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November 30, 1979 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-30

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Page 12-Friday, November 30, 1979-The Michigan Daily
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TIRED OF BEER SOAKED
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STUDENTS HAVE A VOICE, BUT NOT A VOT E

Students want influence on tenure

(Continued from Page 1)
the near future.
Stechuk is now preparing several
proposals concerning increased student
involvement in the tenure process for
presentation to the newly-reactivated
LSA Joint Faculty-Student Policy
Committee. This committee, which has
direct access to the LSA Governing
Faculty, promises to provide greater
opportunities for student involvement
in Literary College decisions and
policies - including tenure issues -
Stechuk says.
Last spring, Stechuk and several
LSA-SG members proposed a plan to
Frye that would have allowed faculty
members and students to participate
and vote equally on promotion and
tenure decisions. Frye rejected the
plan, however, saying it was not
feasible.
IN RECENT months, Stechuk says,
he has modified his ideas about student
involvement in the tenure process.
"I'm not asking for a majority of
students in the voting process, I just
want students there (on executive

committees) to keep an eye on the
process," Stechuk says.
Three schools in the University -
The College of Architecture and Urban
Planning, the School of Natural
Resources, and the School of Public
Health - have student members on
executive committees.
Carol Smoes, one of four students on
the architecture and urban planning
executive committee, says that studen-
ts are permitted to vote in promotion
matters, but the votes are not actually
counted. Rather, she explains, the
mock votes can influence the real votes
of faculty members.
THE TWO students on the natural
resources executive committee par-
ticipate fully in all policy decisions of
the school, including personnel mat-
ters, according to Dean William John-
son.
In the School of Public Health, the
two students on the executive commit-
tee are not permitted to vote on person-
.nel issues, but can add to discussions.
She says she is content with the system
because the student committee mem-

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bers have access to the same personnel
information as faculty members, and
"our opinions are listened to."
In the School of Education, students
do not actually sit on the executive
committee, but instead, are members
of an advisory group to the executive
committee. According to Dean Joan
Stark, the three students on the ad-
visory committee do not participate in
personnel decisions.
ALTHOUGH STECHUK and LSA-SG
seem to be making progress in correc-
ting what they perceive as problems
with the tenure system, Michigan
Student Assembly (MSA) President
Jim Alland and MSA Academic Affairs
Coordinator Marc Breakstone say they
have not yet made any plans to increase
student involvement in the tenure
process.
Breakstone says he sees problems
but no solutions. "The ideal is to see
across-the-board student participation
on college and department committees,
but that's not likely to happen," he
says. "Trying to effect changes at the
department or college level gets blown
away."
Alland also readily points to
problems with the tenure system, but
has no definite plans to alter it. "We
need student involvement on executive
committees, but I think it's important
that tenure decisions remain primarily
up to the faculty."
ALLAND SAYS he feels students
must prove themselves capable of in-
volvement in the tenure process before
they will be allowed on executive com-
mittees. "Because tenure decisions af-
fect the lives of academic
professionals, it's important to show
that students are responsible. I feel like
we're approaching the issue in a
rational, responsible manner," Alland
says.
All three student leaders say they
worry that teachling ability is not con-
sidered as much as research when
tenure decisions are made. Teaching,
research, and to a lesser degree, ser-
vice, should be considered in tenure
decisions, according to University
policy.
"At this University, there's a real
emphasis on national distinction. It's
obvious you don't get that distinction
through good teaching," Stechuk says.
Many faculty and administrators
maintain, however, that teaching
receives as much consideration as
research in tenure decisions.
"I'M NOT convinced there's a
problem (with the tenure system) to be
solved," Frye says. "There's no
evidence that teaching is not taken into
consideration. In the instance of failure
to promote a certain good teacher,
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students have expressed concern that
teaching was not taken into con-
sideration. It's not good logic to con-
clude that teaching is not considered if
no tenure is granted."
Frye says teaching and research are
considered on different scales: "It's
sort of like adding apples and horses."
There are instances in which a strong
teaching record could balance an
otherwise average record of research,
Frye says. At the same time, he
acknowledges, "it is true that research
may make the critical decision, but
that's not unreasonable. Research
bears on teaching. If scholarship is
deteriorating or not strong, then the
basic intellectual strength of the
teaching will probably be affected over
the years."
WRITTEN EVALUATIONS of
professors completed at the conclusion
of each course are the principal voice
that students now have in the tenure
process. Those evaluations can take
several forms.
All LSA departments are urged to
administer evaluations, and most ac-
tually do, according to Frye. Often a
combination of numerical ratings and
written comments are included in a
professor's dossier of promotion
materials.
Frye, Alland, and Stechuk each have
different conceptions of the ideal
evaluation format. Frye would like to
see subjective comments on professors.
"In theory, subjective comments on
teachers are more important than sim-
ple rankings," he says. Frye concedes,
however, that in large departments it
would be difficult to obtain adequate
samples in a form that could be quan-
tified.
Alland wants entirely quantitative
evaluations. He says he believes that
numerical evaluations show student
opinions more clearly than written
comments.
STECHUK SAYS he desires a com-
bination of quantitative and qualitative
evaluations. If only subjective
evaluations are used, he says, depar-
tments could choose to present some
opinions and exclude others when
reviewing a professor.
Psychology Prof. Wilbert
McKeachie, director of the Center for
Research and Learning and Teaching
(CRLT) and an evaluations specialist,
says he believes some combination of
quantitative and written comments is
best. "Quantitative questions may be
more accurate, but they are not as per-
suasive as written comments," he says.
Do promotion committee members
even use student evaluations when con-
sidering a professor for tenure? There
are no definitive answers, but five
years ago, student evaluations were not
given much weight, according to a
study done by CRLT. That study
showed that promotion committee
members made similar promotion and
salary decisions whether or not student
opinions were considered.
Frye, Stechuk, and McKeachie say
they believe student evaluations and
comments are given much con-
sideration today. "There is more con-
cern about teaching generally today,"
McKeachie says.

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