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Evaluation Guide Faces Uncertain Future

By Hyun Soo Kim
News Editor

The opportunity to officially gripe about professors and courses may end for MIT students. The Course Evaluation Guide, a student-run publication which compiles statistics and students' comments on classes and professors every semester, is in danger of extinction because the CEG staff has dwindled to five students.

The guide for the spring term will still be produced and will be distributed in December, said Michelle A. Starz '94, editor of the CEG. But "if we don't get more people, the guide probably will not be produced next year," she said.

"We are down to a very minimal staff. It is a very important service for students, and it is time for other people to throw in the hat and get involved," said Ida G. Faber, an adviser to the CEG and staff assistant in the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office.

About 15 to 20 people are needed to produce the guide, Starz said.

However, last spring's guide was produced by two people according to Bonnie J. Walters, an adviser to the CEG and an associate dean in the UAAO. The guide "will die as of now. I think what may happen is that the evaluations will be done this term, but without more manpower there's no way that" next fall's guide can be produced. "You can't do the guide with only two people," she said.

The CEG staff does everything but the writing of the evaluations. This includes advertising, production and layout, data base management, coordinating the evaluations, and editing. Student writers are paid to summarize students' comments from the evaluations.

"I don't think we can pay everybody. Editors get paid, but the amount is trivial to how much we work," Starz said.

"There hasn't been consistent student interest on seeing [the guide] continue -- it's a thankless task," said Hans C. Godfrey '93, Undergraduate Association president.

"We need people who would be dedicated to it and not just do it for money," Starz said.

Starz said that the CEG has held several recruitment meetings, but few people showed up. Eight students came to the first meeting.

"I'm trying to recruit people from the UA Council," Godfrey said.

For many students, money would be an incentive to join the CEG staff.

Wendy C. Russell '94 said, "I'm really busy, I'm a senior this year. It's hard because I want to contribute to the CEG, but I have so much work to do. If I could earn money by doing the course guide instead of working at desk, I would do the course guide. I think if people were paid, people would help out more because money is such an important issue for a lot of people."

Many departments use CEG

According to Walters, many departments extensively use the information provided by the Course Evaluation Guides when making decisions about promotions and classes.

The data from the CEG is "frequently used in tenure cases in some departments. The comments and the statistics are sent to the department if they are requested," she said.

Professor Merton C. Flemings, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said, "Course evaluations are very important to this department. We use them as guides to help faculty improve teaching, to evaluate faculty, and to help students decide which courses to take."

"We strongly support the CEG continuing," Flemings said. "But the overall activity of course evaluation is so important to us that we would continue our own evaluation of our courses" if the guide is no longer produced, he said.

Walters said that most departments seriously consider course evaluations. "Students don't realize that when students write very nasty comments about faculty, those comments are very upsetting and sometimes those comments could have a very serious effect on an individual's career," Walters said.

"Sometimes students put in comments just so that they can be put in the `Best and the Worst'," she added. This section of the CEG lists all the best and worst comments students write about their classes.

Many students called the CEG helpful and said they would miss it if it were discontinued.

"I definitely use it a lot, I am a course 3 major, and I have a lot of options on what courses to take," Russell said. "The information on previous classes is really helpful. I have found it to be pretty accurate on what the course work is and the number of hours it takes and what the professor expects."

"I think the CEG is helpful for the core classes, where a lot of people take the classes," said Yurah Kim '94. "I think I would miss it if it were gone," she added.

Amelia M. Lapena '94 said, "I've used [the guide] a lot. I've used it to find TAs and everything -- who's good and who's not."

On the other hand, some students do not find the course guides to be very helpful. "I really don't use it at all, because the classes I take are from my major or because I like them," said Daniel P. Quintanilla '95. "Whether a group of people liked a class or not doesn't change my decision to take the class."