Mary Rose

Faculty Council is continuing discussion on a mandate from a UT System task force to add five questions to course evaluation forms and may approve the changes at its next meeting in April.

The System Office of Academic Affairs established the Task Force on the Evaluation of Faculty Teaching in the spring of 2012 to assess the student and peer faculty evaluation process. The task force developed a list of five questions all institutions within the System must add to their evaluation forms.

Pedro Reyes, education professor and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, serves on the task force. Reyes said the members of the task force wanted to develop consistent questions for all institutions to use in their evaluations. 

“Teaching is really important to the whole System,” Reyes said. “When we accessed that data [from evaluation forms], there was a lot of diversity throughout the campuses … What we decided to do is ask some really great faculty members from across the System, and students as well, to come together and develop a way we could systematically approach this and gain more meaningful information about how students regard their teachers.” 

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said while these questions are mandated, institutions are allowed and encouraged to include other questions. 

In order to accommodate the new questions, Faculty Council’s Educational Policy Committee looked at the existing evaluation forms for questions that could be deleted. Mary Rose, associate sociology professor and chair of the committee, presented a report to Faculty Council at its meeting Monday and will present a revised report based on feedback from the assembly at its next meeting.

Rose said some of the System’s new questions were similar to existing questions in UT’s evaluation form, which the committee has proposed to remove. 

“I think one of their questions was worded exactly the same as one we had and others were different in wording, but you could argue they were similar in spirit to other questions we had,” Rose said. 

According to Rose, the content of the form is not altered frequently, despite requests from the UT community. 

“We got [requests] early [last] year, and we took it very seriously and spent a meeting discussing it and also just tried to figure it out,” Rose said. “When we priced that out, it was insanely expensive to do it, so having the System provide us with these mandating changes kind of gave us a nice opportunity to reevaluate the entire form.”

Although the mandated questions provided Rose with this opportunity, she said it was frustrating to have the System order changes to the form. 

“No one likes to be told what you have to do,” Rose said. “There is so much variability in what teaching looks like and what students want to say and reflect on and maybe the needs at UT Austin are different than at other campuses.”


System mandated additions to the course evaluation form:

All items will be judged based on a scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”

1. The instructor clearly defined and explained the course objectives and expectations. 

2. The instructor was prepared for each instructional activity. 

3. The instructor communicated information effectively. 

4. The instructor encouraged me to take an active role in my own learning.

5. The instructor was available to students either electronically or in person.

The University has made little progress to correct the gender inequities identified by the 2008 Gender Equity Report.
The report made by a provost’s task force found inequities for female faculty in overall representation, pay and promotion and retention rates.

Provost Steven Leslie created the 22-member faculty and administrator task force in 2007 to identify barriers facing female faculty at UT and to make recommendations to correct these barriers. The report did not offer a plan to address gender inequality, but it set a deadline for UT to create its own plans by fall 2009.

The pay gap between male and female professors has narrowed 1 percent since the 2007/2008 Gender Equity Report, and the number of female tenure and tenure track faculty rose by 3 percent from 2007 to 2010.

When adjusted for pay differences by field, the 2008 report only found pay gaps on the full professor level. In 2007, female full professors made just more than 95 cents for every dollar male professors made, and by 2010, that rose to just more than 96 cents.

Full professors, who are eligible to advance to department chair or dean positions and who can receive appointments to endowed chairs, also primarily make up the various academic departments’ budget councils. These councils make hiring, promotion and tenure decisions along with department chairs and deans.

Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, an associate journalism professor, said entrenched underrepresentation of women at the full professor level affects women’s ability to advance because predominantly male budget councils may not see the contributions to the University female faculty make.

“Talking about all the ranks as if it’s a basic similarity masks a lot of the difficulty a lot of women are facing because of the way the full professor rank can really fast-track your career,” de Uriarte said. “When you have all men making decisions, you don’t see the contributions women make that are different than men but still equally important.”

De Uriarte said because faculty put a percentage of their salaries into interest-earning retirement funds, past pay gaps grow over time even if the current pay gaps disappear. She also said hiring new female professors rather than promoting within the existing UT ranks may correct overall statistical inequities but doesn’t help professors affected at the time of the report.

Since the gender report made the recommendation to do so, the provost’s office has posted a web page explaining “family-friendly” policies for faculty.

Mary Rose, an assistant sociology professor, said she has benefited from a number of these policies. She said she was hired through the spousal hire program, which allows the University to retain professors married to other academics by hiring their spouses. In 2005, she took unpaid leave to have her first child because of uncertainty about the University’s then-newly modified work program. By 2009, when she had her second child, she said the policies were more understood and accepted by the faculty. In 2009, she continued her research and took a semester off from teaching as part of the program.

“The other way I’ve been helped is day care, which I couldn’t live without,” Rose said.

Limited money in the University budget has constrained efforts to correct UT’s institutional gender inequities by promoting existing professors or hiring new faculty. Other suggestions in the gender equity report that have gone unheeded don’t have a budgetary component, said Susan Heinzelman, associate English professor, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and a member of the University Gender Council.

The Gender Council is an advisory group to the president and provost that promotes the goals and recommendations of the Gender Equity Report. One recommendation the council promotes that only five schools have completed is the creation of websites addressing gender equity issues on the college level.

“Some of those [report recommendations,] like college equity websites and college equity councils, should already be in existence. They cost no money, so it’s not a budget issue, but they do take faculty time, and they have to be made a priority by the deans,” Heinzelman said. “We need more direct pressure from the senior administration to change some of the institutional habits that keep the old hierarchies and privileges in place: One such example would be the lack of transparency at the college and departmental levels on salary discussions and hiring and budget priorities.”