Voluntary Tutorial?

Last fall, following the blueprints of Dean Bender's committee and Donald Blackmer's Student Council report, the College launched compulsory group tutorial in the five major fields, and crossed fingers. As the first months passed, some disturbing reports came from the Houses. Some non-honors men said they never bothered preparing for the sessions, and were sure their tutors didn't either. Others said even the preparation they did was not worth the time it took. Muttering about saving money and releasing tutors for work on their doctoral theses, they suggested that non-honors candidates in Government, Social Relations, Economics, English, and History be allowed to take tutorial or leave it alone.

We did not know whether these vocal objectors based their complaints on chronic faults in the tutorial system, or merely bugs a few years of operation could work out, so we took a poll. More than three hundred and fifty students in the five fields answered twelve questions on group tutorial.

The results were encouraging. Over sixty percent found group tutorial a valuable intellectual exercise. As a way of surveying their whole field, selecting a special concentration area, just dabbling in academic interests, they thought it quite worth the time it took.

Twenty-five percent, however, didn't think tutorial was worth the work involved. They weren't necessarily the unambitious students--in fact, the distribution of Group Ranking among the dissenters was exactly the same as among those who approved of tutorial.

There was, of course, a nagging clan of students who disliked tutorial because it involves extra work. But the program should not become voluntary just to satisfy them. For them, compulsory tutorial is like a medicine--good for them whether they like it or not.


But even though the number presently unsatisfied with tutorial is larger than had been hoped, the nature of their dissents is not sufficient reason to recommend that the departments make non-honors tutorial voluntary. Most of the criticisms from the dissenters mention practices that stray from the advice of the Bender and Blackmer reports. Where the blueprints have been followed, students are satisfied. A few changes in the procedure of the tutorial meetings can change much of the present criticism to praise.

Compulsory tutorial has been operating only two terms, but some short-term criticisms and suggestions are in order. Monday's editorial will take them up.