Course Evaluations: The Bottom Line

Ally McNally is ASUC vice president of academic affairs and Melissa Lin is chief of staff in ASUC Academic Affairs Office.

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In Wednesday's edition of The Daily Californian, there was an article concerning Cal-FACTS that raised questions about politics, rather than informing readers about how the program operates ("Evaluation Program Raises Questions"). Readers deserve more.

Cal-Feedback And Course Tips for Students, or Cal-FACTS for short, is an ASUC program designed to provide students with information not seen on this campus in more than 25 years. As our office attempted to expand the program and gain support from all aspects of the academic community at UC Berkeley, we looked not only to students, but also to faculty and administrators.

In writing the questions, we sought the expertise of Barbara Davis, assistant vice chancellor of student life and educational development, who has published information on evaluation programs at the university level.

After drafting a set of questions, we received feedback from the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ as well as the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. We gained the official endorsement from the Educational Policy Committee of 1999-2000 for the questions of our pilot program.

Since students do not exist within a vacuum, the ASUC must work with networks outside of Eshleman Hall to achieve its goals of serving UC Berkeley students and improving the quality of students' academic lives. The support of faculty and administration allowed us to have access to the classes and thus improved the quality and scope of the publication.

We find it ironic that Senators Cindy Koga and Victor Pineda failed to mention their concerns regarding the survey's questions during the debate over the budget for Cal-FACTS. In fact, the bill supporting Cal-FACTS was passed unanimously last fall. Furthermore, why did these individuals wait three months to criticize Cal-FACTS and its mission? Such concerns would have been more appropriate on the floor of the ASUC Senate during the Nov. 3 meeting, when Cal-FACTS was discussed and its budget approved with no objections.

Pineda stated that "six questions do not necessitate a $10,000 Scantron." The Scantron machine was purchased as a necessary one-time capital investment to process 70,000 Scantron evaluation forms each semester. The machine is not only necessary for the expansion of the program, but serves as a resource for the entire ASUC.

Koga criticized the printing costs and suggested posting the results online. During the Nov. 3 debate on the Cal-FACTS bill, we made it quite clear that the results would be posted online as well as in booklet form.

Finally, Pineda mentioned charging students for the evaluations. But why should students have to pay for a service they funded in the first place? It is easy for the student politicos of the ASUC to alleviate financial strains by charging students for its services. However, the ASUC must think responsibly about how it allocates its resources.

Back in 1975 the course evaluation program run through the ASUC had a $79,000 budget. Now, in its first semester and even with one-time capital investments, the Cal-FACTS program is run on a $30,000 budget. The ASUC must remain accountable to all students and allocate its resources accordingly so that ALL students feel the benefits of THEIR student government.


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