Survey’s vagueness is just the tip of the ICEberg

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By Louie Diaz Jr.

The president of Ryerson’s faculty association says publishing the findings of the school’s Instructor Course Evaluations does nothing to address the fact the surveys are flawed.

“No one has phoned or e-mailed me about this,” RFA president Michael Doucet said of the survey findings obtained and printed by The Eyeopener last week.

The Eyeopener calculated the average rating for each program and department surveyed in the fall 1999 and winter 2000 semesters, showing students where their course of study ranked for the first time since 1995.

Of the 11 questions students are asked to rank on a scale of one to five, The Eyeopener took nine, eliminating ones dealing with class workload, and averaged them to come up with the winners and losers.

Doucet questioned the way The Eyeopener arrived at its results—he said coming up with an average blurs the final numbers—but said it’s a moot point because most people realize the surveys don’t accurately reflect how students feel.

“The right questions are not asked,” Doucet said. “The faculty needs information that can actually be used. ICE doesn’t tell us how to make us better teachers.”

“I know a lot of faculty that are so unhappy that they administer their own questionnaire.”

Another problem Doucet points out is the low participation rate of the biannual ICE survey.

“A small group of disgruntled students whose opinions is taken can represent everyone,” Doucet said.

In the fall 1999 survey, more than 92 per cent of chemical engineering students responded to the survey, but in other programs the turnout was less than 50 per cent.

Third-year graphic communications management student Nithiya Thaya, whose program ranked at the bottom of the fall 1999 survey and third-last the next semester, said the surveys don’t accurately depict the program’s benefits.

“The conflict is that the program is good, but the survey says it’s bad,” she said.

Despite the survey’s inability to accurately depict a program’s faults, some students say they’d still like to see their individual professors’ results.

“It would be nice to know what certain profs get,” said Steve Filipe, a fourth-year administration and information management student. “It benefits us because we might want to pick one prof over another.”

But a clause in the Ryerson faculty association’s current contract keeps individual instructors’ results private.

“That would be a serious breach of security for the university,” Doucet said.

The RFA’s contract expires on June 30, 2001, and any changes to the ICE would have to be written into a new contract then. Two committees—one made up of faculty and administration and the other of faculty, administration and students—have been struck to look into other ways to survey courses.

None of them have met yet.

“We’re stuck with the ICE for another year,” Doucet said, “like it or not.”

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