Campus, News

BU faculty evaluations depend on school

Boston University archaeology professor David Carballo said BU’s faculty evaluation program is slightly different from the three schools where he used to teach.

“I’d say there’s almost certainly more emphasis on teaching here than at those other three,” he said of his posts at The University of Alabama, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Oklahoma. “State schools tend to focus on research. BU focuses on both, so I think they are asking a little more of their faculty in terms of production in both areas.”

State University of New York at Stony Brook professor Lawrence Martin has formulated a system for holding university faculty accountable in the fields of teaching and research, according to an article published on Oct. 11 by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Martin stated in the article that as much as $2 billion in extra salaries might exist in research universities across the U.S.
He said if the least productive 20 percent of faculty members are receiving reduced teaching loads, the cost would be staggering.

However, Martin’s approach differs from BU’s faculty evaluation process, BU officials said.

“There are constant, annual ways that we take a look at the faculty to see both the workload, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro.

Sapiro said an annual professional activity report helps determine what professors have done during the year.

“[The report] has a whole series of questions about what did you do this year in terms of research and in terms of teaching, in terms of service, your publications [and] service you did out of the profession,” she said. “Everyone hands that in every year, and then when we go through the exercise to determine pay for the next year, that is considered.”

Department members then evaluate faculty reports and give them to the dean of their respective colleges, said Julie Sandell, associate provost for faculty affairs, in an email.

“The assessment of merit is used by the dean to assign salaries for the coming year,” said Sandell.

Sandell said this flexibility is a strength of BU’s program.

“The advantage is that the schools can do some tailoring of the evaluations to what is important to the disciplines,” she said. “I think it is a good evaluation process.  We are always trying to make it work well for the wide range of faculty we have who have very different activities and accomplishments.”

College of Engineering professor Ronald Roy, chair of the mechanical engineering department, said it is important for BU to take individual departments into account.

“The metrics that we look at really vary from one professor to the next,” he said. “There’s not one set of metrics because not all professors play the same role.”

In addition to teaching, evaluations also look at faculty member’s research productivity, publication, work with graduate studies, professional activity in the community and service, Sapiro said.

“There are a lot of things that go into judging the teaching and mentoring and advising,” she said.

Paul Schneider, College of Communication associate professor and Film and Television department chair, said schools generally use a common approach when evaluating faculty.

“Most universities have somewhat similar systems for evaluating their instructors because teaching, research and service are typically the areas they look at,” Schneider said.

Carballo said understanding a balance between teaching and research is vital.

“Keeping up on research is important to your teaching,” he said. “At the same time, only focusing on research and not thinking about those evaluations and how you’re stimulating students, or you’re creating opportunities for growth in different ways, is not really doing a service to that teaching component of our jobs.”

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