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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: 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 faculty.

Rationale: 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.

Background: 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.

1. 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).

2. 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).

3. 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


  history and the rationales behind the need for the information being collected. How can we best achieve our goals (after we clearly re-identify them)?

4. 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 changes).

5. 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 below).

6. 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?