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Posted 8:00 pm
December 12, 2012

Students need to take course evaluations seriously

The role of student and professor are pretty rigidly defined. We students do our best — or at least try to convince our professors that we do — all semester and then we patiently wait for our benevolent instructors to post our grades. But at the end of each semester the tables get turned and we get a chance to grade our professors, a responsibility that we need to take seriously.

Those pesky orange standardized test forms that tend to keep us in our last classes of the semester for an extra 15 minutes can seem like more of a nuisance than anything else. Our brains are overloaded with memorized facts, our wrists are sore from using number two pencils to fill in bubbles and the thought of another form to fill out is often too much to bear.

But these evaluations are important — perhaps more than most students realize. The praise or criticism that we pass along on these forms goes directly to the committees that decide the futures of our esteemed educators, and these decisions can have long-lasting
implications if they are consistently negative.

These grades we give our professors are a key factor in deciding who gets tenure, which is basically the holy grail of a career in academia. Once a professor is granted tenure, it’s nearly impossible to fire them, barring a grievous breach of ethics or a felony conviction.

That means that every crappy tenured professor you’ve ever had will continue being crappy, and get paid well for it, until they decide to retire.

The perks of tenure don’t end with job security. Assistant professors, who don’t have tenure, make $71,681 annually, whereas associate professors make $81,445, and fully tenured professors make $98,510, according to Education News.

But the knife cuts both ways. For every professor out there who is condescending and overbearing, there is another professor who is understanding, competent and deserves to be promoted. These professors deserve your praise just as much as that instructor who embarrassed you for asking a silly question deserves your vindictive rant.

So take these evaluations seriously. Their implications are likely to impact students here at SF State long after you graduate.