Asst. provost confirms loss of SPOT evaluations

A ‘technical glitch’ resulted in the loss of many Student Perception of Teaching evaluations, rendering all Fall 2021 evaluations unusable.


Eston Parker III

The breezeway at FAU. Photo by Eston Parker III.

Justine Kantor, News Editor

According to the Provost, a technical glitch has caused the university to lose numerous SPOT evaluations submitted between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5.

The university “​​didn’t lose all the data, but there was a glitch that resulted in [the loss of] student responses that were submitted during a particular timeframe,” assistant provost James Capp wrote in an email to the University Press.

Instructors compel students to complete a SPOT evaluation regarding their experience in each SPOT eligible course at the end of each semester.

In addition to providing instructors with feedback, administrators consider student reviews when assessing faculty members for multiple reasons, including promotions and tenure.

The number of lost evaluations is unknown at publication time. Due to the glitch, administrators will not use Fall 2021 SPOT responses for faculty evaluations.

“It was extremely disappointing because a lot of the faculty do use the evaluations to kind of self-check themselves,” said Glenn Singer, adjunct faculty in the university’s School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. “It’s also important to see where you may have failed the students in any respect.”

On behalf of the Office of Information Technology, a Dec. 10 email from Associate Provost and Chief Information Officer Jason Ball notified faculty members of the lost evaluations.

“Because we lost submissions, the SPOT instrument was unreliable for inclusion in annual appraisals for faculty. This term will also be excluded from tenure and promotion review processes,” Capp stated.

Singer expressed his disappointment that the university did not notify faculty members of the problem earlier.

“Well if [the errors] started late November then why didn’t they investigate that further to the point where they could notify faculty that there were going to be problems with the SPOT,” he stated. “Something should have been said sooner.”

The glitch affected students who anticipated extra credit or other incentives as a reward for completing the evaluation.

“Half my evaluations didn’t actually save in the system, and by the time I realized they hadn’t counted, it was already too late.” said freshman marketing major Ali Tarnowsky.

Sophomore film major Jeri Alvarez mentioned that their instructor offered to curve the exam if seventy-five percent of the class completed the evaluation.

“Our class was given a goal to reach for the SPOT evaluation, but the University lost all the data,” they said.

Alvarez shared a message to students on Canvas from psychology professor James Jakubow, Ph.D.

“…the university, for the first [time] since forever, lost all the SPOT data for the entire university. Therefore, the data given to me that [the class] did not reach the 75% criteria for getting the curve is in question. Consequently, I decided to give it to you anyway,” the message stated.

The university is working to access the remaining evaluations that the system successfully recorded.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to get the comments that were not lost into the hands of the faculty, at a minimum. Once we know we can do that, we’ll send a new note to the faculty members,” said Capp, indicating that the glitch may have affected the entirety of the responses.

Singer appealed to the university administration to apologize to students for the glitch.

“I think [Ball] or somebody, even the president perhaps, should apologize to all the students who A – did it diligently, or B – were badgered constantly by their [teachers] to fill out the spot reports when in fact they probably were doing it to a large extent, but they weren’t being recorded,” he said. “Somebody owes the students an apology – not just the faculty.”

At publication, it is unclear if the university will be readministering SPOT evaluations for the semester.

Justine Kantor is the News Editor for the University Press. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by Twitter @KantorJustine.