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Executive decision puts teacher evaluations online

No matter the class, every USF student can count on two things come the end of the semester: finals and teacher evaluation forms. Many students wonder, however, what happens to the information in those forms. If Student Government President Garin Flowers has it his way, all of that data will soon be accessible to students.

Flowers’ proposal calls for archiving evaluations and placing them in an online database so students can consult the reviews before registering for classes.

“This is a project we want to take on,” he said. “It opens communication. They can find which professors complement their learning style the best.”

Web sites such as already allow students to grade their instructors, but Flowers thinks that they don’t represent majority student opinion.

He said these Web sites are skewed because only students who feel strongly about an instructor will participate.

The evaluations have been accessible in the library for years, but few students know about them, and accessing and reviewing the information may be difficult, he said.

“I guess it could be a good idea,” religious studies major Peter Baker said. “You get people to take classes by word of mouth. How many people are going to go through pages and pages of archives of teachers evaluations that they might not be able to read because some kids have such crappy handwriting?”

If the proposal gets approval from student senators, it will then go to the faculty for approval.

Sherman Dorn, president of United Faculty of Florida, said that although he understands the logic behind this proposal, he has concerns about its usefulness. The current instructor evaluation form contains only eight questions and limited space for student comments. He also said that they may not be as accurate as some think because not all students participate in end-of-semester surveys.

“The proposal is certainly better than ‘ratemyprofessors’,” Dorn said, “but that’s not saying much.”

If SG receives faculty approval, it will work with USF’s chief technology officer to compile all the data into .PDF files and build a Web site for USF students.

Flowers said the project is ongoing, and may be finalized as early as spring 2008. He expects the overall cost to be low.

Some students, however, have expressed disapproval about this proposal.

“I don’t use,” said religious studies major Pedro Plumey. “They probably could be doing better things, like getting tuition lowered, like getting rid of preachers.”

Alec Shurtz can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or