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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College decides to keep Ed. Dept.

The beleaguered education department will remain a part of the College for at least three more years, as a result of the efforts of new Education Chair Andrew Garrod and Dean of the Social Sciences George Wolford. The department will be strengthened by the ability to offer one or two three-year contracts to professors.

Previously, the department could only hire professors with one-year contracts.

"That will be a considerable help in insuring continuity," Garrod said. "It's a vast improvement on what we've had."

Garrod and Wolford decided earlier this week that the department will remain intact for at least another three years.

"We're going to leave the department in its current form with its current resources," Wolford said.

Last March, years of debate about the future of the department culminated in Council on Social Sciences' recommendation that the department be abolished.

Since then, students expressed overwhelming support for the department, prompting Garrod to negotiate with Wolford to keep the department intact.

The two began discussions summer term, after Garrod took over as chair on July 1. Wolford said although he spoke with several education professors and administrators, he and Garrod were chiefly responsible for hammering out the final agreement.

Both parties said they were fairly pleased with the end result, but not completely content with what Assistant Dean of the Faculty Sheila Culbert called a "constructive agreement."

Garrod said "I feel very pleased," but he referred to the decision as a "flawed compromise."

"A lot of good things have been happening in the education department, and I'm optimistic for its future," Wolford said.

Tenure track positions, teacher prep

Garrod said the department's ability to offer one or two three-year contracts for professors will give the department more stability.

And since the department will last at least three more years, Wolford guaranteed that "all current students will have access to teacher training."

Three-year contracts were a step in the right direction, Garrod said, but they do not compare with the capability of offering tenure-track positions to professors.

Wolford said tenure-track openings could be a possibility when the department undergoes an external review, which is scheduled to occur in about three years.

"If they seemed to have turned around and altered their instability" the department could receive some tenure-track openings, he said. Currently, Garrod is the only tenured professor in the department.

"We would be enormously strengthened if we could have tenure-track people immediately," Wolford said.

Garrod also expressed frustration over the department's lack of tenure-track positions, which arose as an issue during the negotiations. Wolford offered two tenure-track openings if Garrod had agreed to changing the education department into a program.

Garrod said he disagreed with such a change because he felt it would minimize the department's autonomy and would result in a downsizing of the staff.

Had the College decided to turn the education department into a program, some professors would have been laid off and others would have been absorbed by other departments. The more popular education courses would still have been offered under the auspices of the program.

Dartmouth also would have been the only Ivy League institution without an education department, Garrod said, and the teaching preparatory program would have been eliminated.

With this week's agreement, the teaching prepatory program will be strengthened.

Wolford said "the teaching program is good and ... it can be improved." Among intended improvements to the teacher training program is a plan to allow students to finish its requirements by the end of their senior years -- it presently requires 13 terms.

Departmental support

Wolford said he and the Dean's Office was "impressed by student interest in the department ... that affected our thinking in a positive direction."

Wolford said he "met with students in a variety of contexts and received letters from alumni who urged us to do everything we could to maintain the education department at Dartmouth."

Student Assembly President Jon Heavey '97 said the decision is "good news for many students."

"It's a big step for garnering respect for student input on major issues on campus," he said.

He said if the future were to hold major changes for the education department, the process would involve students and alumni.

On the heels of the recommendation to abolish the department in May, Anne Jones '97, who was then a teaching assistant for Education 20, organized a forum to allow students question Wolford about possible changes in the education department, reasons behind them and their consequences.

More than 300 students showed up at the session. Many voiced their support for keeping the department and their frustration with not being told more concrete reasons for shutting it down .

"Just give me one reason. I beg you," one student said. "Give me a reason."

Student support, combined with professors' determination, has saved the department.

"We have determination, talent in the department, and we have the very, very strong support of Dartmouth students and alumni" and some professors, Garrod said.

Bolstering departmental interest

In May, members of the Social Sciences Council -- comprised of the eight chairs of the College's social science departments -- commented on the recommendation to abolish the department.

Members cited such reasons as administrative problems, interpersonal conflicts, the department publishing too little scholarly work and the department being too pre-professional.

These criticisms stemmed from the dual nature of the department. Not only does the department offer courses about teaching, but also it teaches how to teach. The teacher training portion offers seniors the opportunity to become certified to teach in public schools.

Dartmouth's education department has come under criticism several times in the past, most recently in 1993 when an internal review committee also recommended its dissolution.

Trying to remedy the department's poor status, Garrod said he has been working hard to bolster interest in the department, which has been lagging since the administration publicized its intentions to eliminate the department.

He said he has been negotiating with Vivian Gussey Paley to come speak this January as part of a Winter term speakers series. Paley is an educator who specializes in pre-school and kindergarten levels, has written several books, and is the recipient of a McArthur Genius Award.

Garrod said the department's student enrollments this term are "the best in years." The department also resurrected its long-dead departmental newsletter and sponsored a film series this term entitled "Education in a Changing World," Garrod added.