PittOpinion

  • Students evaluate teacher evaluations

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    Every semester it’s the same thing: No. 2 pencil, sheet with bubbles, professor not allowed in the classroom and a random student employee passing out teacher evaluations.
    On Wednesday, Feb. 4, Dylan McCollar, academic affairs director for the Student Government Association (SGA), gave a report to the Senate about the importance of teacher evaluations and he came with Provost Lynette Olson’s responses to the Senate’s questions about evaluations.
    McCollar said teacher evaluations are important to the university, but students should realize that it takes about two years for a “bad” faculty member to be put on an improvement plan.
    “Olson said students also fail to take the evaluations as seriously as they should,” McCollar, junior in nursing, said.
    McCollar says one of SGA’s goals should be to make it clear that all students need to take evaluations seriously so that the university gets accurate information and can make good use of them.
    One student who does take evaluations seriously, Lauren Jenkins, says she is careful to provide honest feedback about all of her professors.
    “I take the evaluations seriously because I want to inform our educators of their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can excel,” Jenkins, junior in psychology, said. “I view it as a privilege to do what I can to help our teachers improve, but I know not every student has that mentality.”
    Olson, vice president of academic affairs, says the administration periodically revisits the instruments used to evaluate a teacher’s success in the classroom.
    “A some point, the system may change, but that change isn’t going to be able to happen very fast,” she said. “If we make the change from our current program, we will have to do a lot of research on the subject.”
    Olson added current teacher evaluations are accessed through Wichita State University and are conducted with paper and pencils. Different forms of the evaluations that have been suggested, include incorporating an Internet version through GUS or Canvas accounts, would not only allow for evaluations of full-time professors but also adjuncts.
    Catie Mellot says she has noticed that students leave more complaints than compliments when they fill out teacher evaluations.
    “People are really good at being unaware of the little or big flaws that they have,” Mellot, senior in accounting, said. “Students usually give good reviews when the professor deserves them, but do not leave compliments or constructive criticism. When the professor is mediocre or bad, the students will fill the comment sheet with complaints and tend to overlook the good aspects of the class and the professor.”
    Lauren Downing, senior in commercial graphics, says she feels evaluations are fine as they are beneficial for future students.
    “I just think that it is important to encourage students to write more than a few words so that the process of evaluations is not a complete waste,” she said.
    Other students such as Lynzee Flores, junior in communication and Spanish, agree that most students put effort in and fill out the short answer sheet, but many are wary that the professor will recognize their handwriting.
    “Sometimes we are concerned that those forms are screened and edited, especially if they are more opinion-based rather than constructive criticism and the professor might not see the real issue if there is one,” Flores said.

  • Flannery appointed interim VP for university advancements

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    Kathleen Flannery was recently appointed to the position of interim vice president for the Office of University Advancement, along with the position of president and CEO of the PSU Foundation.
    Having previously been employed as the executive director of university advancement, Flannery says she is excited to have been chosen for her new roles and looks forward to what she will be able to help the PSU Foundation accomplish.
    “It’s only been a few weeks for me but I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s been challenging for me so far, but it’s been a great opportunity for me.”
    Throughout her career at Pitt State, Flannery has worked in several departments including the International Office, Campus Activities and the Continuing and Graduate Studies Office.
    “My perspective has been broadened by all of my experience and I brought all of that to this role,” Flannery said. “That’s one of my unique abilities, is to bring all of that experience to bear in this role and then try to advocate for the university and all of the areas that I have the ability to impact.”
    As the interim vice president for university advancement, Flannery overseas many departments at Pitt State such as Career Services, The Alumni and Constituent Relations Office, the Center for Information and Business Development, the Kansas Polymer Research Center, Marketing and Communication, the Office of University Development and any other department categorized as university advancement.
    Flannery says she was surprised with the number of responsibilities that came with her job.
    “There are a variety of projects that I hadn’t been aware of in my prior role that I’m becoming more aware of,” she said. “I’m becoming more involved. It’s really exciting. Even in the few weeks that I’ve been in the role, I’ve learned a great deal.”
    Flannery added she has been handling the change of positions very well with the support of other faculty and friends.
    “Professionally, I want to make sure that we don’t lose any of the momentum that we had,” Flannery said. “It’s all gone very well, but the challenge is having enough time during the day to get things done and making sure that nothing falls through the cracks.”
    With all the new things to hustle and bustle about too, Flannery says she and her husband, Jeff Steinmiller, director of Overman Student Center, still make time to spend together.
    “We try to have lunch, occasionally I will run over to the Student Center and I’ll grab something in the Crossing as often as I can,” Flannery said. “We’ve always done that with our family. We’ve both been a working couple family, but we know what our responsibilities are.”
    Flannery says her secondary role as president and CEO of the PSU Foundation is to help the organization obtain funds from donors to support Pitt State.
    Money raised for the foundation is channeled back into the university via scholarships, paying bills from the recently completed Bicknell Center, as well as many other capital projects.
    “It’s been a great opportunity for me and I look forward to serving in this role for the next year or so, and I don’t know what the future will bring, but I hope that I am still in this role in a year,” she said.

