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Teaching Campaign Members Optimistic About Smaller Sections

By Jill E. Steinman, Crimson Staff Writer

Members of the Harvard Teaching Campaign are hopeful that last semester’s string of departmental endorsements for smaller section sizes—as well as undergraduate support for the movement—will result in a new policy within months.

“I think our main goal is a policy change, hopefully by the end of the semester, moving forward on section size,” said Cristina V. Groeger ’08, a History doctoral candidate and an organizer of the campaign.

The movement, which seeks to have section sizes capped at 12 students, has received support from some departments in the social sciences and the humanities. According the the campaign’s website, 15 departments and committees have endorsed the cap.

Groeger said the campaign hopes to enter more serious talks with administrators this term and to secure a Faculty of Arts and Sciences vote on the issue of section sizes.

“This semester we want to focus on continuing to build the petitions and getting an FAS faculty vote of endorsement of the Teaching Campaign,” Groeger said.

The department endorsements do not guarantee change. Section sizes are determined based on a variety of factors, including funding levels and staff availability. Harvard’s top administrators have not explicitly supported the Teaching Campaign.

Harvard is not the only Ivy League school facing questions about graduate students in teaching positions. Yale recently announced changes that simplify the structure of their program but also include effective pay cuts for some students, according to the Yale Daily News.

Departmental stipends—flat sums paid to many Yale graduate students who teach during some years of their study—are not expected to change. The shift in teaching fellow procedures comes after Yale decided to fund a sixth year of study for graduate students in the social sciences and humanities.

John M. Nicoludis, a doctoral candidate in the sciences and a member of the Teaching Campaign, said he believes that Yale’s new teaching fellow structure more closely mirrors Harvard’s.

“I think Harvard has a system that looks more like the one that Yale put in place, but we do not have that pay reduction,” Nicoludis said.

Other members of the Teaching Campaign expressed support for some elements of Yale’s changes, but they also said that they are not in favor of the pay decreases that some have experienced at Yale.

“It is definitely not what we would want, because overall in general it reduces the amount of pay that teachers are getting,” Groeger said.

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at Follow her on twitter @jillsteinman.

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