March 4, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 11

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    Deans submit statement to University Senate

    The Faculty Committee for a Year of Reflection was established in 1996 by the Council of the University Senate, the governing body of Chicago’s faculty, to organize discussions about academic issues facing the University. One question the Committee raised was how a larger College could be taught while preserving the tradition of the University.

    After studying the issue, John Boyer, Dean of the College, and the four divisional deans, Philip Gossett, Dean of Humanities; David Oxtoby, Dean of Physical Sciences; Richard Saller, Dean of Social Sciences; and Glenn Steele Jr., Dean of Biological Sciences, agreed upon a statement to provide a framework for teaching an expanded college.

    President Sonnenschein and Provost Geoffrey Stone have endorsed their statement.

    “We want to maintain the distinct nature of the College,” said Boyer. “We are committed to interdisciplinary, faculty-taught discussion courses, seminars and laboratories.”

    The following statement was submitted on Tuesday, Feb. 23:

    As plans to expand the College move forward, the College and divisional deans believe it important to affirm our intention to continue the basic pedagogical principles that have characterized our College over the past decades. If these principles are preserved, we believe that the extraordinary quality of our education will be maintained. These principles flow from what we take to be our unique position in higher education today––that is, an undergraduate program provided in significant part through small, faculty-taught classes within a research university.

    First, because the quality of our education depends on close interaction between students and faculty, we will maintain the stated maximum enrollment of 25 students in the Humanities and Social Sciences Core and many of the Civilization sequences. Some of the expected increase in enrollment will be managed by taking fuller advantage of the teaching capacity of faculty currently available.

    Second, to the extent that additional teachers are needed to maintain small discussion classes, we will do so through a combination of targeted tenured and tenure-track faculty appointments, Harper-Schmidt faculty instructors and advanced graduate lecturers.

    The Dean of the College has presented and analyzed the alternative strategies to teach a larger College. Each of the three types of teacher brings strengths and serves a purpose for the University community. It is important that the most qualified of our advanced graduate students have opportunities to teach in the College, but it is also important that the great majority of the sections of our Core sequences are taught by regular faculty and postdoctoral faculty.

    Consequently, to the extent that the College will continue to use advanced graduate students in general education teaching, such students will be selected on the basis of rigorous competitive criteria and will receive extensive training. But the primary teaching needs in our general education program resulting from the expansion of the College will be met, as needed, by additional Harper-Schmidt faculty instructors and additional regular faculty.

    Each group presents different advantages. The Harper-Schmidt faculty instructors offer the continuity of teaching across the academic year and have a particular reputation for teaching excellence; departmentally based faculty provide the important ingredient of continuing intellectual leadership over the years.

    We will therefore make appointments of additional postdoctoral faculty instructors and additional departmentally based faculty over the coming years as pedagogical needs in the Core sequences warrant and as increased pressures on the various concentration programs might also justify.