Top Teachers Commended
Council, for Third Year, Awards Junior Americanist
Tapping a junior American History professor for the third consecutive year, the Undergraduate Council last night awarded the Levenson Teaching Prize.
The award for teaching ability--which is given annually to a senior faculty member, a junior faculty member and a teaching fellow--highlights efforts to increase student involvement in setting undergraduate education policy, council members said.
While the impending tenure vote on Associate Professor of History Drew R. McCoy was not a primary factor in their honoring him, council members said it would test the role students can have in department hiring decisions.
"Now that he's won the award, it will be interesting to see what happens" with his tenure case, said Thomas D. Warren '88, a representative from Lowell House and member of the Committee on Undergraduate Education.
The other recipients of the six-year-old prize, who are chosen by the Academics Committee of the council based on nominations by students, were Senior Preceptor in Mathematics Deborah J. Hughes-Hallet and Mather House government tutor Duane Draper. The prize--which includes two books and, for the two junior recipients, $150--were given at an Eliot House dinner attended by about 100 people.
All the recipients of the prize--which is a memorial to Joseph R. Levenson, a former instructor in Chinese history at Harvard renowned for his teaching ability--praised their students for being the key ingredient in their pedagogical success.
"It is tremendously important when one is learning to teach to learn from, one's students," said Hughes-Hallet, who was lauded for her clear and effective classroom style in Math 20. "Please keep educating us, we need it very badly."
Hughes-Hallet is one of few individuals at Harvard who gained a senior faculty post because of her teaching skills. She does no research and does not have a Ph.D.
"I am doing what I really enjoy to do," said Hallet. But she added that it would be difficult to institute widely a two-tiered system of tenured researchers and tenured teachers.
In his acceptance speech, McCoy, who is head tutor of the History Department, said that five years ago he came to Harvard because he wanted to teach bright students. "I wanted the opportunity to teach here, to teach Harvard undergraduates. I have decided that this was one of the better decisions I made."
McCoy, who is due to be considered next year for tenure, said his teaching efforts have not adversely affectedhis scholarship. He would not comment on whetherteaching ability should play a role in tenuredecisions. "To be blunt I don't have any ideaabout what factors go in into personnel decisionsin the department."
The decisions last year by the HistoryDepartment to refuse tenure to AssociateProfessors Bradford Lee and Alan Brinkley, the twopast Levenson award winners, renewed the debate onthe role teaching ability should play in choosingsenior faculty.
The question of how important teaching abilityshould be in tenure considerations has beenshelved this year, as the council's AcademicsCommittee has focused on efforts to improve theadvising system and to increase student-facultyexchange within departments. Todd Flynn, chairmanof the committee, said that the first step towardincreasing student involvement in education policycomes by arranging student-faculty committeeswithin documents.
Other council members said they felt frustratedin their efforts to have any influence oneducation issues. "There is not a lot of power inour hands," said Andreas Beroutsos '88, addingthat the administration does not respect thecouncil's legitimacy in education policy issues.
"The tenure issue hit a stone wall," saidformer council chairman Richard S. Eisert '88."That issue will come up again, the problem isboth sides became very polarized," Eisert said,adding that avenues for student-faculty exchange,such at the department committees, will once againlead to a consideration of tenure problems.
Delvalle Memorial Fund
Two undergraduates, Peter Gray '91 and WodenTeachout '91, also received awards at the dinnerfor their proposal to establish an adolescent andcounseling center in Cambridge's Portuguesecommunity. The two freshmen were the firstrecipients of a grant from the Julio DelvalleMemorial Fund.
Delvalle, who was a member of the class of1986, died the summer after his freshman year fromHodgkins Disease. Selma Gomez '86, who helpedorganize the creation of the fund, said Delvallehad "throughout his life a strong committment topublic service.