Teaching Campaign Looks To Diversify Support Base

More than 20 members of the Harvard Teaching Campaign, all teaching fellows from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, gathered Thursday evening to determine the next steps for their movement to improve the undergraduate educational experience. The group has spent most its effort in the past month circulating a petition calling for a limit to undergraduate section sizes.

Thursday’s meeting was the campaign’s third in a month and ended with members agreeing on a short-term plan of action. That plan focuses on expanding outreach to new segments of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences community in order to gain more signatures on the petition, which has accumulated several hundred so far.

The petition has also garnered endorsements from the faculty of the Philosophy Department, the Undergraduate Council, graduate students in the History Department, as well as limited support from the History Department faculty.

Much of the meeting’s discussion centered on the need to reach out to undergraduates and their parents, as well as alumni, in order to broaden the campaign’s audience and to convey a sense of urgency to administrators.

Members also discussed the campaign’s future relationship with the Undergraduate Council, which endorsed the campaign’s petition Sunday. In the wake of the vote, campaign participants said they plan to meet with the UC’s Education Committee with the goal of better communicating their efforts to undergraduates through the House system.

Group members also plan to look into the possibility of using Harvard’s alumni network and Harvard Clubs, located in most major cities and states, to increase visibility among alumni, the University’s financial base.

As they look to raise the campaign’s profile among Harvard affiliates, group members also plan to refine their approach and goals.

Specifically, some members aim to better understand the exact decision-making process that determines section sizes. Though representatives of the group have already met with Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris, others said the group aims to further its understanding of the administrative network that must convinced of its goals.

Though they agreed on a plan of action, campaign members shared a wide range of views throughout the meeting, offering differing perspectives on the scope of group’s responsibilities and goals.

One member, a fifth-year graduate student, said that it is the administration’s job to find solutions to the issues standing in the way of limiting section sizes.

“The burden is not on us,” the graduate student said, adding that it was not the group’s responsibility to provide a “blueprint” to the University.

Another member said that although a plan of execution might be the administration’s responsibility, the group should not expect administrators to actually take on the task without pressure and ideas from the Harvard Teaching Campaign.

In order to inform these ideas, the group plans to look into section sizes at peer institutions and how they are determined.

Some members also expressed concerns that their group was not fully representative of disciplinary diversity, given the absence of any graduate students in the hard sciences. Sections in these disciplines might face other difficulties, such as lab safety concerns, said one member, and their teaching fellows might have other thoughts on the ideal section size.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.


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