Who’s evaluating whom?

Jessie Hellmann

clipboardBY: Jessie Hellmann & Shannon Hall 

USI President Linda Bennett, who has been president for three and a half years, has never been evaluated publically, and the USI Board of Trustees may not let that happen any time soon.

In an upcoming 360 evaluation of Bennett, nearly everyone who works for the university will be asked what they think of Bennett and how she’s doing her job.

Every May, the Board of Trustees evaluates Bennett informally, but starting Dec. 12, discussion about her 360 evaluation will begin. 

A 360 evaluation is a more in-depth evaluation that involves interviewing and surveying the university community.

This year, for the first time, an outside firm will handle the in-depth evaluation of the president, and will cost the university $20,000, which will come from the operating budget.

Psychology Assistant Professor Amie McKibban said an outside firm evaluating the president can help the university, but she has some reservations as well.

“An outside firm has the benefits of objectivity, but you’re going to miss some important aspects of campus morale and how the president is being perceived by her faculty,” McKibban said.

The board hired Pappas Consulting Group Inc., a firm based out of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that worked on reforming presidential evaluation processes with schools such as Eastern Kentucky University and The College of New Jersey.


Bennett said the firm will work with the trustees to develop the metrics the president will be evaluated by, and the board can then use the same metrics year after year.

“It will give the board a structure to conduct annual reviews,” Bennett said.

Chancellor Ray Hoops’, and former president from 1994 to 2009,  360 evaluation took place in 1998 and 2003 and didn’t involve an outside firm.

Hoops’s predecessor, David Rice, who served as president from 1967 to 1994, didn’t undergo a 360 evaluation or an annual evaluation while he was president. 

The president’s office said no record exists of Rice being evaluated by the Board of Trustees.



The board of trustees should give a university president a 360 evaluation every three to five years as well as an informal evaluation every year, said Michael Poliakoff, the vice president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a non-profit organization committed to accountability at America’s colleges and universities.

How the annual evaluation is conducted is up to the board, Poliakoff said.

He said performance indicators about how the Board of Trustees evaluates the president should be made public and that a summary of how the president met the indicators should also be made public when the evaluation is over.

Poliakoff said having private results is not acceptable practice.

“It’s a matter of transparency, and for a public institution, it is best practice for the public to have at least a brief summary of an outcome of the (president’s) evaluation,” he said.

He said a good example of presidential evaluations exists at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s a very good system in which the evaluation of the chancellor is done in a closed session,”   Poliakoff said. “Then a summary is presented at the next board meeting,”

Jon Dunn, a Board of Trustee member and former chair, said he assumes a report would be made available to the public and said he thinks Bennett would want it to be public.

However, Board of Trustees Chairman Ted Ziemer said Dunn must be mistaken.

On Wednesday, Ziemer said the board decided no one can see the results of the 360 evaluation, but after the evaluation, they may decide to make a summary public.

But on Tuesday Ziemer had said it would be completely private.

“The report after the evaluation will not be made public,” Ziemer said. “It’s for the internal use of the Board of Trustees.”

Ziemer said performance indicators haven’t been decided yet and will not be made public. The firm and the board will meet Dec. 12 to develop a rubric of how Bennett will be evaluated.

Ziemer did not know how long the evaluation would last or how much it would cost the university, but he said the president’s office should have the information.



The 360 review isn’t the only evaluation being kept from public eye.

Parts of the faculty morale survey are also being kept private. The survey, new this year, included a section for administration evaluations in addition to typical morale questions.

A request for a faculty morale survey to be completed was filed by a faculty member, anonymous by policy, to the Faculty Senate Aug. 29.

The survey attempts to gauge the morale of the faculty by assessing factors such as teaching load, available resources and happiness with salary.

The person who sent the request to the Faculty Senate stated in the request that the template they saw from another school included a short evaluation of the “dean for your college, as well as the provost’s office.”

The anonymous person stated, “This would merely be providing some additional information useful in evaluating morale on campus and is not intended to replace other evaluations, which I understand are being planned for this year and additional years.”

He or she said the morale survey request would address issues without pressuring faculty to respond in a certain way.

The Faculty Senate sent the request to the Assessment Committee, a standing committee of the Faculty Senate, said Faculty Senate President Paul Parkison.

