Group To Survey Undergrads

Grassroots student group to gauge student feelings on College life

A group of curricular review student representatives, Undergraduate Council members and club leaders will begin promoting a survey of the student body today on the state of Harvard’s undergraduate education program.

The members of the grassroots organization, formed last month in an Eliot House dorm room, now call themselves the Undergraduates Reclaiming Our Curriculum (UROC)—and with the council’s assistance, they have begun work to draw the rest of Harvard’s students into the review.

The UROC survey, conceived and compiled by Joseph K. Green ’05, asks 43 multiple-choice questions which range in subject matter from student advising to a proposal that would assign first-years to Houses upon arrival.

The survey also addresses changes to the calender, satisfaction with general education and the Core Curriculum, concentrations and study abroad—all of which were addressed in a recent report authored by Associate Dean of the College Jeffrey Wolcowitz.

That 69-page summary closes a year of administrative brainstorming among 50 specially selected faculty members and eight student representatives. According to Wolcowitz, the next phase of the review will more closely resemble a public debate, in which the greater Harvard community will be able to take an active role.

“We want to make sure that as faculty is having that debate, we’re also having that debate,” said Green, who served on the curricular review’s Working Group on Pedagogy.

The survey will serve a dual purpose, he added, not only revealing student opinion to those in control of the review, but provoking thought in students who might otherwise remain disengaged from the process.

The multiple-choice questionnaire has been posted online, and over the next week, members of the group, including council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05, will publicize it through e-mail lists and door drops—using the recent termbill referendum campaign as a model for successful promotion. Mahan has already sent a message to the council’s open e-mail list, encouraging members to fill out the survey and to pass it along to their constituents.

Green said he hopes to collect responses from at least 60 percent of the undergraduate population, but he expressed concern that some of the issues at hand were too complicated to convey adequately in short, multiple-choice questions.

He has been working closely with Mahan on the survey since early April, compiling the talking points of the UROC’s weekly discussions into manageable sets of questions.

The review by the College, according to Green, has been a somewhat “closed process” so far.

“No matter how great the curriculum is, if the students aren’t invested in it, it’s going to fail,” he said. “The student body shouldn’t be a contributing voice but an equal partner.”

Efforts have been made by the curricular review’s administration—headed by Wolcowitz and Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71—to inform the student body of the issues at stake. But Green said student response so far has been disappointingly tepid.

“The curriculum seems like something the College would determine independently of the students,” Jared Bass ’07 said.

The drafting of the survey fell only to the eight students who had served on the review’s working groups, with Green assigning topics according to each member’s area of expertise.

After weeding through those raw materials, Green made his own adjustments before presenting the final product to the other members of UROC.

The survey can be found at http://poll.icommons.harvard.edu/poll/taker/pollTaker.jsp?poll=1262488605.

—Staff writer Leon Neyfakh can be reached at neyfakh@fas.harvard.edu.