Many students at Grand Valley State University are known to moan and groan when they hear their professors say it is time for the end-of-semester evaluations.

Whether students like filling out the forms or not, they should take these evaluations seriously, as it can have negative consequences for faculty if they are given an unfair poor review. The university uses these evaluations when a faculty member is up for tenure, promotion, raises or contract renewals, so students’ opinions can make a big difference.

However, the way that students evaluate their professors has differed greatly in the past depending on what department the professor taught in.

The hodgepodge of types of evaluations that currently exists is confusing for faculty and students alike. Some evaluations are through Blackboard online, some are paper and some classes don’t have any evaluation at all. An overhaul of the current system is long overdue.

The University Academic Senate appointed a task force called Universal Student Evaluation of Teaching to implement a better system for evaluating professors at GVSU, and the Lanthorn commends them for their effort.

The new system has created a singular type of evaluation, to be used university-wide. This new evaluation will go live in winter 2016.

The universal evaluation will only available online, but will still be done in class. In theory, having the same form across campus will help streamline the evaluation process. Currently, different departments have different forms, and there are even different forms within the same department.

While the first four question will be the same for every professor, the rest of the questions will be open-ended questions according to the style of the course – lab, lecture or discussion.

Although this universal form may seem like a good idea, every class is taught differently. An English class is very different from a physical therapy class and the way that a professor runs these classes varies greatly. The generic nature of these questions may not produce accurate results and may hinder students in providing specific information.

The current mess of evaluations GVSU uses now isn’t helpful to anyone, but neither is simplifying the process to the point that little information that would actually be useful is gathered. The questions for an orchestra professor shouldn’t be even close to the same as the questions used to evaluate an engineering professor.

Questions this generic won’t allow students to voice their opinion on a specific project that did not work well with the course, or a teaching technique they found to be particularly helpful. This kind of feedback is the kind that is valuable to professors in order to improve their abilities. Beyond letting the university know whether the professor is doing their job, it is nice to make sure professors know if their class helped students understand the individual field of study.

The UAS was right to try and overhaul the evaluation process – it’s been needed for quite some time. However, they seem to have settled on a solution that went too far in the other direction; a middle ground needs to be found.

Perhaps specified evaluations for each college would keep things specific enough to still be of use – looking at the focuses of each college. This may help to create a more authentic look into how professors are handling their subjects and where improvements can be made, rather than the too-generic evaluation set to roll out next semester.