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A right to privacy

Anna Mitchell
Anna Mitchell

At the end of a stressful semester and even more stressful dead week, CSU gives their students the biggest slap in the face of all: course evaluations.

The problem isn’t that we are asked to evaluate our courses, facilities and instruction; no, that’s a good thing. The problem is that we are asked to evaluate the people who stand in between us and our diplomas — and then sign our name letting them know who it is that feels this way about them and their classes.

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This is equivalent to asking a lower-level employee to sign his name on a sheet evaluating his boss. Writing about all the horrible things his boss does can only hurt the lower-level employee, because the next time he sees his boss there will be consequences for his words.

So what does this employee do? Whether he believes it to be true or not, he writes “my boss is great” and signs on the line.

This is a system where everyone loses — the employee doesn’t get to actually voice his opinion, and the higher-up doesn’t get to learn where things are actually successful and where there is room for growth.

We have all had to fill out course evaluations at the end of the semester. We fill in bubbles asking quantifiable questions about the course and the professor. And then we reach the comments section, where you are asked for constructive and qualitative information. Here, a signature is “highly requested.”

What do you do? Are you brutally honest and sign, knowing that you will/could have this professor again in the future? Or do you pacify the situation by making generic/no remarks?

In a ploy to increase signatures, some teachers tell students that our opinions will be dismissed if we refuse to comply with a system that attaches ourselves to any negative comments we may make about those who have the power to ensure we face negative consequences. This shows just how little value there is for the student voice at CSU.

It means the evaluations are designed to pacify students – it gives us an outlet to rant about that one professor that never gives out rubrics or the class where TAs are not allowed to give any help, without actually valuing why we find these aspects of our education to be truly problematic.

And the professors lose, too. Tenure status is reliant on a student signature being attached to the comments they make. It would be an absolute shame to have amazing comments be made about your abilities as a professor and be forced to throw them out because you cannot use them in your review process simply because that student executed her right to privacy. Not to mention, how will you grow as a leader if those you are leading cannot feel safe expressing honesty about your shortcomings?

There has been endless research concluding people are more likely to be honest in a survey where anonymity is protected. If course evaluations are designed to be an effective system, then they absolutely must become anonymous. My crusade against signed evaluations is about making the system better and helping CSU grow into the absolute best school it can be. It’s about protecting students from lasting repercussions. It’s about ethics.

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Do the right thing, CSU. Protect students’ privacy. We’ll all win if you do.

Anna Mitchell knows privacy is pretty much gone in the social networking era, but come on already CSU. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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