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Prof Scan: ConU students called on to rate their teachers

by Archives June 25, 2003

Prof Scan is back! This system, where Concordia students can comment on and rate their teachers, has been resurrected in recent months after it was laid to rest as the result of a racist comment and threats of a lawsuit by teachers.

“As Vice President of [CSU] Academic last year, I initiated the Student Advocacy Center and while [working] there I realized that students would have been in a better position knowing how their teachers were before they started the course,” explained Ralph Lee, now a counsellor at the Student Advocacy Center.

Prof Scan is featured on the CSU web-page (www.csu.tao.ca) and presently contains links to 1600 professors from four faculties and over 40 departments, waiting to be rated.

Students can easily access the system by visiting the CSU site and registering for an account where they can view comments, write their own, agree with another student’s feedback, and rate the professor on a scale of one to ten. Whether a student wants their name to appear along with their comment is completely their choice as the system allows one to either have their identity made public or not.

Lee, a third-year political science major, came to realize last year that many of the problems students were having had to do with the professors, but he also added that although there may be a few questionable teachers out there, there are also a lot of good ones.

“Teachers realize that they’re not that accountable at the end of the day, because those evaluations that are [conducted], teachers don’t want students to see how they’ve been rated. Why keep it a secret? Why don’t they give it out if they have nothing to hide? If you know you’re students are happy with their teachers, then the university should release these forms to the students and put up their own web-site. Everything should be published, but they’re not,” explained Lee.

Some teachers on the other hand feel that the university’s evaluation system is a good one. “Currently Concordia has official course evaluations done by departments. This system is fair and produces just evaluations in most cases. However the department’s course evaluations are not made public,” explained computer science professor Tien D. Bui.

The graduate programs director also feels that the system will not aid students as “there are many restrictions with regard to students choosing courses. It is not like going shopping for groceries in the market.”

However Professor Bui believes, “In principle, it is a good idea, if our students take this task seriously and the organizers of the site make sure that only students who actually took the course can make comments on the teacher of that course.”

Others, like Professor David Paris agree with Bui, saying, “the students may be in a program in which their core or specialization courses may have one prof assigned to that class for part of his/her workload. So, if the prof has a bad to mediocre rating, the student will still have that prof. This is the case in many departments.”

The associate professor in Exercise Science went on to say that “the university has a faculty evaluation system set up at the end of term. I have taught for 20 years and always had very good to excellent student feedback. There’s always one or two negative comments made by some. Would this new system not be duplicating what is already being done? What’s the need?”

The need, as Ralph Lee put it, is to have a system that’s accessible to the public, in this case the students. “Those reports students do, they remain confidential. I don’t believe you put your name on it because students fear they might get blacklisted and teachers should know this. The professors that have shown skepticism, they’re the same profs who don’t release their own report cards.”

Lee says, “Students who know about Prof Scan use the service, good and bad students, to find out what teachers are like. Hopefully, some will go back and rate them.”

Lee is also adamant that the system will reflect how a teacher truly is with balances of positive and negative comments. “There may be a negative [comment] here and there, but there is always a balance as it should be for these things. If there is one student who’s mad that he/she got an F, there will be five students who will write positive things. If the teacher was really [bad], then the students will write six negative [comments].”

For now, Prof Scan is continuously being updated by Ralph Lee in conjunction with other students, who will be on the look out for comments deemed racist or just liable to a lawsuit, in order to remove them.

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