Faculty discuss potential evaluation system changes

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences convened Thursday afternoon to discuss proposed changes to who can access online course evaluations.

The proposal ­— drafted by the Teaching and Learning Committee — recommends that more faculty members, as well as non-faculty who sign students’ schedules, should be given access to parts of the evaluations and that additional questions be added about a course’s relevance to a student’s major and distributional requirements. The proposal also recommends that faculty be able to opt to make almost the entirety of the evaluation available to Yale faculty and students.

Physics and astronomy professor Charles Bailyn, who chaired the committee, said a recommendation calling for year-round access to the evaluations — the provision most relevant to undergraduates — has already been approved to go into effect this summer. He said the evaluation results will be tied to the Online Course Information Web site rather than the Online Course Selection Web site, which is only available during shopping period, which should solve the biggest undergraduate complaint with the current evaluation system.

The faculty will vote on all the recommendations outlined in the report in April, Bailyn said.

Students said they are pleased with the feature to be implemented next year.

Ben Bokser ’09 said he thinks evaluations could also be enhanced by including information about the way courses are graded or curved.

“I often want to start shopping for courses earlier than it’s open and that’s frustrating,” Bokser said. “I think it would be helpful if the system showed the curve of the grades or a grade distribution.”

According to the OCE report, many students have said they would like to be able to view the evaluations of their teaching fellows. It goes on to say that further discussions with representatives from the Yale College Council and the Graduate Student Assembly must take place prior to concrete recommendations.

In January, the YCC announced plans to create a system for teaching fellow evaluations, hosted either on OCS or on an outside Web site.

At the meeting, which was closed to reporters, the faculty also discussed the Humanities Initiative announced by Provost Andrew Hamilton last month.French professor Howard Bloch, who will chair the new program, said the discussion was purely informational and that faculty had the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about the initiative. Through the initiative, the humanities program will be permitted to appoint junior and senior faculty members either to the humanities program alone or jointly with another department. This will result in a substantial expansion of the humanities faculty, since it can currently only appoint non-ladder faculty members in specific departments.

While most faculty said they were pleased with the program, Bloch said, some wished they could have been more involved in developing the initiative.

“Some regretted that they had not been part of the process but I would say the reaction was by and large positive,” Bloch said. “Some felt that [the expansion of the humanities program] should happen through the departments rather than through this separate initiative.”

The initiative will be administered by a newly created executive committee.

The humanities program expansion will take place throughout this calendar year.

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