In a May 19 Google Slides presentation, Brandeis Faculty Forward outlined their talking points for their negotiations with the University over the first union contract. Among other issues, the presentation lists a “fair, transparent system of evaluation” as one of adjunct faculty’s primary goals. 

According to responses from a survey conducted by Brandeis Faculty Forward, only 37 percent of survey respondents noted that they had received formal evaluation. Instead, the majority have only the student evaluations of teaching (SETs) at the end of each semester; indeed, one unnamed respondent stated, “I know of no evaluation tools besides what students complete.”

As negotiations continue, this board urges the University to reconsider its primary methods of evaluation for these faculty members. Adjunct faculty members are a growing portion of professors who work closely with the students. Consequently, it is crucial that the University conduct thorough and appropriate evaluations. 

SETs alone are insufficient. As Brandeis Faculty Forward points out, SETs provide an “always incomplete picture of teaching.” Indeed, SETs can be an unfair metric of evaluation because students may review instructors poorly based on petty reasons, personality differences or other biases that may not have any bearing on the instructor’s competence. This can wrongfully place excellent instructors’ job security in jeopardy.

Consequently, this board proposes that the administration conduct formal evaluations of adjunct faculty in addition to reviewing SETs. Used together, both methods can present a more reliable measurement of a instructor’s success and help ensure a fairer system of evaluation.

In the end, more consistency with formal evaluations is well worth any costs it may incur if it means retaining qualified instructors who may have otherwise been penalized due to SETs.