The Associated Students of Colorado State University, an organization that manages $2.5 million in student fees, decided to discontinue funding of course surveys until what they believe to be biases in those surveys are remedied. Each year, ASCSU traditionally provided $6,500 for the course surveys that students complete at the end of each semester to evaluate their professors.
Research by the task force on reforming the course surveys last academic year and last semester suggested that course surveys create biases towards professors who identify as women or minorities, and who teach in poor facilities.
“These course surveys go into promotions and they go into certain teaching awards,” said Jason Sydoriak, president of ASCSU. “I can’t in good faith invest in a product that makes it harder for women, minorities, and those teaching in poor facilities get promoted.”
ASCSU does not have a contract that requires them to pay the $6,500 each year to fund course surveys, but Sydoriak offered one to the university if the course surveys were reformed to eliminate biases and if the surveys could be taken online.
“It’s a statement,” Sydoriak said. “This is a billion dollar organization, and they can pick up $6,500, regardless of cuts. We (ASCSU) are not willing to invest in this survey, but we’re wiling to invest in a different survey.”
A task force has been working with the University and ASCSU to improve the course surveys, Sydoriak said.
The current recommendations from the task force included making the surveys confidential, but not anonymous. Researchers would be able to see the demographics of people taking the surveys, but they would not be able to identify the students personally.
The recommendation also includes discontinuing the use of course surveys for promotions, tenure decisions, contract signing renewals or best teacher awards.
“I think this (not using surveys for promotions) is extremely important, because if there are biases that exist, it removes those from being used to contribute towards someone’s livelihood,” Sydoriak said. “Then, if (surveys) are used for instructional purposes, it will ensure that students are getting the best learning environment that they can. That is something I’m willing to throw my money at.”
Sydoriak said the revision of the surveys is expected to be proposed to faculty council this semester.
Collegian Reporter Erin Douglas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @erinmdouglas23.