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Teachers Awarded Despite Glitch in Nomination Process

UC website fails to receive all nominations for Levenson Prize

By Brittney L. Moraski, Crimson Staff Writer

Due to a technical glitch, not all nominations for the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize were received by the Undergraduate Council (UC), according to the chair of the council’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), Ryan A. Petersen ’08.

Nominations sent from some Mozilla Firefox web browsers did not ultimately reach the UC, but students who submitted nominations through that browser saw a confirmation screen, according to Petersen.

The problem was discovered after J. Sawalla Guseh II ’06 submitted a nomination for Teaching Fellow (TF) William J. Anderson and later did not receive an invitation that was sent to all nominees and nominators to attend a dinner held last Thursday.

Guseh, a former UC member, contacted the council to determine the cause of the problem once he found out that other people who had submitted nominations for Anderson had not been invited to the dinner either.

At its May 2 meeting, which Guseh attended, SAC considered re-opening the nomination process or canceling the event entirely.

But SAC did not decide on a plan of action at that meeting. Instead, Petersen e-mailed the members of SAC the following morning asking them to vote first on whether to reopen consideration of the awards for TFs, and second whether to grant the award to another candidate, according to Petersen’s e-mail to the UC.

SAC also voted on whether to cancel the dinner entirely, and hold it potentially in the fall.

SAC voted by a majority “not to reopen the discussion on the recipients” and “not to alter the award recipient,” according to Petersen’s e-mail to the council.

The dinner, held in the Cabot Dining Hall on May 4, awarded the TF award to Sebastian Velez of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, the junior faculty award to Lynn Mary Festa, who is the Cowles associate professor of English and American literature and language, and Glenn Adelson, who is a teaching assistant in molecular and cellular biology. The senior faculty award went to Watts Professor of Music Kay K. Shelemay.

SAC member Blake M. Kurisu ’07 said SAC does not determine the winners of the Levenson award based on the quantity of nominations received for a particular individual.

“The quality of the application is what makes a difference,” he said.

“Regardless of the imperfection of this process, we know that these particular winners are deserving of their special recognition for their dedication to undergraduate teaching,” Petersen said in an interview yesterday.

In response to the technical problems with the UC web site, Petersen said that the nomination process for the Marquand Prize for Exceptional Advising and Counseling will be opened for another week. In the future, Petersen said that the online form will be fixed so that all submissions will go through, regardless of web browser, and nominators will receive a confirmation response by e-mail after submitting their nomination.

Andersen, a resident tutor in Currier who worked as a TF in upper-level biochemistry courses, said that he was “very touched” that his students had nominated him and had worked with the UC to determine the submission problem.

His concern was that other TFs might not have been invited to the banquet because their nomination did not make it to SAC.

“I hope it’s not the case that some TFs never got recognized because their nominations were never received,” he said.

—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at bmoraski@fas.harvard.edu.

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