Opinion: Students should take professor evaluations more seriously

Paul Hazelton

I’m sure that, by now, you’ve all had to complete at least one class evaluation. I’m also sure that many of you bubbled in the questions at Sonic the Hedgehog speed without so much as a glance at their content. Until recently, I did the same thing.

They seem like a waste of time and they certainly don’t appear to change much, but I’ve come to realize that’s unlikely. After all, why would the administration go through all the trouble of murdering dozens of trees and devoting countless hours of manpower to filing these evaluations if they had no effect on our education?

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Now, that’s a no-brainer to some of you, but for many, these surveys are seen as a simple formality with no practical purpose. For the latter, let me briefly explain why you should care.

I’ve heard many students say, “I wish there was a way to grade my teachers,” and that’s what this is. The reason your “sh*tty” teacher gets away with teaching terribly might be because they have tenure, but typically, it’s because we don’t take five minutes to fill out these evaluations or the comment section on the back. Even when we do, we rarely sign our names to them which is required if they’re to show up in our teachers review. If we followed through on these actions, those teachers/TAs that come to class completely unprepared might be unemployed, watching soap reruns at their houses.

Another section  you should pay attention to is one you likely missed if you were running through the sheet. At one point, they ask you to rate the room and the equipment it contains. For me, this question always scores a one — the lowest grade — because all my classes are housed in Clark, which, by the looks of it, hasn’t been renovated since at least the 1950s. Regardless, whatever building you’re in, there’s probably something you don’t like about it. Unfortunately, by skimming over this question and marking all fives, you screwed yourself, your peers and your professors out of a potential upgrade.

That’s too bad, but at this point I’m guessing a good number of you still don’t care, which is understandable. It’s close to finals, you’re tired and many of you are graduating this year. So what’s the point?

Perhaps there needs to be a greater incentive like the one offered by our rivals in Boulder. When CU completes their evaluations, the results are published on their website, allowing students to see the cumulative scores of professors and classes. If our own University adopted this policy, we could save incoming freshmen and others from having the same horrific experiences we’ve had with not-so-great professors.

With the academic future of classmates on our shoulders, we might take these surveys more seriously. Improving on this system, we could also publish write-ups from the comment section, which would serve to further motivate students to thoughtfully critique classes.

So, if nothing else, write that suggestion on your evaluations and sign your name so we can actually see the results that we can help to create.

Collegian Columnist Paul Hazelton can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @HazeltonPaul.