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Sunday, February 05, 2023 — Houston, TX

Students deserve course evaluations, but shouldn’t abuse it

By Thresher Editorial Board     1/25/22 11:19pm

In August 2021, the Office of the Provost announced instructors could now opt out of showing their course evaluations to students amid the change to remote learning. Regardless of circumstances, the option of hiding evaluations is detrimental to students searching to understand the potential difficulties of future courses. 

Although the past two years of remote learning have been “highly irregular,” as the provost noted, course evaluations have continually fulfilled their role to students. Criticizing a course being taught remotely still holds relevance to students who will also have to take the class virtually, and provides a more nuanced understanding of the course as a whole. While there are plenty of differences between in-person and online classes, it is ultimately still the same class with the same professor. It would be helpful for students to know if their peers have had previous issues with a professor, found the course to be unorganized, or the workload to be overwhelming, even if these negative experiences occurred when the class was online. 

It will always be helpful for students to know how accommodating a professor may be, whether in regards to COVID or other issues such as mental health, and it is antithetical to the idea of honest peer evaluations if faculty can block assessments that portray them negatively.

That being said, it should go without saying that students should not use their anonymous platform to disparage faculty. Although we have previously focused on the importance of faculty accommodating students, it is just as important for students to accommodate their professors. Evaluations should contextualize the fact that instructors may also be simultaneously dealing with pandemic-related stressors while attempting to replicate an in-person learning experience. Claims such as those that professors aren’t answering questions often or seem to teach their course with little interest should also indicate that those changes may be a result of the transition to Zoom. 

Course evaluations are an incredibly important tool for students, and this tool needs to remain truthful to be useful. Professors should not be able to hide their course evaluations because of negative portrayals, but this also requires students not to abuse their power when writing evaluations.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage, Daniel Schrager and Brandon Chen.

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