  • Technology becoming issue in classrooms

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    Scrolling through Facebook.
    Scrolling through text messages.
    Scrolling through Twitter.

    While some classrooms ban the use of technology in the classroom, other classrooms promote the use of technology in the classroom. Pieces of technology, such as iPads and smartboards, are key tools in Mathematical Software/Hardware.

    While some classrooms ban the use of technology in the classroom, other classrooms promote the use of technology in the classroom. Pieces of technology, such as iPads and smartboards, are key tools in Mathematical Software/Hardware.


    Across campus, professors are tired of students scrolling while they are teaching.
    Donald Baack, professor of management and marketing, does not allow the use of any technology in his classroom. He says his decision to “ban” technology is based upon a larger policy in his classroom: courtesy, which includes not being tardy, no excessive talking to peers, no passing notes or leaving class early.
    Baack added that his technology policy is based on studies conducted at Princeton and Harvard, which reveal students using laptops for note-taking purposes actually impairs learning.
    “Using a handwriting app on a laptop as an appeasement to technology-addicted students does not carry water. Students could easily use a writing instrument and paper,” Baack quoted from the Washington Post.
    “Laptop and cell phone screens are distracting to fellow students,” Baack said. “As a former actor in college and community theater productions, I was taught that extraneous movement redirects the audience and takes away attention from the person who is speaking. 
    “Laptop users distract those around them through the movements on the screens.  Many not only take notes but also visit favorite web sites and email/text posts.  These movements draw attention away from the lecture for those who are trying to stay focused.”
    Baack says he believes the concept of multi-tasking is a mirage and that students can either do one thing or another, but not both.
    Another reason for Baack’s policy is his dislike of the growing technology addiction among young people.
    “Simply asking students to not use their devices for one hour is more than some can bear – a clear indication of a real addiction problem,” Baack said. “It is not an unfair request for a person to simply put them aside for such a short period of time.
    “My penalty for violating the technology restriction is a grade of F on the next exam. I call them ‘cell phone fatalities.’ I give about three or four each semester. The recipients I genuinely worry…have a real addiction problem.”
    Like Baack, James Oliver also has a technology policy for his courses.
    Stated clearly in Oliver’s, professor of art, course syllabus, “students whose cell phones interrupt class will automatically be counted absent for that day. The student may stay in class but will not receive credit for attending on that day.”
    Oliver says he made this policy after an incident with a student over technology.
    “This stems from several semesters ago,” Oliver said. “The student had missed class on the day of the demo and asked for a repeat. They were behind me looking over my shoulder as I redid the demo and when I looked back to make sure they were understanding the technique, I realized that student had left the room. Another student informed me they had left to take a phone call. The student returned 25 minutes later and wanted me to redo it.
    “I felt this was quite rude; the next semester I inserted the policy in my syllabus and have not had a problem since.”
    In some of Oliver’s classes, students are allowed to utilize technology for class work. Oliver says he does not permit the use of Facebook, texting or taking calls during these times.
    While some professors see themselves in a battle against technology or feel the necessity to monitor it, Joey Poque, associate professor of communication, says he see many benefits of technology used in the classroom as students are quickly able to look up information relevant to the material.
    “Much too often students use technology to escape the classroom experience,” Pogue said. “Technological devices in themselves are neither good nor evil; it is the people who are using them-people with different motives. Some of those motives are good and productive while other motives are bad and destructive.”

