Scholars of Sturges: Acadia Caryl (’22) on Evaluating Professors

When I applied to be on the English Department Student Board, I didn’t realize that a part of our job was to evaluate the English faculty for their performance review. The first step of the process is that student board representatives from all departments are invited to attend a meeting with the Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC) to learn about how their feedback fits into faculty review. Some suggestions are given on how to collect the evidence for the evaluations, but there is no clear structure on the right way to do so. The only thing given to the board is a copy of every faculty member’s self-report–essentially their own self-evaluation and progress report–for a sense of how they believe they’re doing. Collectively, we sat down together as a Board and discussed questions we thought were important to ask English majors and minors about their professors. Some of the questions we formulated include: Does a professor exhibit bias? Do they include a diverse selection of works? Are they able to return papers and tests in a reasonable amount of time? Then, we decided as a group to create a Google Form that students had access to so they could easily give feedback about their experiences with different professors. 

One of the things I learned while doing evaluations is that faculty were not only being reflected upon by students, but they had to consider the work they had done as well. It felt invasive reading the self-reports because these comments are used for FPC to understand how professors are performing. It was almost like eavesdropping and made me wonder if these reports were sincere and genuine thoughts from professors, or if they glossed over shortcomings to make themselves sound better. 

Given all we had to sort through, we were grateful to have Madison Williams and Kaitie Welch as a part of the Board because they had already gone through this process last year and knew some expectations for the quality of our reports. As Welch herself points out,  “It is an interesting process to undertake because while students often know how well professors do or vice versa, it was enlightening to see how a professor’s perception of themselves compared.” Throughout the entire process, I found myself wondering if my evaluation would make a difference or if it could really change the trajectory of a professor’s career at OWU.  In the end, I believe the evaluations are impactful and all of us took evaluating the English faculty as a serious part of our time on the board; however, we also found some enjoyment in the experience as we were pushing for the best English faculty possible. The experience was definitely unique and different from anything I have ever done before.

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