First of all, please allow me to introduce myself briefly. I graduated from Brandon College with a B.A. in 1957. During the early 1960s, I taught in the Brandon School Division. From 1965 to 1969 I served as the Principal of Neelin High School in Brandon. I also taught history courses at Brandon College during the early 1960s. In later years I served as a superintendent of schools and as an instructor of administration courses at the University of Manitoba. I am a regular donor and a member of the Order of the Sheaf at BU. I was given a BU Alumni Award in 2010 for organizing the “Last Hurrah”, a major BU reunion held in 2009.
Of much greater significance, however, is that I am the unofficial spokesman for number of BU alumni who have serious concerns about the status and direction being taken by BU. Other BU alumni in our group include the following: Cam Davreux, a business executive; Gordon Williams, a university administrator; Jim Donaghy, a Vice President of AT Plastics; Ron Booth, a legal-business executive; Dennis Ringstrom, a partner in a legal firm; George Hickling, a chemistry professor; Bill Friesen, a chemist; David McDowell, an educator; Mike Yakimyshyn, aformer professor at BU and former assistant superintendent; Bob Simmons, a school administrator; Arnold Tweed, a medical doctor; Don Sumner, an educator; Ron Kirbyson, an educator and author; Dawn Kirbyson, a social worker; and Warren Winkler, the current Chief Justice of Ontario. Dr. Jay Winburn, a member of the BU Foundation Board, has also expressed concerns about the current status of BU. We have also heard from some other ‘insiders’ at BU who wish to remain anonymous. We don’t pretend to speak as a totally unanimous voice, but we do agree that a review of the status and direction of BU is needed. We believe that the BUILD BRANDON 2010 planning document is inadequate.
We have received a few expressions of concern with respect to what sometimes has appeared to be an excessively critical element in our discussions. We understand the reasons for these concerns, but have stated that we need to be honest and direct.
What are our serious concerns? There are several but we will only mention a few at this time. We are especially concerned because Brandon University currently stands dead last, 49th out of 49 among Canadian universities in the “national reputation” category as published by Maclean’s magazine. But perhaps the most distressing statistic in the 2013 Maclean’s report is that Brandon University rates 48th out of 49 with a graduation rate of only 47.6%, which means that something like 52.4 % of students who enter BU drop out and do not receive a degree before they leave. Queen’s University, at the top of this category, graduates 90.8% with degrees.
According to the Globe and Mail, Brandon University is ranked also last, 15th out of 15 among “very small” universities, in all of the following “effectiveness of professor” critical categories: Student Satisfaction; Student/Faculty Interaction; and Instructors Teaching Style. According to “Rate My Professors at Brandon University” website, BU has many very good professors as well as some who receive very poor reviews. A university is only as good as the professors who teach there. This is the place where BU’s students can help.
It should be kept in mind that Maclean’s and the Globe and Mail come up with their results by consulting with students in the universities. Evaluations may not be entirely accurate or fair, but they are closely followed by students, parents and the general public in all parts of Canada.
So what can the students at BU do about professors who are not performing adequately? Complaints in writing, preferably by groups of students rather than individuals, should be directed to the BU President. Students at BU have invested heavily in time and money and they are entitled to adequate instructional services from their professors, many of whom make more than $100,000 annually. Dismissal is not the only option for the President. Underperforming professors can be provided with professional assistance. Other avenues, such as encouraging early retirement, are also available.
A second strategy for students is to evaluate their professors at the “Rate My Professors Brandon University” website and to publicize the results. But are evaluations at this site reliable and fair? According to a scholarly assessment of Rate My Professors, evaluations at this site correlate substantively and significantly with formal in-class evaluations. In other words, Rate My Professors is a reasonably reliable indicator of professor effectiveness. However, results should not be taken into serious consideration unless a significant number of students have evaluated a particular professor. A minimum of about 20 evaluations per professor is suggested. Professors love this site if they are rated highly, and they hate it if they are rated poorly.
On November 20th, 2011, during the time of the last BU strike, Professor (Emeritus) Garth Kidd of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Western Ontario, a BU Class of 1957 member, wrote to me as follows with respect to professor evaluations: “Your description of the professor evaluation process at Canadian universities accords very closely with my own at the University of Western Ontario. The questionnaires were distributed by the Department Secretary after the professor had left the room at the end of the lecture, and they were submitted anonymously to the Department Chair. I was not aware of any colleagues who disagreed with their evaluations. The evaluations were always published in the student newspaper.”
Back in the mid-1950s I occasionally wrote articles for the Quill, and it gives me great pleasure to write again for the same publication almost 60 years later! Thank you for the opportunity. And Hail Our College!
Class of ‘57
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 25, March 19, 2013.