Professors are put to the test with C.A.P.E.

    Every student at UCSD has experienced the familiar surveys passed out near the end of each quarter. The entire lecture hall bows its heads and fills in the circles on C.A.P.E.’s Scantron sheets, deciding whether they liked their professor, the class and teaching assistants, commenting on anything from the difficulty of papers and midterms to the eccentricities of their lecturer.

    One student even wrote about a professor’s voice, “”The professor sounds like Kermit the Frog. This puts me to sleep. I guess when I was young I took a nap after Sesame Street.””

    How is this information used?

    The C.A.P.E. runners return to the office and the evaluations are put through a scanner. A program designed especially for the C.A.P.E. office, the “”C.A.P.E. database,”” stores the results of the statistics on the front of the C.A.P.E. survey. The C.A.P.E. surveys are then stored by department in filing cabinets in their department office.

    After the grades for each class have been turned in, both the professor and the department can view their C.A.P.E. results. Every evaluation for every class is organized by department and returned to the department where they are stored on file.

    It is over the summer months that the actual C.A.P.E. book is written, revised and finally published. About 10 editors are hired by the C.A.P.E. office to review every class’s evaluation sheets and to compile comments from the back of each C.A.P.E. form. It is the job of these editors to create a witty and interesting paragraph that incorporates the comments of the students.

    “”They are the same comments for pretty much every class. It’s the editor’s job to make them sound original so that people will read them,”” said C.A.P.E. director Loralyn Heyman.

    Each editor tallies all the comments from the evaluations. If 10 percent of the evaluations from a given class have the same comment, the comment will make it into the C.A.P.E. book.

    The production of C.A.P.E. is a year-long process that extends into the summer months until September, when the book is published. This year-long task is overseen by Heyman. Heyman has been on the C.A.P.E. staff since she was an editor four years ago and has since spent time reworking the entire C.A.P.E. system to benefit students and faculty, some of whom were displeased with the C.A.P.E. system and their evaluations.

    “”There have definitely been some bad years in C.A.P.E. history,”” Heyman said.

    Heyman and her staff are confident that this year will not be one of them. With the help of a faculty advisory committee and ideas for reworking the C.A.P.E. evaluation form, Heyman is certain that C.A.P.E. will continue to receive the support of faculty, administration and students.

    “”We’re making headway in the eyes of faculty,”” Heyman said. “”We continue to be funded, and professors who in the past have refused C.A.P.E.s are willing to give us another shot.””

    Megan Green, runner coordinator and future C.A.P.E. director, has felt the change in C.A.P.E. since Heyman became director and agrees that C.A.P.E. is on a path toward success this year. She cited a change in budget, efficiency and personnel as the main improvements in the C.A.P.E. office this year.

    “”This year we’ve had so many compliments from professors who have had past problems with us,”” Green said. “”It’s really different to have someone like Loralyn who cares about the program.””

    C.A.P.E. has come a long way since it began in 1973. When C.A.P.E. first began, surveys were sorted by hand. Four years ago, the C.A.P.E. office did not even own its own Scantron scanner, and during the summer would have to wheel every survey down to the Price Center to be scanned, after which the surveys were wheeled back up to the C.A.P.E. office in Sequoyah Hall.

    “”It was really archaic,”” Heyman said. “”With our revised budget we have tried to rework things to do everything as efficiently as possible.””

    Because it receives surveys from about 650 classes per quarter, efficiency is key to the colossal task of managing the C.A.P.E. office.

    Even with the large budget cuts proposed for next year, Heyman is confident that the C.A.P.E. program will continue to receive the funding it needs to publish the book. C.A.P.E. funding comes from a grant from the Committee for Instructional Improvement (ICC) that is given to every UC school. UCSD funds C.A.P.E. with this money.

    “”We are far under budget for the current year,”” Heyman said. “”It assures us we can get by with less and shows the administration that we aren’t wasting their money.””

    Other changes that C.A.P.E. is looking into include reinstating the “”Off the Wall”” section of the C.A.P.E. book and the creation of a new C.A.P.E. survey. The new survey may even have an open section on it, leaving professors to create their own questions and receive feedback on their specific questions that may pertain only to their class.

