The Performance Evaluation System
at the UP College of Mass Communication: A Critique
By Chit Estella
Promotions are supposed to be a time of positive expectation and, in its immediate aftermath, celebration. But at the College of Mass Communication (CMC) in the University of the Philippines Diliman, promotion time can be an occasion for stress and, in its aftermath, disappointment and anger. No doubt, there are those who are happy enough with what they get. But grumblings—complaints that are never made officially but nevertheless make their rounds in the corridors, the comfort rooms and cafeterias—continue to nudge the college like aftershocks following an earthquake. They come from those who wholeheartedly believe that they should have gotten more.
Two kinds of employees are evaluated in the University: the administrative personnel and the faculty. The Performance Evaluation of administrative personnel is cut and dried: targets are set and values given to the level of performance achieved. The more contentious—and difficult—process concerns the faculty.
In the Faculty Manual of UP Diliman, it is stated that, “In determining promotions in the faculty, careful consideration shall be given to the following factors: teaching ability of the candidate, research competence and productivity, scholarly performance, dedication to service, positive evidence of educational interest and marked academic growth, moral integrity, and good personal character and conduct.”
Individual units of the University “may impose more stringent standards as long as these are consistent with the intent and framework of the system-wide standards, applied consistently within the unit and made clear to the unit’s faculty.”
The manual reminds us that “promotion implies selectivity and choice; it is awarded for academic, scholarly and professional accomplishments, not for seniority or length of service.”
But what is the reality?
In an interview with this student, Dr. Lourdes Portus, college secretary, said that indeed there are three main criteria for promotion and tenure observed by CMC. These are teaching, research and extension service.
Performance in the first criterion—teaching—is judged mainly on the basis of the Student Evaluation of the Teacher (SET) which is answered by students at the end of the semester. It is filled up anonymously and the raw copy is not given to the faculty member who might be familiar with the handwriting of the students. Instead, the answers are tallied by an administrative assistant and the scores are determined on the basis of values assigned from a score of zero (0) to five (5).
The first part of the SET involves the students’ assessment of their own performance in the subject taught by a particular faculty member. The second part refers to the course itself and its effectiveness in instilling knowledge. The third—and longest—part is about the teacher, his/her effectiveness in imparting knowledge, ability to relate with students, fairness, and punctuality in performing duties. At the end of the questionnaire are open-ended questions such as, “What are the teacher’s strong points?” and “What areas can be improved?”
When the results are summed up, it is only then that the faculty member gets to see these. But do the scores accurately reflect a faculty member’s performance as teacher?
Dr. Portus confirms many suspicions being harbored by many teachers. She says, “On occasion, students can be biased.” They see the SET as a way of “rewarding” teachers who have been giving them high grades and “punishing” those who gave them low grades. The open-ended questions are sometimes not answered or if they are, the person tabulating the scores sometimes fails to include these in the evaluation.
The results of the SET are supposed to be discussed by the department chair with the faculty member concerned so that weaknesses can be identified and corrected. This, however, usually does not happen. The faculty member simply receives a copy of the tabulated results and overall score.
Why the SET results are sometimes not discussed may be traced to two principles or values that are strongly observed in UP: academic freedom and collegiality among peers. Under the concept of academic freedom, a faculty member is left to device his/her own methods of teaching—even if such methods (or their absence) may be ineffective.
Under the principle of collegiality, faculty members are not expected to do anything that could embarrass, upset or do anything that might be interpreted as disrespect toward another faculty member.
“Collegiality” and a distorted sense of fairness can also turn the promotion process into an attempt at creating and maintaining a pleasant community rather than an effective instrument of rewarding and encouraging good work. The University’s limited resources also contribute to the situation. As Portus explains it, the budget for promotion comes from the UP funds which, in turn, depend on the national government. Although education takes up a huge slice of the national budget, it is never enough to meet the ever-growing needs of a burgeoning student population in state universities and colleges. The result is the inability to implement promotions regularly and fully. For example, those faculty members who were not promoted in 2008 due to insufficiency of funds had to be “given a chance” in 2009 regardless of performance.
In addition, the college is stymied by the criteria that are adopted by the University system-wide for promotion and granting of tenure. Much weight is given to research output as published in peer-reviewed journals and to higher academic degrees. At CMC where the fields are journalism, broadcasting, film and communication research, it is only the last where the criteria of research output and attainment of advance degrees find relevance. Creative output remains a nebulous concept as standards for this are still being fine-tuned. Experience in mainstream media, which contributes greatly to teaching effectiveness, is hardly given any weight either in promotion or determination of position in the academic ladder. The college, therefore, continues to use standards that may not be relevant or useful in determining the contributions and performance of its faculty members. Journalists, broadcasters and filmmakers, after all, do not conduct research in the academic sense. Their output consists of news stories, documentaries, radio programs and feature films, not peer-reviewed articles.
Portus said that there is now an attempt to change the criteria for promotion through the Tenure Committee and the Tenure Procedures Committee. In 2008, however, a Collective Negotiating Agreement was signed between UP and the All UP Academic Employees Union. One of the provisions in the agreement provides for consultation between the university and the union on matters “related to recruitment, promotion and termination.” (CAN, Article IV, “Working Conditions and Evaluation of Faculty and REPS) How this would be worked out in practical terms remains to be seen. But the implications are serious and may change the way that promotions and terminations are currently being done. Evaluation of academic performance, traditionally the prerogative of an exclusive section of the university, may well become a subject of negotiation and even popular weal.
But the tasks remain the same in so far as CMC is concerned. These include identifying the output that could take the place of research, such as investigative or in-depth journalistic pieces or, in the case of broadcasting and film, production programs. The equivalent of a peer review in these instances should also be determined. Should a good investigative article or documentary necessarily be an award-winning work in order for it to count as an output worthy of promotion or recognition by the university?
Finally, in the case of “collegiality” and “academic freedom,” is a re-definition of these concepts in order? Perhaps not just at the college level but in the UP system as well?
? ? ?
Collective Negotiation Agreement. 2008. Quezon City: University of the Philippines.
Faculty Manual. 2003. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Diliman.
Interview with Dr. Lourdes Portus, College Secretary, UP College of Mass Communication, January 27, 2010.