Public SOQs or bust: College, newspaper inch closer to a deal

Editorial

_MG_5187A misunderstanding between Washtenaw Community College and The Voice has led to a delay in the Student Opinion Questionnaire issue.

In November, The Voice filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the last five years of SOQs for all instructors.

We expected to receive the SOQs in the same format that instructors receive them – a digital results summary, but the college interpreted the request as asking for the physical documents that students filled out.

The physical documents only exist for the current school year and would cost $1,050 to copy, the college’s General Counsel, Larry Barkoff, wrote in a letter to The Voice.

So The Voice, at Barkoff’s suggestion, filed a second FOIA request for the results data, and we are confident that the school will release it.

The challenge moving forward will be gaining access to the student comments that are not included in this data. The comments, Barkoff wrote, would need to be individually examined to see if any FOIA exemptions apply. This would take a great deal of time, and “many thousands of dollars,” Barkoff wrote.

The Voice believes that the comments are crucial for students to put the data in perspective, and we’re confident that we can work with the college to find a way to make them public.

The Voice has big plans for the SOQs. We want to give WCC students transparency that they’ve never had before regarding the quality of the teaching at the college.

It’s time for instructors to own up to the fact that they are in a service industry. Many of them already realize this, but those who have spoken publicly on this issue do not.

Yes, some students only care about their grades, but most of us care about how well instructors prepare us for our next step in life.

We fear that instructors have lost sight of those students who truly care just because they’ve encountered a few bad apples.

Students are not the product of this institution; we are the customers. If it were not for us, instructors would not be here. But we’re also well aware that they – and what they have to share with us – are why we are here.

The SOQs will give us a chance to spread the word about the good work that our instructors do. They will give us a chance to recommend the best of the best – those who demonstrate great passion, those who change lives – to other students so that their impact can be as wide as possible.

We hope that these great instructors do not ever forget this: We are forever grateful for all that they bring to our classrooms.

Over the last few weeks during interviews for unrelated stories, several school employees – administrators, faculty and staff – have told The Voice that everything at WCC revolves around the students and their success.

That was hard to swallow, knowing that at the same time the school was denying students some important information that could help them succeed.

But soon, we hope we can say unequivocally that the school has taken a true stand for student success and we are proud to have been a part of it.

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