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Grad School Has Its Problems


By Amanda Bennett

"The program is long and demanding; the work is often solitary; and the prospects for employment will remain bleak for at least another decade. Yet we can take heart from the progress that has been made..." --President Bok, commenting on some of the problems in graduate education

It has been clear for a long time that the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is due for some fundamental revision, and President Bok's annual report concentrating on Graduate School education points up many areas where change could take place.

It leaves, however, a blurred distinction between those things about the graduate school that are going to have to change because of strained finances, for better or worse, and changes that are aesthetically and philosophically advisable. In some cases he suggests that the changes are the same, something which may or may not prove true over the next few years.

Between 1968 and 1972, Bok's report says, the number of government fellowships allotted to the Graduate School declined from 51,446 to 24,808, and foundations phased out some graduate scholarship programs. This left the University and its graduate students with two major problems: The first and most immediate, a loss of direct funds to graduate students; the second, a grimmer job picture for Ph.Ds in the academic and corporate world resulting from these cutbacks.

Any changes in the graduate school intended to ameliorate this situation will have direct effect on the quality of both undergraduate and graduate education. To meet the increased need for funds, Bok's report said, the University has cut down the size of the graduate school, has begun admitting a smaller percentage of supported graduate students, and has used University funds--sparingly--in their support.

To help prepare Ph.D recipients for the teaching jobs that are going to have to replace the disappearing University research positions, Bok suggests a greater emphasis on instruction in teaching methods for all graduate students as a part of the regular curriculum.

These two areas of concern--finances and teaching--come together in the post of teaching fellows. At Harvard, unlike at many other colleges, teaching fellowships are financial aid, and teaching practice for graduate students often becomes underpaid labor for the faculty.

It remains unclear what the exact status of the teaching fellow would be under Bok's new plan to train teachers for the job market. And it becomes even more unclear, given the stated difficulties the University will be having in funding graduate students in the coming years.

But the plan leaves open the possibility that the distinction between teaching fellowships as a paying job or a learning privilege will become even more blurred. The result could mean even less money for graduate students as a whole.

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