    The reinstatement of “”Off the Wall”” will not go unnoticed by students and faculty. “”Off the Wall”” is a section of the C.A.P.E. book devoted to publishing humorous student comments copied from C.A.P.E. survey sheets. After the offensive comments printed in the 1998 issue of C.A.P.E., a formal complaint letter was sent from the Committee for Instructional Improvement. This letter had been promoted by complaints from the faculty and the Chancellor’s Diversity Council.

    “”It just came to a head,”” Heyman said. “”We pushed too many buttons with the university. We had to tell them we were going to re-evaluate things and prove to them that we are not just something like The Koala.””

    As a result of input from the Associated Students, faculty and C.A.P.E. staff, C.A.P.E. decided to place “”Off the Wall”” on a two-year trial hiatus, excluding the section from both the 2000 and 2001 C.A.P.E. books. This year marks the first year that C.A.P.E. may be able to include an “”Off the Wall”” section.

    “”We are working toward a way to bring [“”Off the Wall””] back and trying to satisfy people who were upset with it in the first place,”” Heyman said. “”We want to work in a way that represents students but doesn’t work against the administration and faculty. We need their support too.””

    Other faculty and departments who have been unhappy with the C.A.P.E. book and the evaluation surveys, as well as “”Off the Wall,”” have created their own surveys that are used to evaluate their classes. One of these professors is literature and Dimensions of Culture professor Winifred Woodhull.

    “”For the five years or so before I created my own evaluation, it was just becoming very obvious to me that the C.A.P.E. surveys were being abused,”” Woodhull said. “”Students use it as a way to whine with comments like ‘too much reading.’ That’s not what being in a university is about.””

    Woodhull’s alternate evaluation includes similar questions to the C.A.P.E. evaluation but takes into consideration questions that ask a student if they did the class assignments and what they thought of these readings or the syllabus. These surveys are also public domain and are kept on file. Students may request to see these surveys, like C.A.P.E. surveys.

    “”It’s well-known that the reason students use C.A.P.E. is to find out which class has the least work,”” Woodhull said. “”In terms of the substance of the course, I don’t think you get much from C.A.P.E. There really isn’t much qualitative analysis.””

    Woodhull said that she had received high ratings from previous C.A.P.E. surveys but had refused to entertain further C.A.P.E. surveying to “”send a signal”” to the C.A.P.E. office.

    “”I don’t refuse the C.A.P.E. surveys because I don’t like the ratings I get,”” Woodhull said. “”I just don’t feel the need to participate in a process where there are idiotic remarks like, ‘This course sucked.’ Could a professor do that on a student’s paper? No.””

    Woodhull is in a minority of professors that refuse C.A.P.E. evaluations. Heyman said that in general it was encouraged for professors to use C.A.P.E. surveys as they are used in the consideration for raises and are put on a professor’s record when preparing an application to teach interdisciplinary studies in other departments at UCSD. For some departments at UCSD, C.A.P.E. is the only form of evaluation they receive.

    Heyman understands the possible misuse or error that may occur in a C.A.P.E. evaluation.

    “”You can’t take it word for word,”” Heyman said. “”There’s always going to be people who like a different form of lecture style and things like that. But it is the most accurate representation anyone can get. No other UC system has an evaluation system like ours.””

    Although some faculty may not approve of the C.A.P.E. book and its evaluations, Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Brie Lodter uses the book to choose all her classes every quarter.

    “”I use it so I can get a feeling for if people liked the class or not,”” Lodter said. “”Sometimes it’s wrong, but most of the time it’s right.””

    Other students disagree that C.A.P.E. is a helpful resource when picking classes.

    “”I feel that they give contradicting opinions,”” John Muir College junior Justin Klein said. “”They waste a lot of words saying cute and witty things that just aren’t. The only thing that it is good for is if a teacher gets a 1 percent, then you know not to take him.””

    C.A.P.E.’s Web site is available at http://cape.ucsd.edu.

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