Board of Regents forms partnership with MyEdu, flusters University faculty

Liz Farmer

University faculty raised concerns about inconsistencies with the interactive MyEdu website and about how student feedback on the site will be used in faculty evaluations. Multiple faculty members voiced questions and turned focus to the website’s partnership with the UT System at a Faculty Council meeting on Monday.

The $10 million system-wide partnership with the website is an effort to increase graduation rates by helping students navigate through their degree plans with online advising. UT President William Powers Jr. said the Board of Regents presented the partnership to him and the other UT System presidents after it was made.

Powers said since the UT System Board of Regents already made the solo decision to enter the partnership, the main direction of the site is out of his hands.

“Would I have had different priorities for that money? Yes,” Powers said. “We didn’t choose to bring this to the campus.”

Powers said information about individual professors can be useful to help University administration determine actions like pay raises, tenure or the distribution of research space. However, he said it may not be appropriate to display publicly on MyEdu.

“If it’s going to tap into our data, I want to know how it’s going to use that info,” Powers said.

Engineering professor Brian Evans said student comments on MyEdu about professors and inaccuracies in class grade distributions concern him.

“You have no way to know that the student attended that class,” Evans said. “Comments can come from anybody.”
Computer science professor Alan Cline said faculty concern with MyEdu began years before the partnership, when it started posting class grade distributions. He said the faculty worried it would lead to grade inflation.

Cline said MyEdu will not help to improve graduation rates because advising is not the issue, but instead, the issue is the need for money to hire more faculty and teaching assistants to provide additional classes.

“Students are finding that they’re having difficulty getting through because they can’t get the classes they need,” Cline said.

Powers said the UT System chancellor made it clear that MyEdu will be a “local option” for each of the UT institutions. He said this means UT-Austin will be able to partially adjust the site for some of the issues faculty are worried about.
“If there are tools that we don’t find educationally sound, we’ll turn them off,” Powers said.

Powers said the information available to students on MyEdu will not be used to judge professors because the University has its own course evaluations.

“We are not going to use inaccurate information in any evaluation process,” Powers said. “I can’t say what decisions students will make.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 as: $10 million MyEdu contract troubles professors