UGBC Plans to Overhaul PEPs

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College and Computer Science Society have teamed up to revamp the Professor Evaluation Profile System (PEPs), the UGBC-hosted professor review database.

Like its former version, which launched in 2001, the new system will offer a centralized collection of reviews to BC students hoping to get an inside scoop on professors. And although much of the content will remain the same, the new PEPs will be housed in a sleeker, more intuitive user interface (UI).

“It’s focused on professors, not as much on courses,” said Subraiz Ahmed, UGBC vice president of communications and MCAS ’20. “BC currently has its own evaluation system, but I feel like there’s a lot lacking in it.”

At the end of every semester, the Office of Student Services asks that students rate each of their courses, usually through a series of emailed requests and always with the promise of early access to grades. Ahmed pointed out that most students just click through these evaluations, providing perfunctory and often inaccurate responses.

“A lot of the times students fill it out, they just kind of click through it,” he said. “So [PEPs] will be more authentic reviews.”

Throughout its lifespan, the optional nature of PEPs has posed a challenge to its longevity and relevance.

In 2016, UGBC tried to solve the first problem by offering White Mountain gift cards to students who filled out five evaluations. A Heights editorial on the subject supported the initiative: “PEPS has gone largely unmaintained over the past few years. The system is old and many of the reviews are outdated … PEPs has seriously needed recent and informative reviews in order to serve any sort of meaningful purpose for the student body.”

With the new PEPs still in development, such concerns are a long way off, Ahmed said. But given the demand for PEPs he’s seen since the system went offline, he said he has little concern about the student body’s interest in the project.

The University took PEPs down earlier this year due to some issues with the server it was hosted on, according to Ahmed. As a result, all the data collected from the past 18 years was lost. As a workaround, the new PEPs development team plans to take data from University course evaluations and use it to jumpstart the system.

Ahmed explained that, although PEPs will mostly center around the professors’ ratings, students will still be able to see how each professor’s courses fared individually. Although what the exact content of the ratings will be is still up in the air, he envisions three criteria, each displayed as a composite score drawn from all reviews.

Those categories are tentatively expected to be “toughness,” “engagement,” and “availability outside of class,” but Ahmed said that those are very much subject to change before launch.

Unlike PEPs, BC’s system doesn’t aggregate reviews by professor—students only can search for a faculty member’s name and see numerical reviews for each course through two metrics: “instructor overall” and “course overall.” Students can then compare each of these values to the appropriate department’s average score.

More distinctly, PEPs publishes qualitative reviews, which can offer more articulate ratings, but that same feature also creates the risk of exaggeration or excessively negative commentary for particularly difficult professors, Ahmed said.

In its previous iteration, UGBC would manually approve reviews before publishing them, primarily to remove unhelpful, offensive, and overly critical submissions. UGBC’s co-director of computer technology described the process as “PEP purgatory” in a 2006 Heights article.

Although there is an ongoing discussion as to which organization—UGBC or CS Society—will be responsible for maintaining the system, Ahmed said there will “definitely” have to be some sort of moderation, especially once the University starts paying to host the servers.

Featured Image Courtesy of UGBC

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