Faculty Senate encourages limitations on weight given to student evaluations

TCU Faculty Senate passed a motion that will suggest limitations on the way student survey feedback is used in overall teaching evaluation in the Senate’s final meeting of the school year Thursday afternoon.

Senators voted all in favor a report put together by the Tenure, Promotion and Grievance Committee to endorse guidelines for teaching evaluation. Included in the recommendations was a commitment to continue affirmation of the Teacher‐Scholar model, a suggestion that each college, department, and program adjust their evaluation process to suit their individual needs, and, following amendments to the original report, a suggestion that student perception evaluations not be weighted at more than 30 percent of a teacher’s overall evaluation.

Tenure, Promotion and Grievance Committee Chair, Alan Shorter, said the report was based off of a faculty survey, for which the largest number of responses focused on Student Perception of Teaching evaluations, or SPOTs. Concerns stemmed from the lack of regulation between the colleges on how much student feedback counted in a teacher’s evaluation.

As part of the Academic Excellence Committee’s work to improve these evaluations, the university will also transition to eSPOTs, an online version of the evaluations featuring new survey questions in spring 2012.

In addition, the report called for each college to review and update their evaluation process and submit the revised version to the provost.

“We decided what really needed to be done, based on examining the comments coming from online, is that we look at evaluation of teaching and what are best practices, what are principals that should be faced, so that the faculty could hopefully endorse a set of principals and best practices can be recommended,” Shorter said.

The piece of legislation was voted on and passed with no objections.

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Brian Gutierrez, gave a financial status report to the Senate, focusing on the university’s tuition costs compared to similar private schools as well as schools in the Big East Conference. According to Gutierrez’s report, TCU remains less expensive to students than many of the private institutions in the Big East, even after the 6.5 percent tuition increase approved by the Board of Trustees in the fall.

“(The Board of Trustees) felt that in comparison to other schools, for all that a student receives here in their experience in the classroom, outside the classroom and so forth, that now is the time to continue to push a little bit further on tuition pricing,” Gutierrez said.

Though consistent with the price of many private schools, TCU remains considerably more expensive than the public schools in the Big East, even when accounting for out of state tuition.

Greg Friedman, chair of the Academic Excellence Committee, asked Gutierrez whether the trustees had considered keeping tuition the same to offer a competitive advantage to steal students away from other, more expensive private schools.

Gutierrez said that market research indicated forgoing the increase would not offer much advantage, especially when considering the resources that money provides to the university.

Overall, Gutierrez said of the university’s finances that they had “weathered a significant storm financially” compared to other universities.

Faculty Senate Chair Dianna McFarland recognized the outgoing officers and committee chairs, then handed over the gavel to the new chair for the 2011-2012 school year, Dan Williams. Williams adjourned the meeting, concluding the Faculty Senate’s session for the year.