  • Correction to ‘Merger’

    | Karl Kunkel |

    The lead article (“English, languages depts. merge”) in the January 29, 2015, Collegio included significant inaccuracies that will mislead students and could irritate various faculty.  I would like to correct these errors.
    1) In the second paragraph, the clause “…the merger was suggested when there was a call for a change in the structure of academics for departments” makes no sense.  No such general “call” occurred. It is more accurate to state a merger between the Department of English and Department of Modern Languages and Literatures was explored as a result of the Fall 2013 program review decision to eliminate the bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and French.
    2) Much of the “tone” in the article awkwardly and inaccurately mixes two separate occurrences and processes.
    The first process is the revision of the modern language degree programs on campus.  The B.A. degrees in Spanish and French are phasing out as a result of the program review process and we now are in the process of seeking final approval for a new comprehensive degree, the bachelor of arts in modern language.  The B.A. in modern language will have two tracks, one in “Language and Culture” and the other in “Secondary Education.”  Each track will have an option in Spanish and one in French. This new degree program has absolutely nothing to do with the current degree program offerings in the former Department of English.
    The second and completely separate process involves administratively merging the former “Department of Modern Languages and Literatures” with the former “Department of English” into a new “Department of English and Modern Languages.” This merger resulted from my administrative decision after receiving input from the faculty in both previous departments including the use of a facilitator. The facilitator came from outside the departments and met with these faculties to gather information about their concerns. My recommendation then was approved by the provost, president’s council, and president before moving to the Kansas Board of Regents level for final approval.  The effective date of the merger was January 12, 2015.  Again, this merger of departments has nothing to do with the newly proposed modern language degree program and has absolutely no effect on current degree programs offered in the English program.
    3) The fourth paragraph in the article is filled with inaccurate, erroneous and possibly inflammatory information.
    First, it states “…the modern languages master’s program was phased out…” There never was a master’s program in this discipline. The bachelor of arts in Spanish and bachelor of arts in French (undergraduate degree programs) were phased out.
    Second, the paragraph states “… both departments began to envision a new comprehensive degree with English and modern language components, since similarities were seen within each degree.”  I have no idea where this idea came from; I certainly did not say that. See the explanation in #2 above.  No changes occurred to the degree programs offered in English and, as I stated in #2 above, this paragraph randomly “mixes and matches” two separate processes.  Part of the decision to merge these departments was based on “academic proximity” of these departments. Both deal with language and both examine literature; however, there is no recent “combined degree” that includes both disciplines.
    4) Several paragraphs later, beginning with “To help cater to students’ wishes….” also includes an inaccuracy.  The referenced task force was formed with stakeholders from across campus having an interest in the future of modern language instruction at Pittsburg State. This task force included modern language faculty as well as representatives from nursing, construction, business, International Programs and Services, and other faculty involved with internationalization. At that time I asked Celia Patterson, who chaired the English Department at that time and now chairs the merged department, to lead this task force.  That group provided recommendations on the proposed/revised modern language degree program but did not take a stance or make any recommendation on the department merger.
    Overall, I think the article would have been clearer, more accurate, and made more sense if the reporter had not attempted to awkwardly mesh two separate processes, but rather focused on the merger alone.  I discussed the new proposed degree program in the interview with her merely to provide context, but somehow this discussion apparently confused the reporter.

