It’s okay to be honest on course evaluations

Elizabeth Bonin, Managing Editor

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It is that time of year again. No, I do not mean Christmas or finals. I mean course evaluations. Cue the groans and moans of students within a 20-mile radius. I know most students look at course evals as an unnecessary nuisance and a waste of time. Though they can definitely be a drag, course evals are important for professors to receive feedback on class lectures, projects, and teaching style.

What frustrated me was when someone told me something along the lines of “I never say anything negative about the professor on the evals. I feel bad.” Ah, the curse of the “Midwest nice” strikes again. As someone who has lived her entire life in the Midwest, I understand the cringey feeling students get when asked to judge anything that might deserve negative feedback. But in this instance, professors and administration need proper feedback to evaluate performance. If there is a problem with how a professor teaches a class and students do not bring attention to the issue, administration and the professor will never know. If they do not know, nothing will change. If you have a problem with the way a professor chooses to teach a class and then refuse to say anything about it, then you lose the right to complain.

Now that is not to say that course evals are a place to just simply bash a professor you did not like. If you did not like the way a particular class was taught, then you need to provide constructive feedback so the professor knows what he or she can change for next semester. Simply saying “I hated the class and the assignments” does not help. Professors and administration need specific ways they can change so they can teach more effectively, and who is better to provide such feedback than the students? We need to take the opportunity to let professors and administration know if the classes are helping us be the best students we can be. This is our own education at stake here.

But of course, there is that “Midwest nice” fear that holds people back. Legend has it that if a midwesterner says anything remotely negative about someone, lightning will strike them before they can say “Ope, excuse me!” Most student feedback is anonymous in course evals, but it can be identified if administration feels the need to contact a student about what they said, which is a rare case. This can be uncomfortable for some, and I honestly do not have a better solution to help students feel they can be honest. My best advice is that as students, we need to be okay with owning up to the feedback we give. If we do not give professors proper feedback, then we are not making the most of our education, which we are paying a lovely and ever increasing $50,000 a year for just in case you needed a reminder. So when you have to complete the 10 minute nuisance, please remember that this is the student body’s chance to tell professors what we would like changed for next semester, whether it is the class assignments or teaching style. This is a way for students to ensure we are receiving the education we are paying for.

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