SA releases dept. ratings

by Charles Gardner | 5/22/02 5:00am

Departmental assessments -- the long-awaited final component of the Undergraduate Teaching Initiative -- were released last night at a Student Assembly meeting that also featured a lengthy debate on a resolution to fund a forum for student organizations.

The anthropology, music and Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures Departments came in at the top of the rankings, each earning an assigned grade of "A" for such factors as faculty-to-major ratio, average class size and results from a satisfaction survey taken by over 600 students with declared majors.

The biology department -- which the study noted had an average class size of over 42 students -- was ranked last, with a grade of only C-plus. The economics, government, mathematics and studio art departments all earned a grade of B-minus.

The assessments, which leading UTI proponent Aly Rahim '02 said had been the product "of an entire year's work," were long delayed due to problems obtaining departmental data such as class enrollments and number of majors, information which generally remains within each department, according to Component Head Steven Koutsavlis '05.

Despite the wide range of grades given to departments, Rahim said the assessments were intended as more than simple criticism.

"This is a wake-up call to administrators that we need to hire more professors," he said, noting that there was a "distinct correlation" between the size of classes in a given department and the grade assigned it.

Not all departments with typically large classes scored poorly, however. The chemistry department, which was listed with an average class size of 35.6 students, earned the second-highest marks from students on a survey which asked various questions about the quality of instruction within departments.

The Earth Sciences department also fared well, earning an A-minus and winning praise from students despite class enrollments of over 40 students on average.

Grades for each department were calculated via a scoring system in which each of the considered factors was given an assigned weight in determining the final mark. Survey results counted towards half the final grade, while faculty-to-major ratio, median class size and average class size accounted for the remainder.

The findings of the assessment report will be distributed to students' mail boxes and will also be available on the Assembly's website.

The assessment report was the final of four primary components of the UTI, the broad-ranging initiative for enhancing the quality of undergraduate instruction at the College approved by the Assembly last October.

Much of the meeting was spent debating a resolution proposing that $1,000 be allocated to fund the Interorganizational Committee, described by Student Body President Molly Stutzman '02 as a "forum for various student organizations to come together" to share issues and concerns.

Proposed by the Assembly's Student Organizations Committee, the resolution endured more than 40 minutes of debate before members voted to postpone a final decision until next week's meeting.

Stutzman said opposition had come mainly from members concerned that the Committee would become a body independent of Student Assembly, and from those cautious to spend so much of the approximately $3,000 left in the Assembly's budget, much of which is required to support other ongoing projects.

While not directly addressed during the hour-long meeting, the Student Life Committee also distributed a proposal for the improvement of Dartmouth's athletic facilities that will be sent to the athletic office and to Dean of College James Larimore.