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CUE Considers Change to Guide

By Laura L. Krug, Crimson Staff Writer

Revisions to the CUE Guide, online course registration and a controversial proposal to change the title of the Committee on Degrees in Women’s Studies were among the topics discussed at the Committee on Undergraduate Education’s (CUE) first meeting of the year yesterday.

CUE member Matt J. Glazer ’05 presented the results of a survey conducted among undergraduates regarding last year’s CUE Guide—which contains statistical and qualitative information about classes and professors.

He said students had asked for more information; specifically, for the names of Teaching Fellows who received negative evaluations and for some kind of grading statistics to be printed.

The CUE agreed that the Faculty Council would discuss the issue further at its next meeting.

The Committee also discussed the possibility of moving CUE evaluation forms online. Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 said that such a transition could be helpful because it would mean an increased ability to tailor the form to different classes.

Gross said the main problem with online forms is response rates. Without holding students captive in a classroom to fill out the evaluations, members worried, fewer people might complete them.

The response rate last year in College courses was about 70 percent, according to Administrator in Undergraduate Education Deborah B. Green.

“We have talked about moving from paper evaluations to online evaluations as early as next fall,” she said.

Newly arrived Registrar Barry Kane said that Yale—his former employer—had experienced mixed results with an online evaluation program it piloted.

“The substance of remarks has been incredibly detailed,” Kane said. “On the flip side, the response rate went way down.”

When Yale implemented the program officially, Kane said that along with a publicity campaign, the school also implemented a rule that no student would be able to view a grade for a class online if he or she had not completed an evaluation for that class. For two semesters, he said, Yale saw a response rate of 87 percent.

Following the discussion of the CUE Guide, Student Affairs Committee (SAC) Vice-chair Sheila R. Adams ’05 delivered a proposal for putting the course registration system—as well as a mechanism for adding and dropping classes—online.

“You’re required to get the signatures of your senior tutor, your concentration tutor, and if you’re adding, your professor. We have to reexamine our rationale for having it the way we do now. Students do see it as an inconvenience,” said Adams, who said the SAC is still in the opinion-gathering stage, and has not yet endorsed the idea.

In her talk, Adams cited Princeton and Stanford as examples of schools which allow students to register online.

CUE members were concerned, however, about implementing such a system at Harvard.

Kane said it would be all too easy to spend a considerable amount of money and time developing a program that might not be as useful as expected.

“When you are considering new Web-based student services, the initial question always needs to be, ‘What problems are you trying to solve?’” he said.

Other members questioned how such a system might affect advising and add and drop procedures.

Adams said the SAC would take the suggestions into account and discuss the matter further among themselves before bringing the issue back to the CUE.

She said after the meeting that one possibility might be to have an online system just for adding and dropping, while keeping Harvard’s current system of course registration.

Also on the agenda was a proposal to change the name of the Committee on Degrees in Women’s Studies, presented by Professor of History and Women’s Studies Afsaneh Najmabadi.

She said the committee wished to rechristen itself the “Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” and implement slight changes to the concentration itself, including adding a new junior-level course on theories of sexuality.

“Over the last 20 years women’s studies as an interdisciplinary field has field has become closely intertwined with the fields of gender studies and sexuality studies,” the proposal read. “In practice—and regardless of their particular names—all women’s studies programs, including ours, now work at the intersection of those fields.”

But Associate Professor of Government James R. Muirhead and Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser expressed concern over whether the new title might be misleading.

The CUE agreed to forward the matter to the Faculty Council for further discussion.

Gross kicked off the meeting with a few comments about the ongoing curricular review. He mentioned several topics the four working groups of the review will address—revising the academic calendar, the theme of international experience—and said a main concern of his is securing more student input.

“I am concerned, if we have a forum and only a few people show up, we’re not getting the issues in front of people,” Gross said, referring to the Oct. 8 panel organized by the student members of the curricular review, which conflicted with a Red Sox playoff game. “We have to find a way to get more students involved.”

CUE member Catherine A. Matta ’05 said the students of the CUE have several important goals—matters they would like to see addressed by the committee over the coming year.

“Some of the issues we know we’re going to try to put forth to the CUE are the issue of reducing class size, also offering more classes within the Core and improving advising for upperclassmen,” she said.

—Staff writer Laura L. Krug can be reached at krug@fas.harvard.edu.

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