UVI PROFESSOR CRITICIZES EVALUATION PROCESS

In a lengthy mass e-mail to University faculty on April 14, a UVI professor whose contract was not renewed accused the administration of giving undue weight to student evaluations in its teaching performance assessment system.
Dr. Aubrey Fowler's allegations proved to be the catalyst for a series of other e-mails, some mass and some not, addressing the system and also the alleged support or lack thereof for the Business Administration Division by the University administration.
Fowler, who holds a doctorate in human resource management, has taught at UVI for three years. Told last year that his contract would not be renewed, he decided "to evaluate the contract committee rather than to report on my activities" in his self-evaluation last fall.
In the portion of his "self-evaluation" that he attached to the April 14
e-mail, Fowler said the system of faculty performance evaluation at UVI suffered from three "fundamental flaws":
* that the final evaluation is by a committee whose members have no direct opportunity to observe the faculty member's performance but can overrule the evaluation of the teacher's division chair.
* that "in place of objective standards of performance," the committee members "place an overly high value" on student opinion as expressed in student evaluations.
* that the faculty member is given no opportunity to appear before the contract committee to answer questions about his or her performance or to defend against accusations made by students.
The contract committee consists of the chairs of the six academic divisions, the academic deans on St. Thomas and St. Croix and the vice-president for academic affairs, who serves as chair.
Fowler says UVI's evaluation system has a "strong potential for abuse of "academic freedom" for professors. "Extreme reliance on student evaluations serves to curtail that choice and force those who wish to remain in the good graces of the institution to teach to student preferences in difficulty, workload and examination policy or to suffer the consequences," he stated.
Fowler also said other faculty members have been and are being forced to leave UVI because of the situation. He said Dr. David Boyd decided to step down as division chair because of "flawed and unfair evaluations," the "unwillingness of the institution to support initiatives to improve" the division and "continuing obstruction and interference coming out of the Office of the Academic Dean on St. Thomas."
Dean Maxine Nunez declined comment. Boyd confirmed he has resigned as division chair but didn't want to comment further.
On Monday, Fowler mass e-mailed to faculty copies of e-mails from Dr. Solomon Kabuka, a business faculty member, and Dr. Denis Paul, vice-president for academic affairs. Kabuka's message was to Boyd, expressing regret at Boyd's resignation as chair and citing "what appears to be an environment of benign neglect" toward the division. Paul in response expressed frustration at "the lack of response to my efforts to energize the division." Fowler then gave his reasons for feeling the "neglect" was not "benign" but "malignant" and "about to render the division nonfunctional."
Less than two hours later, Paul sent a mass e-mail to faculty refuting Fowler's allegations about the performance review process, noting that personnel matters are confidential and stating his intent to refrain from further commenting.
On Tuesday, Fowler dispatched another length mass e-mail challenging the points made the day before by Paul with regard to the performance review process.
Editors' note: This article is from the latest edition of UVIsion, the newspaper published by journalism students at the University of the Virgin Islands.

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