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Educational Policy Committee

The principal topic of consideration over the past year was Course Instructor Surveys and especially the question of movement to a default system that used eCIS (electronic survey format). The committee (EPC) was divided on this point with a variety of issues being raised:

  1. Degree of response; that is, there is a heavier response with paper surveys than with electronic surveys. Comparison evaluation of surveys at other institutions tends to show little variation in the reviews that an individual instructor might obtain either in written or electronic surveys.
  2. Quality of written comments and corresponding privacy issues; paper response tends to draw more detailed comments, plus there is concern about “freedom of information” requests from external sources, either commercial “pick a prof” ratings or agencies that are now critical of university teaching.
  3. Economic costs for maintaining written surveys are evident–mainly due to collection and compiling, but it is possible to find ways to reduce such costs.
  4. It would be difficult to generally characterize different stakeholders in this discussion, but on the whole students seem most amenable to a switch in the default system. Whichever choice is made, there would always be an option to choose the alternative method.
  5. Additional points raised included statistical studies showing bias in student evaluations and the importance of student evaluations for faculty teaching awards. Toward the end of the year, one also saw proposals made outside the University for merit raises for instructional faculty to be based entirely on student evaluations.
  6. Finally, there was the question of a possible evaluation and review in terms of the format and nature of the actual questions used in the survey. The current design appears to come from the period 1990-95, and it would seem reasonable to re-examine the current form, especially in light of possible external pressure, either at the UT System level or more broadly in the state higher education system, to have a uniform “student evaluation” used across all state institutions.

At the conclusion of the academic year, a small subcommittee met with the chair elect Janet Staiger and elected not to take action on any of these issues at this time.

The main action of the EPC was to propose a revision of the One-Time-Exception Policy (D 8666-8667) to provide a universally uniform policy across all colleges/schools for students to receive one free class drop after the normal deadline to drop due to academic reasons with certain specified provisions. This proposal was initiated in its final form by the Student Deans Committee and was subsequently endorsed by the Faculty Council at its May 9 meeting. At the registrar’s request, the EPC also addressed several issues related to clarification of catalogue language related to undergraduate drops, withdrawals, and in absentia registration (D 8668, D 8669, D 8670), which were reviewed and approved at the May 9 Faculty Council meeting.

Finally, in the upcoming year, it is expected that issues related to the “undergraduate core curriculum” will require review by the Educational Policy Committee both in response to proposals from the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the School of Undergraduate Studies. This topic was briefly examined by an EPC sub-committee, but the recommendation was to defer study until the fall term.

William Beckner, chair