False positives: Forcing faculty evaluations skews results (Editorial)

The Northern Kentucky University Office of the Registrar has sent out a notification that they will withhold student grades, transcript requests and degree audits by two weeks if a student does not complete an online course evaluation or select an option to “opt out.”

The practice of students evaluating professors and courses is nothing new, but I found this particular approach to the system to be, well, somewhat forceful. It punishes those who would otherwise ignore the process entirely.

“One of my professors used to give us an incentive to make sure we did [the evaluations],” says NKU marketing major Ryan DuVal. “We would get extra credit or something like that, but this seems like it’s less of an option, and more like a command.”

NKU says they want quality feedback on professors, but if so, why such a forced approach? Would this not encourage students to either opt out, or quickly do all the course evaluations so that they will not suffer the consequences? This rushed data entry would obviously skew the information towards professors and courses just getting 1’s or 5’s depending on whether they liked or hate a professor?

Instead of detailed reasonable evaluation, we are going to receive an influx of simplistic number ratings that are meaningless out of context. Why did this professor get all 5’s? Are they truly the perfect professor?

What I find to be the most peculiar is, of course, the mentioned opt-out option. Why bother with collecting unnecessary information?

For example, if an American citizen doesn’t wish to vote, they just simply don’t vote. They don’t visit the booth or leave a message during a certain period of time. Why should students have to do that when evaluating professors?

This feels as though the registrar’s office has proposed to take something that was completely voluntary and turned it into a mandatory action that has negative consequences if not completed. Oh wait, it doesn’t feel like that, it is.

Editorial by Zachary Rogers