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Availability of SAAC Evaluations Online Stalled

In the April 2011 issue of The Commentator, Gabriel Weinberg published an article entitled “SAAC Success: Professor Evaluations to be Available Online in Fall 2011”. The article detailed a new plan to allow YC students online access to student evaluations of professors—a more tasteful and informative version of RateMyProfessor, according to the article. Widely applauded and anticipated by students throughout the university, the new system would provide a level of transparency unseen at YU in prior years.

Three years and three SAAC presidents later, the system is still offline.

Plagued by “security concerns” and a slow-to-act bureaucracy, the plan has fallen by the wayside and out of the discerning eye of the student body. Josh Zimmerman (YC ’12) former President of SAAC, told The Commentator: “I think the ball’s been dropped… I’m not really sure where it’s headed now.”

According to Mr. Zimmerman, the faculty was always on board with the project. A faculty committee consisting of professors Gillian Steinberg, Ariel Malka, Shalom Holz and Paula Geyh ensured that guidelines were in place to allay faculty concerns. Citing worries over professor reputation and tenure tracking, the committee demanded that the site remain inaccessible to members of the administration. The committee also required that access be available to professors in viewing their own pages, ensuring a level of professionalism.

By June 2011, SAAC and the faculty committee were prepared to launch the site. However, the project remains unfinished.

Many involved point to the university’s ITS department as the source of the project’s stalling. According to Weinberg’s article, the evaluations would have been available for current students using their Banner User ID and password to gain entry to the site. However, this would give SAAC—a student organization—access to the larger, secured YU network.

According to Yoni Teitz (YC ’12), former Webmaster for the proposed site, these security concerns proved to be too much for ITS and the project was stalled indefinitely. “It could have been online and ready in 5 minutes if ITS would have given us the go-ahead,” said Mr. Teitz. “They were very unhelpful.”

Mr. Zimmerman noted that ITS was hard at work in updating the entire Banner network when SAAC approached ITS with the proposal. However, Mr. Zimmerman also said that “ITS never really took SAAC seriously. I don’t think they ever understood that we represent the entire student body.”

Dr. John Savage, current Director of Academic Technology spoke to The Commentator on behalf of ITS. Although Dr. Savage was not part of ITS when SAAC first proposed the project, Dr. Savage said that he sees no reason why the project would have been delayed initially. “I can’t imagine ITS would have any objection to it. Many universities have similar programs.”

In addressing the specific issues relating to Banner raised by SAAC members, Dr. Savage told The Commentator, “Access to Banner is really under the registrar’s jurisdiction… Moving forward, though, ITS would be more than happy to help any way we can.”

Mr. Zimmerman also pointed to problems within SAAC itself. One unnamed student that the SAAC board had tasked with designing the website proved uncooperative and unreliable. “It got to the point where I had to use my friend’s phone to call him, because he wouldn’t answer my calls.”

While the written SAAC evaluations were not given out at the end of this semester, the current SAAC board has high hopes that the project will be implemented shortly. Daniel Atwood (YC ’14), current VP of SAAC told The Commentator about the future of the project. "SAAC will continue to work on setting up the course evaluation site next year. We need to be sure that the site is only accessible to current YU students, so it will need to be integrated into some sort of log in system.”