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Bloomington Faculty Council talks tenure and student evaluations


IU faculty members listen to discussion during Bloomington Faculty Council on Nov. 5 at Franklin Hall. The faculty passed a policy outlining criteria for students to earn academic credit for prior learning. Joy Burton

The Bloomington Faculty Council met Nov. 5 at Franklin Hall to discuss changes in existing tenure evaluation policy and to pass a prior learning policy proposed at the last meeting.

The prior learning policy was created to streamline the process of letting students use outside experience, such as IU EdX online classes as a qualification for academic credit at IU. The policy was passed unanimously without discussion.  

The Bloomington Faculty Council spent a majority of the meeting discussing adjustments to the evaluation criteria for promotion and tenure. IU President Michael McRobbie ordered the changes due to the prior policy’s lack of clarity, Kim Geeslin, associate vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said.

“The new changes should provide guidance and give departments room to make adjustments for their needs,” Jane McLeod, the IU sociology department chair, said.

Changes include clarification about the meaning of specific evaluation criteria such as “very good” and “good.” McLeod said the new criteria is meant to apply to all departments.

The Bloomington Faculty Council disputed the language, and they spent time discussing the “balanced case” mentioned in the policy. The balanced case occurs when a faculty member performs well in research, teaching and service rather than one category over the others.

“I believe the balanced case is an example of what professors should be doing,” Peter Kloosterman, an emeritus professor at the School of Education, said.

There was also discussion about the exclusion of student evaluations as a criteria for evaluating teachers, which was part of the policy previously.

Barbara Cherry, a media law professor, said student evaluations are not as accurate of a way to assess teaching as they used to be when the policy was implemented.

“There are less people who respond now, and the ones who are responding are either very positive or negative,” Cherry said.

Cherry said in her unit, faculty members use peer evaluations as a way to assess each other more accurately in addition to student evaluations.

Dennis Groth, vice provost for undergraduate education, said the University Faculty Council, which represents all seven campuses, put together a joint task force earlier this year to review the Online Course Questionnaire and the process of student evaluations. Groth said the results should be ready by the end of the year.

McLeod said she will take into consideration these arguments as she and her colleagues make revisions to the promotion and tenure policy for the next meeting on Nov. 19.

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