Each month in University Hall, about 100 professors convene amidst the somber and dignified busts of their predecessors. Only a few undergraduates are allowed inside these meetings of the full Faculty--but what is discussed there often directly impacts undergraduates' lives.
"Students can lobby and lobby, they can yell and scream and pass U.C. legislation, but when it all comes down to it, this is where changes really happen," says Sarah K. Hurwitz '99, who last year served as a student representative on the Committee for Undergraduate Education (CUE).
In Faculty meetings--and the smaller, bi-monthly gatherings of the 18-member Faculty Council--the Faculty helps the administration hammer out policies such as Core reform and changes in foreign language requirements.
"These committees really have the power to make and implement policy," Hurwitz says.
Yet other student representatives say undergraduates can sometimes affect the process--though most of them don't know how to make their voices heard, and the amount of clout they really have is debatable.
One recent academic change which promises to have an enormous impact on student life was not made by the full Faculty, but by Knowles alone.
In this rare instance, Knowles had discretionary power over the Faculty's portion of the funds raised through the Capital Campaign.
Last week, he announced that he will use the money to lower average section size from 20 to 18.
The change--which will result in a 10 percent increase in the number of sections--may be just the first in a series of cuts to section size, Knowles says.
Both students and faculty say they are pleased by the decision.
"I think the most rewarding classes that I've taught have been those that have been small scale, because then you get to really get to know the students," says Cynthia M. Friend, professor of chemistry and a member of the Faculty Council.
Students agree, and argue that large sections can make a student in a lecture course feel anonymous.
"I've had sections which greatly enhanced the course, and I've had sections which parroted the lectures in a smaller space," says Undergraduate Council President Beth A. Stewart '00. "The difference between those has often been the size."
But some undergraduates--who already bemoan the quality of teaching fellows (TFs)--say they are concerned that increasing the number of sections may result in badly-trained instructors.