October 12, 2020

This message is distributed to All-Instructors, Academic-Assistant-Deans, and Academic-Department-Managers.  (Click here to view description of distribution groups.)  

To:         Faculty and Instructors
From:    David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor
              Alison Butler, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel
              Susannah Scott, Chair, Academic Senate
              Ruth Finkelstein, Chair, Committee on Academic Personnel
Re:         ESCI Scores and Teaching Evaluations

In both March and May, our offices wrote to reassure instructors about the use of ESCI scores and teaching evaluations in the Academic Personnel merit review process. It was understood that the end of Winter Quarter was disrupted and not all students were able to fill out teaching evaluations. At the time, Instructional Development added a banner to ESCI reports for the Winter that stated: “Due to disruptions from COVID-19, no ESCI data could be collected for this course this quarter.” In the Spring, we again acknowledged the ongoing emergency conditions and reassured instructors that reviewing agencies (including the deans and CAP) would consider all ESCI scores and teaching evaluations from Spring 2020 in the context of the extraordinary circumstances that faculty and students faced during the conversion to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. We wish to again acknowledge the ongoing challenges of remote teaching and assure instructors that these circumstances will be taken into account in merit reviews. No one should fear being penalized for any worsening in ESCI scores or any negative evaluations related to remote instruction.

Reviewing agencies encourage holistic teaching portfolios, consistent with APM 210.1.d(1) and Red Binder I-75.V,  as well as self-assessments in which instructors describe the steps they have taken to transition courses to remote instruction, and discuss what they learned or experienced while teaching remotely. We are aware that faculty have made extraordinary efforts to teach their courses and that many students have been very appreciative of the fact that the dedication of their instructors allowed them to continue their education. Many instructors have developed innovative pedagogical strategies to support student engagement and student success, as well as attended special workshops and trainings. Teaching remains an important review area and faculty deserve to be recognized for their resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication, but not penalized for any problems that were beyond their control. 

In all merit cases, it is expected that faculty self-assessments and departmental letters will contextualize the record in each review area. We are well aware that the impact of the pandemic on both personal and professional lives has been significant, especially on research; it has prevented some faculty from working in labs or studios and collaborating with colleagues and graduate students. Others have been prevented from performing, exhibiting, or travelling to archives and libraries. Many instructors have had to attend to childcare, home schooling, dependent care, and fulfil other personal obligations while trying to carry out professional and research activities. Departments and reviewing agencies may see the effects of these emergency conditions in merit cases for years to come. Our Academic Personnel traditions are deep and flexible enough to provide appropriate context and analysis. 

Our planned transition to online ESCIs has occurred sooner than anticipated, but this has taken place in the context of renewed questioning of the use of ESCI as an evaluative instrument and a desire to accelerate a transition. We are in the final stages of administrative review of the comprehensive and instructive report issued by the Undergraduate Council’s ESCI Ad Hoc Committee, which assessed the ESCI system itself, while considering relevant literature and exploring evaluation models at other institutions. The report recommended that the Senate and the administration work together to plan a significant redesign of the ESCI system, or the adoption of a new system. This will be an important project in the coming year. 

Thank you again for your ongoing investment in teaching our students and for your many efforts to maintain the standards of a UC education and carry out our educational mission as a public research university.