Court orders release of evaluations

IDAHO — The student newspaper at the University of Idaho in Moscow won a judgment against the school in October, securing complete access to classroom-based teacher evaluations.Travis Quast, the student advertising manager, won a verdict from the bench forcing the school to release evaluation summaries.In Quast v. Simmons, No. CV-9600589 (Idaho Dist. Ct., Sept. 18, 1996), Quast, a senior, sued George Simmons, an interim provost, and the University of Idaho State Board of Education. Simmons originally denied Quast’s written requests for the documents last summer. The university claimed the information is part of a professor’s confidential personnel file and thus exempt from Idaho’s open records law.According to Quast, “Individual students have been allowed to view — but not copy — the evaluations in the Office of the Vice Provost for the past 20 years.” In court, the university could not explain the contradiction of the information being open to individuals and closed to the press.The Argonaut had requested the student evaluations of faculty members to publish for the benefit of other students wishing to gauge teacher performance. According to Quast, many schools make this information widely available so students can match their study style and expectations with appropriate professors.The day after the court ruling the university gave Quast a copy of the evaluations on computer disk and a check for his $5,400 legal bill.