Thursday, September 24, 2020

Council walkout was appropriate

At the meeting of the Academic Council of MSU Sept. 26, there was a student walkout protesting a successful motion by present faculty to send the issue of “Student Public Evaluations,” or SPEs, to the Faculty Council. These student representatives were angered by the fact that the issue was being taken out of their hands and given to the Faculty Council in which students have no power for deliberation.

The proposed SPE system would make the results of previous SIRS evaluations of instructor performance available online to the public. This constitutes an important step in improving the quality of education at MSU.

SPEs will allow students to choose the professors who they think are best able to share the knowledge for which they came to this university for. SPEs will work to make professors more responsible for the quality of their teaching, and this will translate directly into a better classroom experience for students. Some below-par professors may see this as a detriment, but to those who are dedicated to their jobs as teachers, SPEs will be a blessing.

I think that any intelligent student would rather take a course from a professor who publicizes her or his evaluations than one who doesn’t, and public evaluations will reflect favorably upon university faculty as a whole in a similar manner.

If there is no reason for faculty to fear the posting of its performance, then what reason has the Faculty Council for removing the issue from the sphere of student influence? It may be argued that SPEs constitute a violation of privacy for professors, but this objection holds no sway because, just as an employer can demand to inspect the résumé of a prospective employee, a student has a right to view the performance of a professor that she or he is considering for employment - albeit indirectly. Nor may professors object that entities outside of the university will be unjustifiably able to inspect their performances, because again, if a professor is correctly doing her or his job, she or he will have nothing to hide.

I fully support the walkout of the Academic Council. It was a last-ditch effort by students to keep some control of the bill. On principle, the faculty of MSU should not deliberate alone upon the SPE issue because of the high likelihood of conflicts of interest. Hypothetical unfit professors who knew that SPEs would affect them negatively could be inclined to protect themselves by putting down or pigeonholing the SPE issue. In order to ensure that this will not happen, and to effectively further their own thoughtful interests, students need a say in the matter.

By virtue of paying a tuition bill, students of this university have a right to make informed judgments concerning their choices of professors and mentors. As such, this important matter should be placed immediately back into the hands of students by way of the Academic Council.

Kirk Down
biochemistry and interdisciplinary humanities junior


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