University Senate reminds faculty to abide by Faculty Handbook policy when handling USAT forms
It has come to our attention that departments vary in their procedure and in the use of the written comments on the University Student Assessment of Teaching (USAT) forms. Most departments utilize the University Student Assessment of Teaching (USAT) form, although others are permissible if approved by the Dean of the College. If your department processes USAT forms, please remind your staff that it is not appropriate to open the USAT envelopes prior to ITSS scanning. The envelopes, which should be sealed per the student monitor, need to remain sealed prior to scanning. Once the forms results have been processed by the Office of Institutional Research, the USAT forms and report will be sent back to the faculty member. Each department chairperson will receive a CD with copies of the instructor reports (summary page), along with some additional summaries, e.g., summary by department, by 100-200 level courses, by Essential Studies/Courses, and institutional summary.
It is the use of the students’ written comments in faculty evaluations, however, that caused us to seek the advice of Thomas Petros, who helped to draft the current policy, to recall the intent of the committee when the policy was drafted. As Petros recalls, the written comments that some students may choose to provide are the property of the faculty member and are not be read by the chair or dean without the consent of the faculty member. The University Senate’s approved policy is located in the Faculty Handbook. The relevant section of the handbook is copied below.
“Mixed Data. When formal numerical data is mixed with informal written data, as is often the case with student feedback forms, only the numerical data will be reported to the chair and dean. However, because it is important that teaching not be reduced to a numerical rating, it is recommended that faculty share student written comments with evaluators as well. At the same time, because written student comments represent only the perspective of those who choose to make them, it is also recommended that department and college evaluators recognize the limitations of such data and seek to corroborate it using other sources. Because written data provided by students on anonymous end-of-semester questionnaires is protected by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), all reasonable care must be taken to see that such data is not traceable to individual students.”
If you would like to read these policies for yourself, please go to the Faculty Handbook section II-4 ”Procedures and Guidelines for Employee Evaluations” and scroll down until you will find 5. Use of Student Feedback. We send you this letter in the hopes of bringing this to everyone’s attention because there have been several reported episodes of chairs and deans not abiding by this policy. We hope that simply reminding everyone of this policy will prevent any further problems and/or miscommunications.
Kathy Smart, chairperson, University Senate
Curtis Stofferahn, vice chairperson, University Senate