Students help plan changes to government dept.

by Nick Gansner | 11/23/94 6:00am

The Government Department's steering committee provides students with a unique opportunity to interact with professors and administrators and to control changes made within the department.

Chaired by Sabrina Serrantino '95, the steering committee is reviewing candidates for three new faculty positions, working to improve the department's advising system and analyzing the causes for the recent decline in the number of female government majors.

The committee allows "[government] students to articulate their concerns" to professors, Serrantino said. "There's really a reassuring sense that we're making an impact and getting a response," she added.

Brian Wheelan '95, a member of the new faculty sub-committee, said the steering committee "offers students a way to see what faculty are seeking to accomplish and what the long term objectives of the department are."

Last spring, the steering committee conducted a survey of all government majors to ascertain student opinion about the department.

The survey asked students to comment on class size, new subjects for classes, upper level seminars, the availability and usefulness of advisors and reasons why they may or may not have chosen to write a thesis.

Government Professor Michael Mastanduno said the survey was organized, written, collected and interpreted entirely by students through the steering committee.

Serrantino said the committee got a "good response" to the survey and is using it as a basis to develop improvements for the department.

The committee determined that government students were disappointed by the department's lack of formal advising, and that this affected the number of students who chose to write theses.

To solve this problem, a steering sub-committee began examining the formal advising systems in other departments earlier this term.

Another sub-committee is reviewing six candidates for three new faculty positions. Serrantino said the department wants to add professors specializing in the specific subfields of international relations, comparative politics -- especially Asian politics -- and American politics -- particularly presidential politics.

As part of the evaluation process, the candidates give s series of lectures, which are attended by both faculty and students on the committee.

Wheelan said students provide a different perspective than faculty for the evaluation process. "While professors might consider the research skills of the lecturer, students consider the communication skills. Both are important," he said.

The third steering sub-committee is involved in an ongoing project analyzing the causes for the decreasing number of female government majors.

Mary Beth Flynn, the department's administrative assistant, said the percentage of female government majors has decreased from 43.6 percent in 1992 to 34.7 percent this year.

Although the survey results indicated that students would like to see more courses dealing with women in law and politics Serrantino said she does not think the absence of those classes is contributing to the decline in female government majors.

The government department has recently added Professor Robert Pape and College Provost Lee Bollinger to the its faculty. The department may also add Lynda Fowler, a professor from Syracuse University and the leading candidate to become the new Rockefeller Center Director.

Serrantino said students are "ecstatic" about the prospect of new professors, adding that the additional courses they will teach will relieve some of the difficulty students have getting into courses.

According to Serrantino, it makes sense that the government department, with the most majors of any department at Dartmouth, would receive new faculty.

According to Flynn there are 332 government majors in the 1995 and 1996 classes.