Faculty Senate debates commission report

Carrie Blazina

The Faculty Senate apparently still has some work to do if it wants to vote on new faculty evaluation methods next month, said senate chair Paul Farrell. 

The senate’s executive committee members have heavily debated, over the past month, the Lovejoy Commission recommendations, which are recommendations outlined by a faculty commission concerning teacher evaluations. The Faculty Senate has not reached a consensus yet. If a consensus is reached, the senate could vote at the Feb. 13 Faculty Senate meeting.

The Lovejoy commission was created by Mack Hassler, an English professor and former Faculty Senate chair, in Fall 2010. It looked into two forms of evaluation: student evaluation of professors, and the peer review processes professors use for promotion or tenure candidates.

According to the January Faculty Senate update, one concern raised by senators about the peer review recommendations is that using one standard evaluation, regardless of which type of teacher or course is being evaluated, is unfair. Another concern is whether Kent State professors or external reviewers would be conducting the evaluations and how many times a professor should be evaluated to ensure fair representation of the professor’s work.

Hassler wrote, in an email, that he thinks there is indeed some disagreement among the senators over how to implement the recommendations and which ones to implement.

“There has been a massive amount of discussion on the recommendations of the commission,” he wrote. “There are a lot of hesitancies among elected senators. So far the process of talking has been our way to deal with those doubts.”

Right now, the Student Survey of Instruction form uses questions based on the Likert scale, which asks the reviewer to rate something on a scale of one to five. “The current peer review forms are solely based on written short-answer responses to questions and do not use Likert scale numbers,” Farrell said. 

Farrell said one recommendation by the commission was to have the two forms meet in the middle a bit more and have more written responses from students and more Likert scale responses on peer reviews, but this is still a topic of debate for some senators.

“There has been a tendency to interpret numbers in a way that just is not appropriate,” Farrell said. “I think most of the complaints are about the incorrect or inaccurate interpretation of the numbers.” 

Farrell said the SSI form may be moving online in the near future. While a pilot program for the College of Nursing and distance-learning courses to use the online SSI evaluations received a very low response-rate when compared to in-class evaluations, the Lovejoy Commission recommended an incentive of withholding student grades until they fill out the evaluation.

Farrell said the next step is for the executive committee to choose recommendations that they want voted on at the next Faculty Senate meeting.

“Commission recommendations come to the senate and then the senate votes on whether to implement them, to send them back to the commission, [or] to partially implement them,” Farrell said. “All of those are options.”

Farrell said the committee will ask the senate to vote on conducting another online evaluation pilot program. If the program is approved and implemented, the changes to the SSI could be permanent.

“Usually something like this, if it gets to the floor of the senate it has a reasonable chance of passing,” Farrell said.

Tensions are high about these issues, Hassler wrote, because evaluations affect Faculty Senate members greatly.

“It is a very important set of issues since teaching is so important in what we all do here at Kent,” he wrote. 

Farrell also said he thought the Lovejoy Commission’s work was highly important to implement correctly.

“It affects quite a lot of people in terms of making the appointments, tenures and promotions,” he said. “So it’s sort of important to make sure it’s done right. That’s why people feel strongly about it. They don’t want something put in place that won’t be fair both to the students and to the faculty.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].