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CUE Looks To Ease Add/Drop Procedure

By Laura L. Krug, Crimson Staff Writer

The Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) debated the necessity of assistant freshman deans’ and House senior tutors’ signatures on course add/drop forms yesterday, with students arguing to administrators that the requirement simply adds hassle to the process.

In its second meeting of the year, the committee also discussed ways to get feedback from students about the curriculum.

Postulating that the current requirement to obtain an assistant freshman dean’s or senior tutor’s signature on add/drop forms is unnecessary to the process, Matthew J. Glazer ’06 suggested eliminating the requirement.

“Students aren’t receiving a lot of advising just from getting their forms signed,” he said.

“The other point that I was trying to make is that advising is a significant problem on the campus and needs to be addressed further. The signature doesn’t improve advising, it’s just a hindrance,” Glazer told The Crimson after the meeting.

Chair of the Student Affairs Committee Matthew W. Mahan ’04 said the signatures are unnecessary because “your Senior tutor isn’t someone you go to in the beginning of the year to talk about your academic plan.”

But Associate Dean of the College Jeffrey Wolcowitz said he worried that any less student-adviser contact might worsen a advising system that has come under frequent criticism.

“We’re an institution that is perceived to be weak in the subject of advising that to do something that makes it look like we’re going to be doing less than that is a bad step,” he said.

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 made a distinction between the roles of the assistant freshman deans and the Allston Burr Senior Tutors, noting that freshmen have advisors who might be further removed from Harvard’s curriculum.

“There’s a big division between the way freshmen are advised and the way they’re advised in the concentrations,” Gross said. “The [assistant freshman deans] are signing off on a decision made by the freshman advisor, who may not be so aware of the requirements.”

The group decided that Assistant Dean of the College John O’Keefe would present the proposal to the Administrative Board—on which every senior tutor sits—and if the tutors gave approval, the change would be brought before the Faculty Council at its next meeting.

Glazer also asked that the CUE consider dropping the fees students are often charged in order to add and drop courses.

“I think it’s fundamentally wrong to penalize students for changing their minds,” he said. “If there’s a processing fee, students should pay the processing fee, but if it’s a fine, I think it’s wrong.”

Wolcowitz said he would do some research into what such a change would entail and report back to the CUE.

Also on the CUE’s agenda was a proposal to examine ways to solicit information from students about what courses they’d like to see in the curriculum and suggestions about improving existing courses. Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 and SAC Vice-Chair Sheila R. Adams ’05 presented the initiative, asserting that there was no recognized way for students to register their ideas.

“We need some consistent way for students across the College to say, ‘This is missing from my department, this is missing from my experience here,’” Chopra said.

“The curriculum ought to be more diverse and more responsive to students...so we are trying to create more ways for students to reflect on what they need,” he said in an interview later.

Suggestions about how to elicit such information included an online forum in which students could post their opinions, adding new language to the Student Handbook encouraging the sharing of such information and a letter from the Dean’s office asking for feedback.

CUE members voiced their approval of Chopra and Adams’ idea, saying it would help keep the curriculum current.

“You [the students] know what your peers are doing, what other institutions are doing, what the zeitgeist is,” said Professor of Psychology Mahzarin R. Banaji.

The final agenda item involved the institution of an informal House advising night to take place in each House. Mahan, who presented the proposal, suggested that the meeting take place between lottery day and the deadline for declaring concentrations.

“A lot of things that week are just centered around social events,” he said, “but if we really want to make the Houses a whole system, we can make them an academic force as well.”

The idea is still in the developing stages, but Mahan said the SAC plans to organize further and resume the discussion with the CUE at a later meeting.

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

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