Monday, September 23

Students should shape faculty praise


UCLA needs to strengthen student authority by furnishing professors with greater salaries and benefits for top student evaluations, all sponsored with a boost in student fees.

I may anger students by recommending further fee increases, but let me explain.

Many students have long been subject to debasement by a mediocre scale of comparison: grading. As students mature, administrators obstinately insist that a simple five-letter system properly categorizes students into impeccable echelons: excellent, good, average, below average, and failing.

Perhaps this “effective” function galvanizes studious behavior and incites healthy competition among students.

But learning is a two-way street. Education’s foundation starts with a student-teacher relationship ideally characterized by a student’s diligence and perseverance and a teacher’s efforts and availability.

An instructor’s ability to lecture successfully is fundamental to the learning process. Why, then, should only pupils be slaves to such a hierarchy?

Granted, UCLA has already implemented a manner of assessments predicated on a merit-based system, including peer reviews, background checks and student evaluations.

These current methods, however, are inadequate and require modification. At the close of every quarter, students complete a survey requesting their candid sentiments on their professors, but adjustments rarely materialize. Awful professors continue to be awful while admired professors remain admired. The lack of change seems to insinuate the university’s apathy toward student satisfaction.

Assessing professor quality is subjective, and some may argue that student approval is simply derived from the largesse of good grades. However, Bruinwalk.com shows that popular professors generally possess qualities of effective teaching, availability and a marked concern for students ““ the criteria is not limited to generous grading.

Tenure may play a role in the problem for it allows research to take precedence over instruction; there is the possibility that the professor may settle into a state of complacency after securing a stable position.

Regardless, academic tenure is paramount to attracting talented professors to UCLA because it protects their academic freedom and should not be tampered with. Quality professors influence a university’s prestige.

Therefore, amending the university’s current assessment system must be approached with an emphasis on preserving the tenure system.

The university should protect employment from unstable situations and should instead alter salaries based on student evaluations.

The university should implement repercussions mainly using student critiques.

Student power will influence professors to charm and gratify, ultimately resulting in professor improvement.

The potential threat of students banding together to blackmail professors is countered by the fact that there are many other aspects to professor salaries, incentives and benefits, not solely based on student assessments.

In a survey taken during late 2006 by the Academic Senate’s Faculty Welfare Committee, UCLA faculty identified salary uniformity and benefits as two of their top three biggest concerns.

Consequently, perhaps offering greater financial incentives or increasing stipends for steadily high student evaluations may lure professors into consistently paying more attention to their classes and students.

Raising student fees is cardinal to achieving this. Opponents to fee increases due to the budget cuts may protest, but many professors are tempted to leave for other prestigious schools offering better pay, incentives and benefits.

Regarding professors who may be repelled from the emphasis UCLA places on teaching, the university can offer increased funding for professor research from positive student evaluations.

These professors are a requisite for the university to stay competitive and keeping UCLA’s strong reputation will only be an advantage for students.

As a result, the university should implement a scheme of rewards and punishments that place more importance on student evaluations, akin to the quarterly system businesses use to pay employees accordingly. Perhaps this will elicit efforts from unsatisfactory instructors, culminating in improved teaching.

E-mail Lee at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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