The Overseers Committee to Visit the College sharply criticized Harvard's teaching fellow program yesterday, claiming that it produces "a considerable amount of uninspired, inexperienced, and weak teaching."
The committee's report, released after yesterday's meeting of the Board of Overseers, stated blunty that senior Faculty members have not paid enough attention to the quality of teaching fellows. It recommended creating the post of Assistant Dean of Teaching Fellows to supervise the program closely, and also advocated higher salaries for section men.
"The committee members were not satisfied that the Faculty taken as a whole chooses its teaching fellows as carefully as it should, considering the quality of instruction Harvard tries to offer, and the quality of its undergraduate students," the report said.
It charged further that teaching fellowships are sometimes used as a means of providing financial aid for graduate students "who cannot be supported otherwies," and implied that for this reason bad teaching is often tolerated or overlooked.
"Evidently no teaching fellows are ever discharged for poor work, and this seems strange to us considering the number of inexperienced teachers employed under this title," the report said. "The fact reinforces our feeling that teaching fellowships are often regarded mainly as a financial aid resource for the Graduate School."
The Committee singled out Romance Languages and Physics for particular criticism, asserting that in the former department "instruction by teaching fellows is weaker than it should be." "The program is Physics also seems shaky," it said. However, the report praised the departments of History, English, Economics, and Chemistry.
During its visit to the College last Dec. 2, Committee members met with Dean Ford, J. Petersen Elder, dean of the GSAS, and many department chairmen and senior Faculty members. The Committee also lunched with 16 seniors from the College, and indicated that the students had been vocal in criticizing the quality of instruction.
Senior Faculty Satisfied
"We had to note," the report said, "that whereas department heads and senior Faculty were generally satisfied with the quality of teaching fellow appointments, the undergraduates we talked to were by no means as unanimous."
In recommending higher salaries for teaching fellows, the report noted that the maximum base pay of $5400 a year "is not competitive now with the best public schools."
The Committee was chaired by Albert L. Nickerson '33, and included such distinguished educators as Wilbur J. Bender '27, former Dean of the College, William G. Saltonstall '28, former headmaster of Phillips Academy, Exeter, and William H. Cornog, superintendent of New Trier High School, Winnetka, Ill.