DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
MOTION TO CREATE AN AD HOC COMMITTEE TO STUDY
THE OWNERSHIP OF COURSE INSTRUCTOR SURVEYS
Linda Golden (professor, marketing administration), on behalf of the
Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, submitted
the following motion to create an ad hoc committee to study the issues
of ownership of Course Instructor Surveys. The secretary has classified
this motion as general legislation. The Faculty Council will discuss
the motion at its meeting on January 24, 2005.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The Faculty Council
This legislation was posted on the Faculty Council Web site
on January 20, 2005. Paper copies are available on request from the Office
of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.
MOTION TO CREATE AN AD HOC COMMITTEE TO STUDY
THE OWNERSHIP OF COURSE INSTRUCTOR SURVEYS
: The Committee of Counsel for Academic Freedom and
Responsibility (CCAFR) moves that an ad hoc committee be appointed to further
study issues of University ownership of Course Instructor Surveys (CIS) for
: The CCAFR has identified issues around: 1) administration,
2) storage, 3) faculty access, and 4) use of students’ written comments
resulting from the University's ownership of all CIS results. These issues
are sufficiently important to faculty and the University to warrant having
a faculty committee whose specific charge is exclusively devoted to it.
Linda Reichl, Faculty Council chair, requested
that the CCAFR review "all issues concerning the new legal status of
the Course Instructor Surveys. The CCAFR discussed this topic in two meetings
during fall, 2004. In our latest and most extensive discussion, we met with
Chuck Gaede (interim director of Division of Instructional Innovation and
Assessment). The CCAFR reviewed a draft of this report and made changes
based on the suggestions received.
As a result of our discussions, the CCAFR has identified issues around:
1) administration, 2) storage, and 3) faculty access to written CIS comments.
The CCAFR strongly recommends that an ad hoc University committee be appointed
to further study the issues around and implications of CIS University ownership.
Having a committee whose specific charge is exclusively devoted to this important
topic will speed processing of the issues and allow a thoroughness that the
CCAFR cannot have (given its other duties). It should be emphasized that the CCAFR
did discuss concerns about delays that can result from recommending another
committee be formed. We did not take the idea of another committee lightly,
and ultimately decided that this topic is sufficiently important to faculty
and the University that it should be given intense, in-depth exclusive focus.
Thus, we unanimously agree that a separate ad hoc committee should be formed
to study the implications of CIS ownership being held in the University,
as recently decided.
|| The ad hoc committee should gather information on the CIS processes
at other universities (nationally from "sister universities" and
within the UT System), including the results and issues these universities
have with these processes, and use this as input to a complete evaluation
of our own system (in light of the new legal CIS status).
||Further study needs to focus on issues around students' written
comments, as these appear to be most strongly impacted by the new
legal status of Course Instructor Surveys (versus the quantitative
ratings that were subject to open records 1979/80). Important issues
concerning the written student comments include: 1) maintaining the
anonymity of the student writer, 2) ensuring that faculty actually
have reasonable access to their students' written comments (actual
existence of access that is not burdensome), 3) ensuring that faculty
have access to the comments quickly, so they can be used as a source
of student feedback to improve the next semester's teaching (assuming
they will no longer be delivered directly to the faculty member),
4) identifying who else should be allowed ready administrative or
other access to student written comments (e.g., deans, department
chairs, budget councils, executive committees, other students, etc.),
and 5) ensuring appropriate administrative access for merit review,
post-tenure review, promotion, etc., with notice to the faculty member
so that faculty knows what information is being evaluated beyond
what they themselves are providing (previously faculty themselves
often submitted the information on written comments). Numbers 4 and
5 suggest issues around what will be the role of the written evaluations
in faculty reviews in light of the University's stated ownership.
The faculty member will no longer control the access to the student
comments. This may suggest changes in promotion and other evaluation
guidelines (e.g., what notice will faculty have of inclusion and
what review processes might be warranted, if any).
|| Broad Issue: how to preserve the integrity of the entire CIS system
for faculty and, at the same time, provide useful information for administrative
evaluations (e.g., merit review, post-tenure review, promotion review).
