The Mail

To the Editors of the Crimson:

I am writing to you to make known a policy of the English Department which I feel is not in keeping with what should be the educational standards of this college. Hopefully, the policy will be changed in the near future.

The policy to which I refer is that which allows readers to grade and comment on senior theses anonymously. Students who would like to discuss either their thesis or the comments on the thesis with their readers are unable to do so. Three weeks ago my thesis was returned to me with comments which I considered largely irrelevant. I asked to speak with my readers in the hope, not of changing the grade--two years of work make one fairly indifferent to something as arbitrary as grade--but of talking over the thesis and the comments to try to understand the disparity which I felt, and still feel, exist between the two. I was told that readers have the right to remain anonymous, and Professor Bullitt, Head Tutor of the Department, explained the reasons behind the policy.

As I understood Professor Bullitt, he has a responsibility to assign at least two readers to every thesis. Because the last few years have seen an increase in theses dealing with topics after 1800, while the majority of the faculty of the English Department specialize in topics before 1800, it has become necessary to assign theses to faculty unfamiliar with the topic discussed. A number of faculty refused to grade and comment on these theses unless they could remain anonymous, Professor Bullitt wants to get the theses read, so he must comply with those who demand anonymity.

At least, this refusal to acknowledge one's comments leads the student to suspect a lack of confidence on the part of the reader. It also tends to underline what may be defined as a general feeling among the undergraduate body, which is that faculty, especially professors, would rather not spend time discussing undergraduate work. Obviously there are many exceptions to this feeling, and rightfully so. And even if there weren't it cannot be denied that the time of senior faculty members is precious. However, I believe it is not asking too much to be granted a fifteen or twenty minute interview to discuss a paper that is sometimes as long as two years in the making.


Communication is surely an important part of education. If the senior thesis is to be a real part of the undergraduate educational program, and as part of that program a true learning experience, then I think it deserves more consideration than is shown in anonymous comments which allow lot no discussion. Andrew Wilking '72