With midterms underway, stressed Yalies will have the opportunity to complain directly to their professors — and they’ll be able to do it anonymously.
Instituted by the Yale College Teaching and Learning Committee, a new feature allows students to log on to the “classes” server and anonymously submit suggestions to their professors throughout the course of the semester. Each week, professors who have comments on the server will receive an e-mail instructing them to read the suggestions.
Astronomy chairman Charles Bailyn, the Teaching and Learning Committee chairman, said a few faculty members have expressed concern about receiving anonymous messages. But Bailyn said there is little room for abuse because of the system’s structure.
“It’s not a forum,” Bailyn said. “The only person who gets it is the faculty member. So if a student submits a nasty or unhelpful message, nobody but the professor will read it.”
Political science professor Anastassios Kalandrakis, who sent an e-mail to his “Strategic Thinking in Business and Politics” class encouraging them to submit evaluations, said he thinks the system will be helpful even though it is susceptible to abuse.
“[Abuse] is always in the range of possibility and I believe there’s actually a good chance something like that will happen,” Kalandrakis said. “But I think it’s a good idea, especially in a lecture class because students do not always have access to the professors and they cannot communicate what they think at times.”
Edward Kairiss, a member of the Teaching and Learning Committee and the academic media and technology director for Information Technology Systems, said the student messages will not be monitored or filtered in any way.
“We’re quite confident that they are truly anonymous and confidential,” Kairiss said.
The feature has been in place since last spring, but it was only Wednesday that the Yale College Dean’s Office sent out a campus-wide e-mail informing students of the feature.
Paul Bloom, director of undergraduate studies for the Psychology Department, said the usefulness of the feature will depend on the student comments.
“Some feedback you just can’t react to,” Bloom said. “But it could be useful for the types of things you could change, such as talking too fast or inadequate overheads.”
Jean-Paul Christophe ’04 said the system could help students bring problems to the attention of professors, even if the student comments do not result in major changes.
“I don’t think that the professors will necessarily change their policy based on my comments,” Christophe said, “but I think that anything I say has to be at least considered.”
Bailyn said the future of the feedback system depends on how the students use it. He said the project’s purpose is to provide feedback to professors, not to take place of office hours or personal e-mail contact.
Bailyn said the feature will be discontinued if students use the system to send irrelevant messages or use it as a substitute for direct contact with the professor.
The new feedback system is part of the Teaching and Learning Committee’s initiative to move many academic services online. Among the changes that have been made thus far are online course registration and a feature where professors are able to access facebook photos of their students.
“The larger project is trying to figure out how to use new media to facilitate interactions between students and faculty and to streamline a lot of these processes,” Bailyn said.