WKU interested in ‘viable alternatives’ in professor evaluation

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

“Viable alternatives” to measure professor performance, other than relying solely on student evaluations, are being sought by members of WKU’s administration.

Faculty Senate Chair Toni Szymanski brought up the issue of measuring professor performance during the Senate’s meeting on Thursday.

“I met with the president [Timothy Caboni] and he is interested in finding other ways for us to evaluate teaching effectiveness rather than just using student evaluations,” Szymanski said.

Szymanski said she wants to form an ad hoc committee, composed ideally with a representative from each college, that would come up with better alternatives that might take student evaluations’ place. 

“My big thing I’d like to move forward this year is to stop relying so heavily on an instrument we know is not valid or reliable,” Szymanski said. “We can’t just get rid of that and have nothing, so I’m looking for people to come up with viable alternatives.”

Student evaluations were brought under the microscope in July when the Board of Regents was tasked with deciding whether to dismiss Jeanine Huss, tenured faculty and full-time professor, due to a series of student complaints. The board voted 8-0 not to dismiss her.

Kirk Atkinson, professor in the Gordon Ford College of Business and a member of the Budget Executive Committee, announced that this year’s 2% raise pool had been approved by the administration.

“I’m not sure if I can announce this yet, but I am, but I do believe that the Board of Regents has approved the 2% across the board raise,” Atkinson said. “So, everyone should be seeing that in their January check.”

Rob Hale, associate provost for faculty and academic excellence and professor of English sitting in for Provost Bud Fischer, confirmed Atkinson’s statement. While the Regents have not approved the pool yet, the raises are inbound. 

“I just want to affirm what Kirk said about the 2% across the board raise,” Hale said. “I don’t know if the Regents have approved it but I think the president has. The 2% is going to happen.”

Atkinson also said the BEC discussed one-time payments from university cash-on-hand, though a decision had not been officially made yet.

“That will go back to the committee and they can talk about that some more,” Atkinson said. “Maybe we’ll hear some more about that next time we meet.”

The Senate also voted to add new members to WKU’s University Complaint Committee.

Vice-Chair Dan Clark said he created the ballot from names, both students and faculty, that were on their respective colleges’ complaint committee. According to Clark, the university committee has four faculty and two student positions.

The top four faculty picks for the committee were Amanda Clark, Ashley Fox, Carl Dick and Les Pesterfield. The top four student results were Tristan Burks, Olivia Blackmon, Kaitlyn Cook and Gabe Heckerman.

The purpose of the committee is to allow students to appeal their complaints.

“The Office of the Provost will see that decisions of the University Complaint Committee are carried out,” the complaint procedure states. “The University Complaint Committee’s decision is final.”

Lastly, Julie Shadoan, professor and coordinator for professional legal studies and paralegal studies, said students are sponsoring a name change clinic at BG Pride Fest, taking place downtown on Saturday, Oct. 22.

“The student legal services and the prelaw student association is sponsoring a name change clinic this weekend at the Pride Festival,” Shadoan said. “We will also be doing a clinic on campus in the spring.”

The specifics are still unknown, but interested students are encouraged to contact Shadoan directly.

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]