Letters to the Editor: Current faculty, alumni respond to controversial UP cover

Four letters weigh in on January’s investigative issue into the university’s teaching evaluations, SPOTs. The cover featured engineering professor Dronnadula Reddy with the headline: “Is this FAU’s worst professor?”

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Letters to the Editor: Current faculty, alumni respond to controversial UP cover

Illustration by Ivan Benavides

Illustration by Ivan Benavides

Illustration by Ivan Benavides

Illustration by Ivan Benavides

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Editor’s note: The following letters remain unedited.

Former engineering teaching assistant Stanley W. Merantus

Dear Sir/Madam,

This letter is to comment on the ‘IS THIS FAU’S WORST PROFESSOR?’ article published on January 15, 2018.

As an alumnus of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), I can truly agree that the Student Perception of Teaching (SPOT) course evaluation is an inaccurate tool used to judge our professor’s performance here at FAU. As both a former student and teaching assistant, I noticed that because the SPOT evaluation is now accessed online, the students do not give this evaluation any importance. Usually, the students who perform poorly in the course, are the ones to rate the professor’s poorly.

As you may not know, Dr. D.V. Reddy is one of the best professors at FAU. Unfortunately, the SPOT course evaluation of Spring 2017 did not reveal that. The students on RateMyProfessors agreed that: “Dr. Reddy’s a good “chap”. You need to understand his humor and the class is interesting. If you just roll your eyes, you wont enjoy the class. Very knowledgeable. He knows what’s going on even if you think he doesn’t. Overall, he’s a great resource. Pick his brain as he loves to share what he knows.” Another student on RateMyProfessors agreed that he is a: “Good Professor”.

Aside from teaching about concrete, he has published 350 plus papers, and taught 10 different courses.  Dr. Reddy is knowledgeable in both Civil Engineering and Ocean Engineering, and a Professional Engineer in Florida, Alberta, Newfoundland in Canada, and the U.K., which sets him apart from most professors here at FAU.

As a Master’s degree seeking student, I took the course Coastal Structures, which is at the graduate level in Spring 2016. In that course, I understood everything Dr. Reddy taught, and did not find his accent to be of any issue. The course was very interesting, and it was noticeable that he was very knowledgeable of the material; not to mention that he published textbooks related to the course. All in all, I knew for every one credit hour enrolled, a student must spend approximately two to three hours outside of class studying and, of course, I passed with an A.

To conclude, as a former student, teaching assistant, my Master’s Thesis advisor, Dr. Reddy does not hand out free A’s; you must earn your grade in his courses. Speaking from a teaching assistant point of view, many of the students want grades handed to them, simply because they paid for the course. A recipient of the Distinguished Teacher of the Year, to be questioned on an article as the ‘worst teacher’, is absurd!

Sincerely,

Stanley W. Merantus
Former Teaching/Research Assistant
Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatics Engineering
Florida Atlantic University
Civil Engineering

Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering Faculty

Dear UP Editor-in-Chief,

This letter is in response to an article published in University Press, dated January 16, 2018. Although the apparent intention of the article was to shine a light on the SPOT evaluation system, the manner in which the article was presented unfairly damaged the reputation of Dr. Reddy. The Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering faculty at Florida Atlantic University are disappointed with the article that used Dr. Reddy’s likeness, age, salary, accent, and even a disability to make a point regarding the usefulness of the SPOT evaluation system. Dr. Reddy is a past Distinguished Teacher of the Year, which is the most prestigious teaching award at FAU. Notably, the student body selects the winner. He is also a well-accomplished scholar and a highly respected professional engineer. Since its publication, the article has taken a toll on Dr. Reddy personally, which we believe to be extremely unfair to someone who has career-long contributions to FAU and to the civil engineering profession.

Sincerely,

Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering Faculty
Florida Atlantic University

FAU senior chemistry instructor Alberto Haces

Dear Mr. Pye:

I really liked you extensive article about the FAU SPOT. I have been complaining about it after the eliminated the paper version. I believe that the only unbiased way to evaluate a teacher is by videotaping his/her classes.

As per the validity of SPOT, the only way to give a more fair weight to an opinion is to know the quality of the person giving that opinion. In my experience, when the SPOT was dispensed via paper, the best students, who always come to class, filled the questionnaire more fairly that the worst performing students who seldom came to class. The comments of the latter ones were: fire him, he sucks! not a very constructive critique.

My solution: program into the SPOT questionnaire the GPA of the student filling it, anonymously of course. If a Summa Cum Laude student complaints, his/her opinion should have more weight that a student with a GPA of D or C. Do yo agree?

My experience at FAU is that the students can insult or defame a faculty without any consequences. But a faculty member can not make an innocent comment, even in private, without student making a scandal and demanding punishment to the teacher.  So, the system, as it is, is biased in favor of the students.

Best regards,

Alberto Haces, Ph.D.
Florida Atlantic University, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department
777 Glades Rd., PS 309
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Phone: 561-297-3641
fax: 561-297-2759
http://chemistry.fau.edu/directory/ahaces.php
“Never be haughty to the humble, never be humble to the haughty.”
Mark Twain

FAU engineering alumnus Fernando Martinez

Dear Editor-in-Chief,

I was a student (undergraduate and graduate) of Dr. Dronnadula Reddy, and am deeply disappointed by your article humiliating an outstanding professor, whose contributions to FAU are immeasurable.

Dr. Reddy’s teaching abilities were recognized by FAU students in 1989 when he was awarded the prestigious University-wide (selected by students) Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.  I was able to find his acceptance speech in the FAU website (http://www.fau.edu/fiftieth/files/speech1989_reddy.pdf).  Quoting Dr. Reddy’s speech, “The role of teaching is broader than that of providing information, control and entry into the elite. The professor should be a role model who is self-demanding and contributes positively to the intellectual and personal development of his or her students.”

I took several undergraduate and graduate classes with Dr. Reddy, ranging from civil engineering materials to structural steel design and finite element analysis, and believe Dr. Reddy taught the material at a good pace, interacted with the students to make sure we were understanding the material, gave thorough reviews before the exams, gave examples of real-world applications of the material, and encouraged critical thinking by interacting with students during the classes, and sharing anecdotes from his abundant career experience.

He is a brilliant researcher that for more than 58 years has been at the forefront of concrete research and the advancement of material and structural engineering worldwide.   Dr. Reddy is well respected among the world’s top concrete researchers, and a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute, a status that recognizes outstanding contributions to the concrete industry.  Among Dr. Reddy’s latest contributions to the concrete field is his research on the performance of the “Geopolymer Concrete”, which is a new type of concrete without cement.  This highly innovative type of concrete will help make construction more sustainable by potentially reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, since production of cement releases large amounts of CO2.

Dr. Reddy is not only a high-quality professor, but he is also a deeply caring person that worries about his students’ future, encourages them to pursue their best in research and scholarship, and has been a mentor to hundreds of students, including myself, throughout his teaching career in Universities in the United States, India, Canada and England.

Dr. Reddy has made outstanding contributions to Florida Atlantic University and the South Florida community for the past 50+ years.  He is internationally recognized and an important asset to FAU. Please review your article and sources, interview students and faculty members, and kindly consider acknowledging Dr. Reddy’s accomplishments and commitment to service in your next issue. May I suggest that you publish his “Distinguished Teacher of the Year” Award acceptance speech (attached), as it explains his real views on the importance of quality teaching as an essential element to make FAU a truly great center of learning.

Sincerely,

Fernando Martinez, E.I.
Magna Cum Laude Civil Engineering
Master of Science – Structural Engineering
Structural Engineer Associate – Douglas Wood Associate, Miami, FL