Masters Disagree On Tutor Survey

Houses solicit student opinion

Some resident tutors hold frequent study breaks for their students. Some prefer meeting privately with students to offer academic advice.

And some do none of these things.

Some students in the Houses say they are not even sure who their designated resident tutor is or what he or she is supposed to do—a confusion that is not limited to students.

“It isn’t necessarily clear to anyone who a tutor is,” says Eliot House resident tutor Nicola T. Cooney.

To make matters more confusing, there has been no formal process by which students can assess their tutors and let the College know what qualities they expect in the graduate students who live among them—until now.

Over the past month, four Houses inaugurated the first-ever student evaluation of resident tutors.

For some, the experiment in CUE Guide-style surveys—underway in Cabot, Eliot, Kirkland and Pforzheimer Houses—is long overdue.

“I’ve been encouraging Masters to think about tutor evaluations for years,” says Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68. “I’ve always found it curious that tutors are just about the only people who aren’t evaluated.”

But not everyone is sure that the surveys will be helpful in improving House life.

Leverett House Master Howard Georgi says that any CUE-style student evaluations of tutors would destroy the “family atmosphere” that he strives to foster in his House.

“The students filling out such a thing are encouraged to imagine that anything wrong with the tutor-student relationship is the fault of the tutor, and that they bear no responsibility,” Georgi writes in an e-mail.

“Once the students start thinking this way, any hope of having a real community is lost,” he says.

Despite Georgi’s objections, the evaluation process is almost complete. Three of the Houses are officially done and Pforzheimer stops accepting evaluations today.

The debate over the efficacy of tutor evaluations in all 12 Houses, however, seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

The Need for Feedback

The four Masters who are currently trying out the new survey say the importance of student feedback is the driving factor behind the new initiative.