Other students warned him not to take this particular professor.
But it was his last semester and Owen Rahman had no choice because that was the only professor available for the class he needed to graduate.
“A number of students were doing poorly,” said Rahman, a 2006 summer chemistry graduate from Philadelphia, “and it seemed like the professor wanted us to fail.
I didn’t do anything about the teacher because I’m graduating,” he said. “I’ve heard that students have complained to those in charge of the department about him, but nothing was ever done.”
Rahman said if nothing was done and the professor found out which students complained, he could have taken it out on them before the class was over.
“I had no choice but to take the professor, but other students may have had more options,” he said.
And an increase of options in the teacher selection and evaluation process by students is something Rahman believes the university needs to change.
Florida A&M University officials said they are working to improve the teacher evaluation system and student input for the upcoming 2008 reaccredidation process and to better educational programs across the board.
In the past Owen said he found out from friends and other students about a professor’s class before signing up. “I think there should be more ways for students to find out about a teacher,” he said. “Our grades are put on a transcript-why shouldn’t teachers have a transcript of their evaluations available for the student body?”
Currently when students fill out teacher evaluation surveys at the end of the semester, they go to the Testing Center in Sunshine Manor. The evaluations then go to professors, deans, the library and the Student Government Association, said a Testing Center employee.
Deans and department chairs can use the surveys when evaluating professors, but it is not mandatory according to university rules and the state board of education rules for universities. And no committee in the academic affairs department or in individual schools oversees the results of the surveys.
Gita Pitter, associate vice president of academic affairs, said the department is creating a new system to analyze information about teacher evaluations.
“We are planning to have more collective information available about student evaluations of faculty teaching so university administrators can identify areas that need attention,” Pitter said.
“We have purchased new equipment and software to handle evaluations,” Pitter continued. “Within the year our staff will be exploring the utilization of this equipment to provide aggregate data on student evaluations of faculty, such as average scores on certain questions for the university as a whole or within specific departments and colleges.”
Pitter said that supervisors annually evaluate faculty and if necessary issues about a professor are brought to the dean. From the dean, issues with a professor go to higher levels such as the Provost in academic affairs.
Vivian Hobbs has been on both sides of the teacher evaluation process. She is now the director of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Reaffirmation for accreditation, and she was previously an English professor for 26 years.
“In the department I was in we used student evaluation forms when applying for promotions, tenure, or teacher of the year,” Hobbs said. “I would advocate a new system for evaluations where the responses tallied by student evaluations would go to key personnel.”
Even though Hobbs said she took the survey results seriously to evaluate her own teaching methods, she believes more could be done with the surveys to increase student involvement in the process.
But some parts of the system pose roadblocks to students, said Hobbs, such as tenured faculty, who officials cannot dismiss without great cause.
Tenured faculty members receive annual evaluations by supervisors and then sustained performance evaluations every seven years, according to the United Florida Faculty Union Collective Bargaining Agreement. A professor would have to consistently receive poor evaluations over the seven year period to face a possible layoff or termination.
But despite some roadblocks students may face while voicing their inputs on professors, Hobbs said students play an important part in the educational system because they are the recipients of the process.
“There needs to be some kind of system to satisfy students because students are the customers,” he said. “The university should treat it like a business to satisfy the customer.”