    Karl Kunkel is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

  • Just keep swimming…across campus

    | Audrey Dighans |

    Yellow tape, hard hats, drilling, sawing and hammering have become part of the day-to-day ambience at Pittsburg State University. The minor inconveniences have started to pay off with the opening of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts and the still on-time scheduled openings of the Robert W. Plaster Center this spring and the student center next fall.
    However, all this construction has overlooked a variety of much needed campus renovations and projects—Kelce College of Business, Whitesitt Hall and parking to name a few—which has led to many students asking “why this and not…(insert project here)?”
    Steve Scott, university president, has kept the campus and the community up to date on construction progress and how funding was secured for the buildings. He’s even shed light on the university’s master plan (the 2011 PDF is available on the Pitt State website with a quick search), which is exactly what I want to talk about.
    In the Core Campus Area Improvement section of the university’s master plan the first paragraph should allow every business major at PSU to finally exhale. That’s because it clearly states “as older buildings around the quad are systematically renovated …”
    This means Yates, Grubbs, Whitesitt, Heckert-Wells and Kelce (the future of which is described in better detail in the North Campus Area Improvements section) will all be updated once funding is secured and the current campus construction projects are complete.
    However, there is no mention in the core campus improvement section about updating sidewalks and the drainage system. There’s no mention of this at all in the master plan, and if you can remember back to the last thunderstorm, I think you’ll find it should be. Otherwise, there will continue to be generation upon generation of Gorillas “slip-sliding” to class.
    I’m sure many students are more excited for old buildings to be renovated or hoping that the next campus movement for more parking will yield some results. However, my stance on the matter is that the Pitt State’s master plan is “the principal document outlining the university’s direction, policy and action for future facility improvements” and one of these improvements should be keeping the Oval and surrounding campus walkways clear of excess water.
    There are spots, between Whitesitt and McCray halls and on the east side of Russ, that when flooded can become roadblocks. Unless you have big, bulky rain boots on, your feet will get wet, and thousands of feet tracking mud and water inside cause slippery hallways and a lot of cleaning for custodial staff. A flooded campus does little to improve the Oval’s aesthetic and landscaping, something mentioned throughout the master plan.
    PSU should look at this and help prevent the Jungle from being underwater every spring. We’re Gorillas after all, not fish.

  • Working through busy times

    | Jordan Schaper SGA President |

    Hello, Gorillas!

    Finals are looming and we have a huge playoff game on Saturday, so it is officially the busy part of the semester – and busy is an understatement for what we’ve been doing in the Student Government Association (SGA) the past couple of weeks.
    We had our “It’s on Us” day on Oct. 30 and it was quite the success. The day centered on changing the culture of sexual violence on college campuses by aiming to eliminate the bystander effect and stepping in to stop a bad situation before it gets worse. We had two hopefuls who were running in the midterm election, gave out $500 in scholarships to five lucky students, and had more than enough free Yoselin’s burritos for everybody. Overall it was a good day with an even better underlying message.
    We also just got back from spending a full day in Topeka lobbying against a piece of legislation that would effectively eliminate the requirement for a student referendum any time the university wished to use tuition dollars for buildings.
    Although this change in policy wasn’t created by Pittsburg State University, it still could have allowed any college in Kansas to essentially decide that it wanted to spend student monies without consulting the students themselves. We were fortunate and were successful in helping to convince the Board of Regents that this policy was bad not only for PSU students, but students at any Kansas university. So when talks of a new building on campus come up, your opinion and your voice will still be heard.
    SGA is also getting everything in order for next semester as we will be having many senators graduate, including two cabinet members. If you are interested in making an immediate impact on campus, I encourage you to pick up an application in the SGA office in 207 Hartman Hall. Your student body vice president and I have selected Michael Haynes and Michael Giffin to serve as campus affairs director and legislative affairs director, respectively, for the remainder of our term. Both are excited to be serving in such capacities, and we’re excited to see the new energy and new ideas that they can bring to the organization.
    Again, I want to say good luck to the Gorilla football team and good luck everybody else on your impending finals. I hope you all have a splendid Thanksgiving break and get some well-deserved rest.

    Jordan Schaper is the president of Student Government Association

  • What are you thankful for?

