Student Programmer Repairs Course Review Website
By June Pan '13, Managing News Editor
Students are once again able to submit course evaluations on the Scrutiny course rating website. In addition, Scrutiny has expanded to include evaluation forms for Five College courses. The Amherst Association of Students (AAS) is now looking into the possibility of making a more radical overhaul to the website.

In November, the Amherst Association of Students (AAS) hired Jezreel Ng ’14 to fix Scrutiny. Ng made repairs to the website over the Thanksgiving and winter breaks. AAS senators were then contacted for beta testing.

Prior to Ng’s efforts, the evaluations on Scrutiny had not been updated for two years, due to coding errors that made it impossible to upload new course data. For successfully correcting this glitch, as well as making other minor changes to the website, the AAS paid Ng an honorarium of $250.

“It was a long process, and we had to work out bugs,” AAS senator Sam Bell ’11 said.

Alex Stein ’13, AAS senator and member of the IT Policy Committee, created an ad hoc committee to look into repairing Scrutiny in the ’09-’10 school year. The committee initially contacted an alumnus who had fixed Scrutiny in the past. When he proved unavailable, the AAS sent out campus-wide advertisements to look for a student programmer.

An original member of the Scrutiny Committee, Bell has been involved with the repair process for over a year now and remains an active player in the ongoing Scrutiny discussion.

“We’re still working out some other problems,” Bell said.

“[Scrutiny] doesn’t have many functional problems anymore,” colleague Ezra Van Negri ’12 said, “but some of the design and layout could certainly be improved. The Senate is working on a project to overhaul the site and improve many of the aspects that are currently functional but not particularly well designed.”

The AAS now hopes to create a new Scrutiny that is more useful and more user-friendly. According to van Negri, the list of things to consider for improvement include “the layout, the ratings system [and] compability with Five College Courses.”

Despite its current shortcomings, Van Negri still believes that Scrutiny is a more valuable resource than comparable websites, such as, because it is College based.

“You can get specific information on classes and professors, and more information on Amherst-specific issues,” Van Negri said. “Scrutiny helps students better select classes that they will like and in which they will be able to succeed. This, in turn, helps the classes become more productive because the students who are in them are more sure that they want to be there.”

“I think Scrutiny is a great resource, especially at Amherst with our open curriculum. Part of the task of the Scrutiny Committee is to publicize it so it can continue to become more useful: that is by repeated student use and consistent student input.”

Issue 13, Submitted 2011-02-02 03:29:20