illegal at
UMASS, but, remember, we're an eleemosynary (private, i just wanted to show off con
law knowledge; if i spelled it right) institution.
Natalie Egan, president of the Black Students Union, opined that legality may be an issue,
but it's not the only issue. She thinks that diversity seats are necessary, and urged the
SPC to recall that "slavery was once legal."
Recording Secretary, SGO.