Faculty officials may cut back Biology tutorials next year because they fear the courses use funds inefficiently, the department's head tutor said this week.
In response to the warning, faculty and tutors in the department are working on a proposal to reorganize what they say is a valuable and popular program.
Professor of Biology C. Richard Taylor, head of the department's tutorial program, said this week, "We were warned that if we don't justify [the tutorials], there will be a cut."
Faculty officials said yesterday that they are concerned because the program is expensive and because every year, sections in some areas of Biology are overcrowded and others are constantly under subscribed. They propose eliminating all sections which have fewer than five students this year.
But some tutors said the overcrowding of most sections merely shows the popularity of the tutorials. "We were just appalled at the move to cut it back. Half of the people who applied were turned down," said Herbert W. Virgin IV '77, a biology tutor.
Biology tutorials are normally limited to 10 students each, but some sections in popular subjects such as human physiology accept as many as 15 or 30 applicants, Virgin said.
Most Biology concentrators take the full-year, half-credit tutorials as a fifth course, although they are open to non-concentrators.
Dean K. Whitla, director of the Faculty's office of instructional research and evaluation said this week he hopes the department's advisory committee of undergraduates will make a recommendation "taking financial considerations into account."
However, Taylor said, he is trying to expand it by soliciting about 50 new tutorial proposals from graduate students, and preregistering students. Taylor added he has already received 30 new proposals.
Between 75 and 100 students are turned away every year from the more popular sections, Taylor said. He added that he hopes any reorganization will double the number of sections to accommodate the high number of students usually rejected.
Department officials also said that the University's fears about the courses' expense were unfounded. Per student, the tutorials are less expensive than other undergraduate biology offerings, said Barbara S. Cerva, the department's administrative assistant for undergraduate affairs.
Taylor said he is "totally confident" that preregistration will fill all the sections.
Administrative officials were less positive, saying students are too accustomed to shopping around for courses. Whitla said, however, that in the case of the tutorials, "preregistration might be helpful."
Cerva and the tutors interviewed agreed that based on course evaluations, students seem to consider the tutorials worthwhile. "I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from students, and some called it their best course at Harvard," said Grant M. Carow, a biology tutor.