Recently, William Kaplan, one of Ontario’s most respected arbitrators, heard a grievance put forward by the Ryerson University Faculty Association at arbitration. The grievance dealt with the usage of Student Evaluations of Teachings (or SETs) and their applicability for employment related decisions by Ryerson University.
Your Union has long expressed concerns about the effectiveness of SETs when we have bargained with the Employer. Among other things, we have been concerned that various factors, especially personal characteristics such as race, gender, accent, age and “attractiveness” skew the results. We have also expressed concern that a simple numeric figure is limited in its effectiveness and easy to skew. We believe that the decision by Arbitrator Kaplan, which can be read in full here, confirms many of our long-held concerns about the shortcomings of SETs (or course evaluations, as they are more commonly referred to here).
Perhaps the most notable part of the decision is as follows: “The expert evidence led at the hearing persuasively demonstrates that the most meaningful aspects of teaching performance and effectiveness cannot be assessed by SETs. Insofar as assessing teaching effectiveness is concerned – especially in the context of tenure and promotion – SETs are imperfect at best and downright biased and unreliable at worst.”
We believe this decision has the potential to have important implications on hiring decisions here, especially in those instances in which departments rely heavily on SETs to deny members employment. We will also address this decision at our next round of collective bargaining, scheduled for 2020.