Related to this issue, we think it is important to revisit the philosophy
for conducting the CIS evaluations. What underlying goals or purposes do we as faculty, and
as a university, want to accomplish with this system of information?
The CCAFR recommends that an ad hoc committee revisit the UT CIS
and the rationales behind the need for the information being collected.
How can we best achieve our goals (after we clearly re-identify them)?
|| Broad Issue: maintaining the validity of the Course Instructor Survey
information in the face of any changes in procedures. Specifically, some
of the underlying issues here are: 1) ensuring that changes in procedures
do not alter what is actually being measured, so that comparisons across
time become impossible or difficult, and 2) ensuring that procedures
are such that students are willing/able to give their candid feedback.
We were concerned that the recent changes would result in procedures
inhibiting the collection or usefulness of the information in the future.
Again, a clear focus on the goal for collecting the information will
help ensure that validity of the process is maintained (in spite of procedural
|| Standardization Issue: maintaining consistency and standardization
across campus. This issue relates to administration, storage, and faculty
access. If the greater University does not prescribe specific procedures
for how the written comments, in particular, are to be stored and accessed,
there is likely to be a great deal of variation in processes across campus
(and even within colleges). Some units may be particularly judicious
in providing access and maintaining storage procedures for the required
length of time (seven years), while others may not be. Hence, some faculty
may be provided more timely and easier access than others. In order to
make the CIS procedures uniform (so no faculty or administrator is disadvantaged
by another unit's processes or lack thereof), we believe it is very important
for the University to standardize CIS administration, storage, and faculty
access procedures across colleges and departments. It should not be left
up to the individual college to decide who will maintain the records
(dean or department). There is too much potential for a variance in processes
that would leave both the faculty and the University vulnerable, if the
upper administration does not specify clear guidelines for who should
maintain the CIS records and how, as well as access procedures. The information
provided by the provost to the Faculty Council stated that the records
will be maintained by the college dean or the department, leaving open
both options across the University at this point in time. This also highlights
the issue of physical space for the storage of a large amount of written
student evaluations. The CCAFR addressed this, in part, by recommending
that the ad hoc committee discuss the possibility of the University moving
toward electronic procedures for all of the CIS process (see last comment
|| We recommend that any ad hoc committee on this topic contain at least
one Law School faculty member (due to the relevance of the legal issues
involved for faculty).
In the context of its discussions, the CCAFR addressed briefly the potential
for having a CIS that is totally electronic, with the student being locked
out of further UT electronic access (as a bar similar to fines owed) until
they had completed CISs for each class taken during the semester by a certain
deadline. The lock out would motivate student responses, potentially more
than the in-class administration does. An electronic format procedure would
overcome some of the issues associated with student anonymity of written
comments, standardization of procedures across the University, and faculty
ease of access to written comments, as well as providing a vehicle for administrative
access during faculty evaluation milestones. In addition, electronic processing
would address physical space issues of storing a large number of written
evaluations across a college or department. The benchmarking against other
universities (#2 above) might provide useful information around this idea.
In summary, the CCAFR identified administration, storage, and faculty access
issues as important, especially with respect to the written CIS comments.
Any ad hoc committee should consider the various purposes for the CIS (e.g.,
student feedback to the faculty and administrative reviews) and suggest immediate
procedures that would maintain the validity of the surveys for their various
multiple purposes. There is a need for a comprehensive review of the CIS
process to ensure consistency and standardization across campus for administration,
storage, and faculty access. With validity, consistency, standardization,
faculty access, and administrative usefulness as implicit goals, an ad
hoc committee should first address: "What does UT want to accomplish
with its CIS process?" Can all the goals and purposes be satisfied by
the same CIS form (assuming a non-electronic format as currently exists)?
What is the history of CIS at the University, and what can we learn from
it about our underlying CIS needs? And, finally, what steps can be taken
immediately and in the longer term to resolve the issues arising from CIS
legal ownership being held in the University?