the Senate Office
statement is published in accordance with the Senate Rules. Among
other purposes, the publication of SEC actions is intended to
stimulate discussion among the constituencies and their representatives.
Please communicate your comments to Executive Assistant Carolyn
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Taken by the Senate Executive Committee
September 5, 2001
Professor David Hackney stated that a committee is being established
to develop an institutional review board and policies for social
science research, as required by Federal law. The committee will
focus on rules appropriate for the social sciences, distinct from
the existing medical model. He noted that the Gender Equity Committee
Report is almost ready and will be published in Almanac
and presented to SEC for consideration. Also due soon is a retirement
task force report that will aim to make retirement appealing for
older faculty. A Minority Equity Committee is being formed that
will build on the work of the Gender Equity Committee.
Discussion on Nominating of Senate Nominating Committee.
Professor Hackney noted the importance of the committee and reminded
SEC members to submit their nominees by September 19, 2001.
Nominations were made to fill a one-year vacancy for an at-large
position and an assistant professor position on SEC. SEC voted
on the nominees who will be contacted.
Report to the President and Provost Concerning Services to Students
With Disabilities. Vice Provost for University Life
Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum reviewed the recommendations in the
4, 2001). Among the highlights were: construction of an office
combining various services for students with disabilities has
been completed; the hiring process is underway for a director,
associate director and additional staff; a Web site has been created
Denise Marone is the new learning instructor head; and many
of the schools have identified their disability liaison.
discussion centered on the protocol for letters to faculty. The
preference was for an official letter to be sent to faculty by
the Office of Student Disability Services at the beginning of
each semester. A SEC member recommended that the list of school
disability liaisons and guidelines for faculty be posted on the
Web site. It was also suggested that a booklet containing relevant
information be prepared for faculty.
Progress Report of the Teaching Evaluation Committee.
Co-chair Deputy Provost Peter Conn and co-chair David Pope
responded to questions submitted in advance by Faculty Senate
Chair David Hackney. Deputy Provost Conn recalled that about one
year ago the then Faculty Senate Chair Larry Gross and he established
the committee. The conclusion at this point is that the University
will continue to collect and use student evaluations, endeavoring
to draft recommendations that make the instrument professional
and maintain credibility and integrity. The former SCUE form is
undergoing significant change.
Provost Conn stated that another group is focusing on the best
practice for gathering student responses outside these forms,
such as letters with longer comment by students.
third group is working on faculty members' role in evaluating
teaching of faculty colleagues.
a fourth group was focussing on whether Penn should have Web-based
evaluations. This has been tabled and will not be recommended
at this point in time.
Provost Conn concluded by saying that he hopes the report will
be completed this fall.
Pope said the committee will reaffirm the use of student evaluation
of teaching but that a determination is needed as to why questions
are on the evaluation form and why they are appropriate.
response to a SEC member, Deputy Provost Conn stated that research
suggests that there is no difference between distributing the
evaluation form before or after the final exam. Another SEC member
inquired as to the status of the mid-term survey that was only
for the eyes of the professor.
was made by a SEC member that it was okay to use a SCUE form but
that should not be taken too seriously. It is a mistake to approach
this as consumer satisfaction. It is a question of evaluating
teaching effectiveness. Answers to the questions raised suggest
there is another form; it should be used rather than the SCUE
form. The SEC member also underscored that use of anonymous evaluations
is not allowed in the courts. These evaluations measure something
but it is not teaching effectiveness.
Evaluation Committee member Paul McDermott presented information
on validity of students' evaluations of teaching effectiveness
(SETs). A SEC member noted that this information points to student
evaluations being effective at the margins--the high and low--so
there is a problem making a distinction among those in between.
Professor McDermott stated that SETs are inflated at the high-end
and at the low end are consistent. Several SEC members spoke to
the affect of low ratings when a professor introduces an innovative
teaching method, such as Maple, to which students are unaccustomed.
Some SEC members expressed the concern that there is a relationship
between grading practices and ratings. They believe that this
drives grade inflation. Deputy Provost Conn stated the committee
may recommend comments be requested from faculty on what they
are teaching for inclusion in the package assembled for tenure
and promotion review.