Thursday, May 01, 2008

Dude. Enough With the Eval Requests Already

If you are a Boalt student, your @berkeley inbox contains the following email:

"Please take a minute to complete your teaching evaluations. Not only are they important for feedback to faculty, but they also ensure you will have access to the online exam interface. Please do them now so you don't have to email me in a panic on Monday when you can't access your exams. Thank you! "

Anonymous in comments just asked:

Did we just get told that if we don't fill out evaluations, we won't be able to take exams? Not cool.

My first reaction was exactly the same.

My second reaction was to ask: why can't we submit evaluations AFTER we take the professor's exam? That's a rather huge part of the course . . . isn't it? And if a hypothetical professor's exam (*ahem* Torts *cough*) contains typos, confuses the gender of parties in the fact pattern, contains a deeply ambiguous set of instructions, and puts other stumbling blocks in the way of students' ability to perform, shouldn't that information make it into the evaluation process? Especially since student feedback is apparently so important, and taken so seriously? (*cough* the last five years of TeleBears *ahem*)

My third reaction was to wonder: is there some way Boalt's obsessive desire for student evaluations (today's was the fourth email I have received) can be converted to leverage for the release of the evaluations' narratives?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

nope -- california privacy law prohibits it.

5/01/2008 12:28 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

You forgot to mention that we've created a place where you can go post the narrative part of your evaluation. (Many people have already done just that.)

I really do hope they don't let you access your exams without doing the evaluations. That's fewer exams I'll have to take, I guess.

5/01/2008 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't we see the narratives now? What is the policy underlying that? Are we scared of what Boalties are saying about their professors?

To me, that's the most important part of the evaluation. It sheds light on someone's subjective numerical assessment of the professor's "expertise" or "master of the material," etc.

5/01/2008 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call BS on Mindi's e-mail. I don't see how anybody is going to be e-mailing anyone "in a panic." The only reason one might panic is if time were an issue. That would only be at an in-class exam. And there you don't even NEED to access the exam interface until after the exam is OVER. You go to the exam, open your word document with your little header, get the paper copy of the exam and take it. You THEN need to upload it to the exam interface. You think they're going to just NOT let you upload the exam you just took? In the past even if you can't access the exam interface for some reason, they just bring around little flash drives and take your exam that way. Worst case scenario, they make you sit there and fill out the eval right then. EVERYBODY PANIC!

For take homes, it's probably technologically possible for them to not let you download it and force you to fill out the eval right then. That's a great way to get honest evaluations. I'd likely just mark "average" straight down the page to move it along.

Bottom line--this is a mean and ineffective thing to do. The administration is preying on people's nerves about finals as a scare tactic to get us to do this administrative task. If they want these done honestly and well, they should require professors to give time in class! For me, the two I filled out so far were the two where my professor gave us 10 minutes to do them.

Also, I've taken exams without doing evals before. So this is new this semester. If they can make this change in one semester, then why can't they fix Telebears before Phase II?!

5/01/2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Somebody who knows (12:28?) can straighten me out where I am wrong, but I am under the impression that California privacy law grants our professors the discretion to keep all or part of employment evaluations confidential.

That's not quite the same as prohibiting release.

Many professors already release some of their evaluation information (that's where those useless goddamn bar graphs come from right?) What's the conceptual difference between a bar graph that says a professor's organization skills are a 4 out of 7, and a sentence written by a student that say "this guy's organizational skills are a 4 out of 7"?

Right now it seems like the release of evaluations are structured around what you might call a presumption of privacy, with selective release of information on case-by-case basis. Why can't they be structured around a presumption of disclosure, were *all* of *every* eval is released, unless professors choose to affirmatively exercise their California privacy rights and withhold them?

Lastly, there is always the end run -- you can always copy and paste the whole narrative right into Matt's professor review site.

5/01/2008 12:41 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Speaking of Telebears Phase II, why the heck don't the reverse the order from Phase I? So if I was the last 1L to register for Phase I, I'd be the first 1L to register for Phase II? Wouldn't that be a fair and equitable solution?

Now, back to teaching evaluations...

5/01/2008 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mindi was kidding.

Those types of jokes don't usually go over too well this time of year, though.

5/01/2008 1:02 PM  
Blogger tj said...

I was a bit surprised when people had that interpretation of the email.

I took it simply as "if you can log into the eval system, you'll be able to log into the exam interface - doing evals is a great way to make sure the second one will work..."

I guess it could have been written more clearly, but, damn, people are tightly wound up!

5/01/2008 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least this year they're giving fair warning when the evaluations will no longer be available. Last year they ended access without posting anything on the Boalt website (at least as I could tell) or sending out an email warning to that effect... and this at a time when students were preoccupied with finals.

5/01/2008 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm refusing to fill out evaluations until they permit us to do so after final exams. Filling out an evaluation before then provides an incomplete and skewed evaluation.

By the way, it looks like Sklansky isn't leaving Boalt. Lucky 1Ls!

5/01/2008 6:36 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Credit needs to be given where credit is due. She sent a full apology email and clarified her point (which was pretty much the one I posted above).

She aint no registrar, that's for sure. We can all be happy for that.

Back to studying, my grumpy compatriots!

5/02/2008 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In honor of 6:36, I too will refuse to fill out my evaluation until after the exam. There are times in a person's life when they have to stand up for what is just, fair, and righteous. . . and that time my friends, is now. They think they can confuse us with fairly straight-forward e-mails with a minor hint of ambiguity? They think they can silence our voices? It is for this reason that I ask all Boalties to stand together with me and 6:36!

Jesus, calm down everyone.

5/02/2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

um . . . yeah.

and here I have been telling everyone how relaxed I am this week . . . .

5/02/2008 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol@TJ: "Credit needs to be given where credit is due."

hypocrite much?

5/02/2008 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today's email about lockers: Since we aren't storing items, there is no fee for retrieving them.

Gee, thanks. lol

5/02/2008 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:59 [LH, or equivalent]: Go back to your hole.

5/02/2008 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:45 PM - take your assumptions and shove them.

- loyal BLB fan

5/02/2008 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notice that even though there are posted signs in the building/library that classrooms are available as extra study space starting today (friday) through exam period from 6-10pm, someone in the chain forgot to inform the cleaning crew about the change in schedule, who insisted on kicking everyone out at 6. It'd be nice to have some space other than the very crowded library (or the scary microfilm room), and even nicer to have the administration actually follow through and make sure the rooms are open. I wonder if they will be open at all this weekend -- my guess is that if they forgot about Friday, no one will bother to open them up on Sat. and Sunday. :(

5/03/2008 1:50 AM  

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