University Council and Faculty Senate

FACULTY MATTERS

December 2012, Volume 2, Issue 2


In this issue:
The new grading system
Online teacher evaluations
Presidential search update


The new grading system

The Undergraduate Coordinating Council (UCC) passed a policy adding some plusses and minuses to the existing grading system. The new system has neither an A+ nor a C- but does include an A-, B+, B-, and C+. You can’t give a D+ , a D-, or an F+ but that would be rubbing salt in the wound, anyway. There was some student opposition to the new system but the UCC supported the principle that grading is the prerogative of the faculty. The idea of moving to a plus/minus system is not new and, in fact, there have been numerous attempts to enact such a system at NIU dating back to at least 1965. The difference this time was that the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee, chaired by Prof. Charles Cappell in Sociology, in collaboration with Prof. Steve Martin from Physics produced an extensive report documenting the widespread popularity of plus/minus grading systems as well as the fact that such systems do not disadvantage student GPAs. In the report, they noted that almost every MAC and Big Ten university, as well as Notre Dame, have a plus/minus system. In addition, Faculty Senators polled their respective departments producing an overwhelming majority in favor of the plus/minus system. This was the first time the strength of faculty support for such a system had been documented.  The C- grade was omitted from the final system by the UCC to avoid difficulties for students seeking teacher certification, or admission to one of the many programs that require grades of C or better. The system should go into effect for undergraduates in the Fall, 2013 semester. So don‘t try to give a plus or minus grade to an undergraduate just yet. We’ll keep you posted.

On the other hand, as noted in a previous issue of Faculty Matters, the Graduate Council adopted a plus/minus grading system for graduate students last year and that system is now in place, according to Brad Bond, Dean of the Graduate School. This semester, you may assign plusses and minuses to graduate students. Of note, the graduate grading system does include the C-.

back to top


Online teacher evaluations

Several years ago, the University Council approved the use of online evaluation of teacher effectiveness. The policy regarding such evaluations can be found in the APPM [Section II, Item 14]. While this policy change allowed for the use of online administration of the evaluations, it did not require their use. In some colleges, however, the dean did require faculty to use an online system. Faculty complained, arguing that online administration resulted in much lower participation rates than the in-class written evaluations and further, that it was unfair to have evaluations based on inadequate numbers counted in merit, tenure, and promotion decisions. The Faculty Senate took up the matter and approved a motion which placed the decision regarding whether or not to use online evaluations in the hands of the faculty of individual departments/programs. This motion was sent to the University Council and at the December 5 meeting, the UC approved a policy change based on the Faculty Senate motion. The approved policy states:

Each department/program, with approval by faculty vote and appropriate student input, shall adopt a paper or electronic form for the student evaluation of instruction which shall be filed with the college council. The decision to use online or paper evaluation forms will be determined by faculty vote at the department/program level. The college council, with the participation of the college student advisory committee, may suggest a standard evaluation form for the entire college. Different forms may be established for graduate and undergraduate courses or in accordance with the special circumstances mentioned in Section 1 (Courses to be Evaluated) above.

This policy takes effect immediately and means that each department/program can decide whether to use written or online evaluations. This does not mean that individual faculty within a department/program can do whatever they want but rather that the faculty in each department/program can set the policy for that department. It should also be noted that the policy calls for the inclusion of input from students in the decision making process.
In creating this policy, both the Senate and the UC noted that there are many advantages of online evaluation and that there may be ways to increase the participation of students. Although it is not currently available, we will soon have a Blackboard application that allows for confidential surveys thus opening up a potential mechanism for such evaluations. Things are evolving quickly in this area and at some future time we will more than likely be embracing new technology in the evaluation of teaching effectiveness.

back to top


Presidential search update

At a special meeting on November 8, the BOT appointed a 28 member Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) representing the many constituent groups in the university and co-chaired by Trustee Robert Boey and Executive Secretary of the University Council, Alan Rosenbaum. Of the 28 members, 15 are from the faculty. Thus far, the PSAC has met twice, most recently on December 6. In the special issue of Faculty Matters, I asked the faculty to provide their Senators with their ideas regarding the characteristics they wanted the next president to have. Many of you did and the Faculty Senate had a lively discussion and produced a very good list which has been incorporated into the official position profile. That has now been completed and in the next few weeks, the job will be posted and advertised. Applications will be accepted until February 15. Thank you all for your contributions. The Presidential search has a dedicated website containing updates on the search and other information that would be of interest to applicants.

back to top

 

Important Links
University Council
Faculty Senate
2012-13 Meeting Schedule
Academic Policies & Procedures Manual
Statement of Professional Ethics for Faculty
State Pension & Budget Update
Vision 2020

University Council and
Faculty Senate

Altgeld 103
815-753-1732