Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AMS Academic Quality committee update and beer with BoG rep Darren Peets

Since these two events happened in the same day, and they're not too lengthy, posts have been consolidated.

The newest AMS committee, struck at the April 4th meeting had its first meeting yesterday. It has fairly broad aims: basically to prepare a framework for future AMS policy on matters of academic quality. That means setting priorities, deciding on the issues that matter the most to students regarding academics, and finding solutions to suggest. This aim is taking shape in a few ways:

  1. Creating a document that will be the AMS's official response to UBC's middling to poor performance on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Responding to the results specifically with student's perspectives.
  2. Re-launching and transforming the old AMS Yardstick publication. Yardstick was a magazine the AMS used to publish containing numerical data from teacher evaluations. This evaluation data was voluntarily given by the departments. Since the University is overhauling the teacher evaluation process into a "modular" system, where certain questions are published, the Yardstick was deemed redundant and stopped some years ago. The modular system (more details about this in a subsequent post) is only now being passed at the senate, and will still only contain limited information. VP academic Brendon Goodmurphy, who chairs the committee, wants to revive the publication and transform it into both a more useful resource to students trying to choose courses, and a lobbying tool. By the first he means publishing types of information that are more useful than just numbers, possibly including comments about teachers and courses, and in depth articles about teaching methods and other academic topics. Using the publication as a political tool basically means being forthright and aggressive with concerns and demands. For example, publishing a list of all the professors that refused to have their evaluations published. the idea is to create a culture among professors and administrators where teaching is highly valued, and publicly evaluated. The yardstick publication is a project that AVP Blake Frederick will be taking on - but the committee has agreed to also play a part in its production.
Some ideas to create ammunition for the above two projects are focus groups or events regarding academics. The main goal though, is to both gather and synthesize information and 'common' student knowledge into a coherent set of priorities, with rational categories of problems, and solutions.

Moving along, yesterday was my inaugural Koerner's pub experience. Luckily, I had GSS veteran and student BoG rep Darren Peets to guide me through it. While a pitcher was slowly depleted, a number of topics came up. Did you know that
  • AMS councilors are sometimes allowed into Pit night en masse by a choice of secret back ways after council meeting on Wednesdays?
  • Martha Piper raised tuition because she erroneously assumed UBC would receive all the funding applied for, and when it (predictably) didn't, she realized the money had already been spent and had to make up for it?
  • The air in Darren's building is completely switched over every seven minutes?
  • The SUB south lounge used to be on the outside, populated by bike racks, not couches?
  • There exists a faculty club at UBC, which was kicked out of their building due to financial problems, and is now embittered and tiny?

learning is fun!