    | Val Vita |

    Each person has his or her own way to deal with pain.
    After something bad happens, some people dive into work. Others cannot stop eating and others prefer drinking.
    A few months ago, after I went through a breakup, I refused to dive into work, food or alcohol. Instead, I decided to handle my sadness with reading.
    I’ve always been critical of self-help books, but at the time, I must admit that it was one of these self-help books I read that helped me to get through what I was going through. Especially because one of the challenges proposed by the author was that, each day, regardless of how I was feeling, I should write down something I was thankful for.
    With great reluctance, I started the task.
    The secret, apparently, is stop complaining about what you don’t have and start appreciating what you do have. Sounds horribly cliché, but it makes all the difference (and probably explains why self-help books sell so well).
    The best part is that even on really bad days, when you think your life sucks, you should be able to find things to be thankful for.
    According to that author, in these dark days, you can focus on basic things, like being thankful for the clothes you are wearing, or for the food you are eating, since pretty often we forget about the thousands of people who have nothing to wear or eat.
    As time went by, it became easier for me to find new things to be thankful for. It also became clear that being happy is a lot easier than being sad. And today, I am thankful for that silly self-help book that helped me — and thankful for time, which is the only thing that heals almost everything. If it doesn’t heal completely, at least it makes you feel a little bit better.
    With Thanksgiving approaching, I propose we take some time off the complaints and start thinking on the bright side of things.
    I am not going to lie here, I cannot stand people who are positive 24 hours a day (especially when they want to show this on Facebook). To me, it is humanly impossible to be positive all the time. Still, I strongly believe that most of the time you can choose between whining about something that is not working, or focusing on what is really going well.  
    Do you hate snow days because it’s hard to drive? OK, that is understandable. But think of the majority of our international students, who don’t own a car and need to walk or ride their bikes to school (and to the bars), even when the temperature is in the lower 30s. That sucks more than driving in the snow, trust me.
    It’s the end of the semester and you have a gigantic amount of assignments to do? Of course you do. So why not just try to be thankful for another semester that is coming to an end? That means one step closer to our graduation day. One step closer to become part of that small percentage of the population that finishes college.
    So at least for this Thanksgiving break, no matter where you are going to be or what you are going to be doing, try to embrace the self-help book cliché, like I did, and dedicate some time to do only one thing: being thankful.

    Val Vita is a graduate
    assistant in the Communication Department.

  • Lighting up no more

    Staff Editorial

    Students and faculty will soon face a campus free of smoke when Pittsburg State enforces the tobacco ban in the spring. The university has been working toward this smoke ban since 2012 when students voted in favor of a referendum that would prohibit smoking on campus.
    Many students are excited about the future of clean air and less avoiding doorways where people congregate to smoke. I am particularly excited not to have to cover my face and seem rude every time I am around someone who is smoking. People with asthma and/or allergies are also grateful for not having to breathe around someone who is smoking.
    However, not everyone is excited about the change. Smokers will now have one of three choices: quit, go all day without smoking on campus and light up when they get off campus, or take breaks to walk off-campus to have a cigarette. Obviously, none of these choices sound very appealing to smokers.
    Some people might say that smoking on campus doesn’t really affect many people, that smokers should just be left alone so long as they are out of the way and not bothering anyone. Both smokers and non-smokers might argue that since smoking is only allowed outdoors, the breeze wafts away the smoke so it doesn’t bother people. Those in favor of this ban would argue that even though there is potential for the smoke to be blown away, it doesn’t always do so and that can harm people.
    The issue of smoking has become a tough one nationwide. More and more often, we see ads and programs that are geared toward getting people to quit smoking. One ad even suggests that we make our generation the generation that killed smoking. This is easier said than done, though.
    A lot of legislation seems to be more like compromise, rather than enforcing something that people may not agree with. This new rule, however, is one of those that may make people mad. People have been expecting the switch to tobacco-free for a while, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to be happy and excited about it.
    I commend the university for choosing to stand by this decision, even if it may not make people happy. I don’t say this because I think it is a good idea, even though I do, but because the university chose to take a stand on an issue. It may not be a big issue, at least not in the grander scheme of things, but it is still an issue that people take sides on and the university took the side of the non-smokers. For that, I am proud of them. This is the first step to a potential smoke-free campus.

