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Faculty senate discusses two new prompts for course evaluations

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

Debate sparked in Belmont’s faculty senate Monday over two proposed course evaluation questions which would seek student perspectives on diverse communities and marginalized voices at the university.

The two proposed prompts for response on the Likert scale are:

— The instructor created an environment of belonging and inclusion in the classroom.

—– The course addressed diverse perspectives that included marginalized voices.

“This language was not chosen willy-nilly. There was a lot of debate over ‘marginalized,’” said Dr. Jason Lovvorn, who chairs the committee in charge of drafting the questions.

While the first question was not discussed as thoroughly, the use of “marginalized voices” in the second statement left some faculty senator’s wondering if this could be misinterpreted by students and used as an opportunity to make unfair criticisms of a professor.

Ratings on course evaluations have the potential to affect professors’ eligibility for raises, promotions and, in some cases, can even put their job security at risk.

“It might also be that, ‘Well they didn’t discuss authors who claim the earth is flat, and therefore they didn’t talk about the marginalized voice I wanna hear from,’” said Dr. Nathan Griffith, president of the faculty senate.

Dr. Amy Crook, former president of the faculty senate, said the language used in these prompts should mirror the language faculty senate has used in other places to avoid confusion.

In other places such as catalog and curriculum, the wording “historically underrepresented perspectives” is used, and Crook suggested this should be the phrasing of the second prompt instead of marginalized.

Other faculty senators felt it would be OK to add the prompts to course evaluations and change them if needed.

“Nobody’s going to go to the gallows over these two questions anytime in the near future. So I think it’s fine for us to experiment and test and fail and test and fail,” said Dr. Anthony Blash, faculty senate representative for the College of Pharmacy.

Others felt the proposed course evaluation would benefit from an explanation of its language.

“If we were to include one or both of these questions in the questionnaire, I think we should then provide … some defining document,” said faculty senator Dr. Mark Volker.

If these prompts pass, the earliest they would be included in course evaluations would likely be the fall semester of 2022.

Faculty senators will spend the next three weeks considering these questions before voting on them at the public meeting on April 25.

PHOTO: Lillie Burke / Belmont Vision Multimedia

This article was written by Connor Daryani.

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