Econ. Lecturer Removed Amid Complaints

TF to lecture for a month while professor revamps style, content

In response to students’ complaints, the instructor of Economics 1010a, “Microeconomic Theory” will take three weeks off to polish his lectures while a teaching fellow takes charge of the course.

A month into the semester, more than a dozen students from the class submitted a letter detailing their problems with Economics Lecturer Robert H. Neugeboren ’83, calling his lectures difficult to understand and sometimes inaccurate.

Neugeboren has led tutorials for over 10 years, but this is his first time teaching Economics 1010a, one of Harvard’s most popular courses, and he said he was not prepared for the large lecture setting.

“Many of the criticisms, I thought, were valid,” Neugeboren said.

After meeting with the students, Oliver S. Hart, chair of the economics department, decided to make a mid-semester change.

Bruce Watson, an economics tutor in Lowell House and teaching fellow for Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics,” gave his first of ten lectures in the course this Monday. He said he will also offer extra review sessions in the coming month.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to give some lectures for the course,” Watson wrote in an e-mail.

Neugeboren will return to teach the course’s third unit, on games, information and welfare, which starts on Nov. 18.

He said he will use the next few weeks to prepare Power Point presentations so his lectures will be more clear and he can avoid making mistakes on the blackboard.

“During the time that Bruce Watson will be lecturing, Dr. Neugeboren will be able to work on the last segment of the course, and I’m sure that it will be very good,” Hart said.

Hart said he first learned of students’ problems with Neugeboren on Oct. 18, when he received a letter written by economics concentrator Aaron Greenspan ’05.

“After a number of sub-par lectures, to put it moderately, I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. I wrote a letter and began the laborious process of trying to circulate it,” Greenspan said.

He found 13 other students who were willing to sign the letter, but said many students who he approached were reluctant to sign the petition out of concern for Neugeboren’s feelings.

Greenspan sent the letter to Hart, Dean of Undergraduate Education Benedict R. Gross ’71, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz and Benjamin Friedman, director of undergraduate studies in the economics department.

In the letter, Greenspan cited specific examples from class, including Neugeboren’s failure to answer students’ questions and errors made during lectures.

“While Professor Neugeboren certainly possesses plenty of intellect, it alone cannot make up for what he lacks in...other traits. For four weeks, my classmates and I have tolerated incomprehensible lectures, confusing graphs, repeatedly botched arithmetic, poorly written problem sets and apathetic teaching fellows,” Greenspan wrote.