  • More than boardrooms and legislation

    | Gretchen Burns reporter |

    Instead of participating in normal Halloween festivities over the past weekend, I traveled with ten other students to the University of Kansas in Lawrence for the Kansas Regional Residential Housing Conference known as MACURH (the Midwest Association of College and University Residence Halls).
    The drive took only two hours and when I stepped out of the van I began my sixth housing conference experience.
    I immediately started meeting residents from other schools across the Midwest including Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Minnesota. There were even students from Canada present.
    While some people probably think a housing conference would be really boring and not worth attending, in actuality, it is far from that.
    These housing conferences are excellent places for students to swap ideas, programs and enthusiasm and passion for living in residence halls.
    The energy could almost be seen in waves as students met in the ballroom at KU to swap coveted decorated clothespins, hug old friends from previous conferences and cheer for their school.
    Clothespins seem like an odd thing for students to swap back and forth, but for many students, myself included, clothespins are the free swaps that you can remember the conference, the different schools that attended and some of the friendships that you established along the way.
    Each clothespin represents a different school and the novelty of searching out a particular school for their clothespin is a tradition that I have kept up for several years. Many of the clothespins that I have collected hang on my lanyard on my walls as memories.
    After the opening ceremonies on the first day, participants flocked out to attend various socials, whether for the presidents of the organizations, or for a LGBTQ themed social, or many others.
    I attended “Delegation Jeopardy” where I competed with roughly 25 other students against teams for a trivia contest about topics including “Mean Girls”, snacks, mascots, fast food and others.
    Saturday brought extensive rounds of programs for delegates to attend, to learn how to make campus, halls and housing environments a better place. I myself presented two different programs to delegates on programs they could put on at their schools.
    For us the afternoon flew by and after finishing program sessions, we headed back to the hotel to change clothes for the closing ceremony and banquet, where I cheered for Pittsburg State University. It turns out, we won the award of best Roll Call.
    Looking back, housing conferences like MACURH aren’t a scary thing.
    It’s a place for the passion of resident housing to come alive with people who share the same passion and only want to make residence halls a better place. We aren’t looked at as the policy enforcers, or police callers, but as people who enjoy what they do and want others to enjoy that also.
    I don’t know where the next Midwest conference will be held, but I hope that I can be there to see old friends and cheer with others as we share our passion.

  • Kansas is a red state after all

    | Staff Editorial |

    It’s no surprise that Kansas Republican candidates swept through and claimed re-election. Kansas is a red state after all.
    When it comes to politics, it seems some students try to be informed about the world, some stand behind their opinions and some get up and vote. But for many, politics just means a lot of ads on TV. The candidates are just names we’re used to hearing on the radio. When it comes to legislation, the average student can’t tell you who wrote it, voted for it, against it or what it’s about.
    All too often college students seem to have the idea that their vote does not matter. Perhaps one vote doesn’t matter, but each vote works to a total number of all votes and the total number of votes leaves us with elected representatives who make the decisions that run our lives.
    Just look at the polls.
    Pat Roberts won every county in the state except for three. Though Johnson County went red, it had the closest call: 49.4 percent Roberts to Greg Orman’s 48.1. PSU’s own Crawford County wasn’t a bad loss, either: just 49.3 percent Roberts with Orman going 43.2.
    Gov. Sam Brownbacks’ race was even more impressive. Seven out of 105 counties went blue in the governor’s race, Crawford County among them. The Johnson County vote was again close, with 49.3 percent for Brownback and 47.8 percent for Paul Davis. Douglas County, as usual, kept the blue team strong with a whopping 72 percent of the votes in favor of Davis.
    Yes, the Republicans won. The incumbents get to keep their seats and life in Kansas will continue the way it has since Kathleen Sebelius left office. The point is, though, if you want change, you have to vote.
    The numbers are getting close.
    Kansas’ 3rd congressional district is made up of just two counties: Johnson and Wyandotte, with a tiny fragment of Miami County. It used to be blue until 2010, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go back. The whole state could go blue, or independent, maybe even green.
    The truth is, Kansas is the way it is because too many college students don’t vote. Nor do we pay attention to whose running for office or what is even on the ballot.
    Your vote does count and in the next election (SGA this spring), the results will affect you. You can ignore them until something goes wrong and keep shouting that your vote doesn’t matter. It for sure does not if you do not use it. So use it. Make it matter.
    One vote may not go very far, but 10 votes do, 20 votes do, 100,000 votes do. You can’t reach 10, 20 or 100,000 without starting at one.
    Whether you identify as a Repbulican or Democrat, an independent, a liberal, a whatever, voting is the one way you can take charge of your life.

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