Because of miscommunication, the Assessment Committee completed and emailed the survey out to faculty before the senate had reviewed it, Parkison said.

Parkison said he didn’t know the survey had been sent until he received it in his email inbox.

“It wasn’t part of the (request) to say to send it back to the senate before you sent it out,” Parkison said. “Usually the senate would give more guidance. This is the process we usually want to follow, and we didn’t do it – I didn’t do it.”

The survey asked faculty members to evaluate their department chairs, the deans, the provost and the president of the university.

After a meeting Bennett requested to have with Parkison and the Faculty Senate, they determined that results from the survey concerning questions about the department chairs, deans, provosts and the president would be private. The results would only be seen by direct supervisors, Bennett said.

Bennett said the questions were “too evaluative” in nature, and had to be kept private because the university already has evaluation processes in place that are more professional.

“In evaluative processes, the candidate has input, voice, and there is an exchange for development,” Bennett said. “You don’t have that when you’ve got a popularity poll or public poll.  It takes away the voice of the candidate.”

She said the results to the questions will be kept private because they’re evaluative, and evaluations are a personnel issue.

Parkison said the results from the survey that weren’t about evaluating administration will still be used in a report and discussed in the Jan. 11 meeting of the faculty senate.


Psychology Associate Professor Amie McKibban said having a morale survey on campus is important.

inconnsShe said she thinks faculty and staff would prefer, and benefit from, receiving the results from the entire survey, but she respects the decision the president and the Faculty Senate made to separate the evaluative questions from the morale questions.

“If you have faculty and staff that are unhappy with higher administration, the policies and their jobs, it’s going to affect the job they are doing,” McKibban said. “The equivalent is students evaluating their professors. Students don’t know the ins and the outs of what college professors do. What they see is what they see in the classroom, but yet they’re able to evaluate us.”

She said the faculty morale survey was the first time the faculty has ever been asked to evaluate higher administration with regards to the dean, the provost and the president.

This morale survey wasn’t really a job evaluation – it was just a morale survey,” McKibban said. “They’re two very different things.”

She said she hopes the president will look at the results and understand why the university morale has decreased in the last few years and be open to change.

“Transparency, I think, is one of the general points of conversation, especially with faculty, in the last few years of her administration,” McKibban said. “The faculty I’ve spoken with said lack of transparency is one of the overall complaints. And not having transparency with these results may become another point of frustration with higher administration. It’s kind of a vicious cycle with higher administration.”

A faculty member from the College of Liberal Arts who prefers to remain anonymous said there should be a formal evaluation done regularly because someone has to ask morale questions.

“I hope (the administration) reads the results and takes them seriously,” said the faculty member. “This is a survey by the faculty for the faculty. It’s really important to pay attention to faculty morale. If the faculty aren’t happy, it affects everything.”

Sociology Associate Professor Steven Williams said some faculty members may wish to evaluate the president, but he said he is not sure whether or not they have enough information to evaluate her.

“The higher up you go on the food chain, the less interaction and knowledge you have about their day-to-day work, the less accurate you will be in your evaluation,” he said.

He said he knows getting a small bonus instead of a raise this year upsets some people, but it doesn’t bother him because he understands the situation.

“I hope it doesn’t go on for a long, long time, but I’m not going b***h too much about my situation,” he said. “I’m a very happy person at USI.”

Faculty Senate President Paul Parkison said job performance can be affected by how employees feel about their boss.

“There are morale issues, but we want to be respectful (of process, of the way the university works),” he said.

He said they want to make sure they stay within their role as the Faculty Senate.

“(The survey questions about the evaluation of higher administration) came to a blurry line,” he said. “We’re still considering (how faculty morale is affected by administration). I think that it makes sense to pull those (questions) back, move forward with the stuff that was clearly within the morale survey, and use that data as quickly as we can while the other process is worked through.”

But he said the Faculty Senate is not responsible for evaluating administration.

“We (the Faculty Senate) wanted to get a sense of faculty morale, and the focus has turned into administrative evaluation, and that was not our intent,” Parkison said. “They are not unrelated, but they are not the same thing. The senate is interested in the faculty morale, and that’s where we’re going to take it.”

Parkison said, as a faculty member, he thinks he has had opportunities to give his thoughts about how the administration is doing.

“I don’t feel like I’ve been closed out,” he said. “I’ve been able to provide my feedback.”