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The Graduate

Brass Tacks

By Scott W. Jacobs

WHEN the Faculty considers the Wolff Committee Report on Graduate Education this April, there should be little opposition to the report's nine major recommendations. Harvard departments have known for the last five years that graduate student morale is low and that the growing size of the graduate school brings a sense of impersonality to its students. Nor is the Wolff recommendation for one thousand and five hundred dollar increases in the teaching fellow pay scale a surprising complement to the Dunlop Report pay raises. In the words of one department chairman, the report should "sail through" at the next Faculty meeting.

Approval of enrollment cuts and teaching fellow pay raises will apply equally to every department. But Faculty approval means little to the practical implementation of the other suggestions. As Wolff said, "The Faculty can do no more than approve this in principle and expect each department to work within the recommendations."

The Committee proposes individual admissions interviews, a student "ombudsman" in each department, critiques instead of straight grading, graduate workshops modelled after undergraduate tutorials, and wider Faculty involvement in these directions. Implementing these will require changes in attitude and structure in individual departments. Not all of the changes make sense in every department, of course. In the Natural Sciences, where students work more intimately with professors on research projects, the need for an "ombudsman" is not as great as it would be in a more diffuse department. Not is the proposal for abolishing grades as relevant to a science grad student who is constantly scrutinized in a laboratory situation as it might be to a student in a large seminar course.

Real dispute may arise over the recommendation for abolishing grades. Most departments appear willing to change courses in a token gesture toward relaxing student-faculty relations, yet there is widespread support for the "C+ is still a plus better than C" theory. An English department study committee will probably recommend one new non-graded course for next year, but chairman Warren G. Bloomfield is typical in insisting that "customers who but our graduate students need a grade criterion to judge students that general criticisms don't provide."

THREE of Wolff's proposal will necessarily run into financial problems. Because they require additional funds, they must either take funds away from other parts of the Faculty budget or else fall low on the list of Harvard's financial priorities.

Dean Ford has already predicted that the Wolff pay raise for Teaching Fellows will probably cost $300,000 beyond the $300,000 needed for the Dunlop pay raises. Unless the money is added to the total budget to accommodate this, the cost of Wolff pay raises will come from each department's present share of the Faculty's unrestricted funds, cutting into funds for new undergraduate courses.

Potentially the most expensive proposal is the new Graduate Student Center to be planned and operated by students. It is difficult to estimate the cost of the center; preliminary plans range from building a new center on land near the Yard to converting an already existing building. The cost of conversion would not be major, but a new center--even if financed by a separate fund-raising drive--would directly compete with the drive for an Afro-American cultural center and the Dunlop pay raises. Fortunately Wolff and his committee realize that the new center must wait in line for the Administration's hand-out, especially since Harkness Commons has some graduate facilities already.

Perhaps the most complicated of the Wolff proposals is Professor Robert G. McClosky's recommendation for full five-year fellowships for graduate students. Presently, all first year students are guaranteed some sort of financial aid; older graduate students usually finance their second through fifth years in one of three ways: accepting outside scholarships like the National Science Foundation grants; taking teaching fellow positions; or competing for Harvard scholarships (primarily on the basis of first-term first-year grades). There is no limit on the number of grants a student can take; several accept grants and then become teaching fellows, doubling their earnings.

McCLOSKEY'S proposals, contends the Wolff Committee, would not cost the University any extra money. A drop in enrollment, coupled with a rule forbidding both grants and teaching fellow positions, would provide extra funds and better means of distributing them. With a year by year twenty percent decrease in the size of classes, the committee argues that scholarship and could be extended progressively through the five-year period.

As the Wolff Report acknowledges, the McCloskey plan assumes that the overlap between scholarship holders and teaching fellows is great although there are not enough statistics to prove it. If it is not large, the money might again have to be taken from the Faculty budget.

Because the Faculty will consider the Wolff report in April as a package these complications will have little impact on its chances for approval. As Wolff said, he does not want immediate action on everything, just the promise of eventual compliance. Given enough time, the Harvard Administration will find ways to bring the necessary money into the Faculty budget to subsidize the pay raises, student center, and scholarship guarantees. But to implement the report's recommendations as soon as possible (as the Committee requested), the money squeeze will cut into funds for undergraduate courses for at least the next two years.

Although Wolff states bluntly that the Committee's mandate did not include a discussion of the whole University structure, the Committee's objections to the Faculty's seeming neglect for the opinions of graduate students parallels criticism made in the Education School last week, the Law School two weeks ago, and the College throughout this year. The flexibility of the Wolff Report recommendations as they may apply to each department is the first opportunity for graduate students to become involved in decision-making committees. When committees are formed in each department to enact curriculum changes, graduate students should not only be consulted as to their reactions, but given equal voting status. This, not the Faculty vote in April, will honestly test how willing the Faculty is to accept its graduate students as scholarly equals.

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