A question of ethics

By: Carrie Ratkevich, Staff Reporter

‘Anonymous’ instructor evalutations contain student information

The anonymous class evaluation surveys that students are asked to complete at the end of each term are not actually anonymous, said former Communications Humanities and Social Sciences Instructor Julia So.

Emails sent through myCNM at the end of each term offer the evalua­tions and claim that students will have complete anonymity, said So. Though the results are not available until after grades are released, instructors can see who has and has not taken the evalua­tion survey. So said she felt that anony­mous is supposed to mean that instruc­tors cannot see any names.

“It’s quick and easy and completely anonymous. Your instructors will see only the tabulated results—they will never see your name attached to your responses, and no results will be released to any instructors until all grades are recorded and posted,” read the emails sent to students.

So reported this issue to administration in August 2011, according to emails from So to administration. Lundgren replied that it was an option with the soft­ware that did not need to be used, said Lundgren in an email

Instructors can see a list of students who have and have not taken the evaluation survey, said Associate Dean of SAGE Louanne Lundgren. It would be nearly impossi­ble to connect names with the response, she said.

“It was decided at the meeting, based on the faculty input, we would not use this option and faculty will not receive access to any of the information until after grades are completed,” said Lundgren in an email response.

This is in conflict with ethical research, regardless of when results are released, because of the promise of anonymity, which means that the names of participants should remain unknown to both CNM and the instructors, So said.

“CNM may not claim itself as a research institution; however, being a teaching institution does not exempt us from following the ethics of research,” said So via email.

As of Spring 2012, the list of who has and has not com­pleted the survey is still avail­able to faculty, said So.

Michael Crane, President of the Faculty Senate also dis­agrees with the release of the participant names and is meet­ing with the academy deans to fix the issue, he said in an email to the faculty senate.

“As a statistician, I am opposed to the practice, and the arguments so far offered in support of this practice are weak at best and counter-pro­ductive at worst,” said Crane.

In the past the Dean’s Council has objected to keeping the names of the participant hidden, said So in an email.

“If the college intends to reveal the names of students who take the survey, yet tells the students otherwise, it is an outright lie and such behavior violates the ethic of conducting research,” she said.

It is possible to turn out useful data from the evaluation surveys and be ethically sound, said So.

“I worked at the Office of Institutional Research for several years and know for a fact that a simple program can churn out useful data without compromising any ethics,” So said via email.

The spring term was So’s last term teaching at CNM, she said.

“I am not convinced that the administration would not disallow faculty access to stu­dents’ names. If that is the case, then I will rest my case and leave CNM with a heavy heart,” said So.

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