The Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality unanimously endorsed the Harvard Teaching Campaign last Thursday, becoming the fifth department or committee to extend its support of the movement of teaching fellows that aims to improve the undergraduate educational experience by urging the University to adopt a 12-student cap on section and lab group sizes.
Department Chair Alice A. Jardine said that even though Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is a small program, it places much value on the quality of its undergraduate education.
“WGS is fully in support of the effort to provide smaller learning environments for our undergraduates and to offer graduate students a more reasonable workload, which in turn will maximize both their efficacy as teachers and their productivity as scholars,” Jardine wrote in an email.
In an effort to broaden its support base among undergraduates, the Campaign held a planning meeting last Thursday in Quincy Senior Common Room, where around 15 undergraduates joined in a discussion on the Campaign's next steps.
Cristina V. Groeger ’08, a History teaching fellow who is leading the campaign’s outreach effort to undergraduates, said she finds it surprising that the University does not commit more resources to reducing section sizes.
Groeger said that during the financial downturn in 2008, the University justified increased section sizes with financial concerns, which are less relevant today.
“We don’t have that excuse anymore,” she said. “Now is a really good time to make this a priority.”
Undergraduate Council Education Committee chair Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 was also present at the meeting.
“The entire Council is behind this project,” Dhruv said, adding that the UC endorsed the Campaign last spring.
Even though most of the support received by the Campaign has come from the humanities departments, campaign members said that decreasing the size of lab groups is also part of the campaign, and more efforts will be made to reach out to departments in the sciences.
Luis A. Perez ’16 is one of the organizers of the developing undergraduate wing of the Campaign, which at least five students have volunteered to join.
Perez said he was motivated to join the Campaign after finding himself in large sections for his General Education classes, in which he said he could hardly engage in meaningful discussions.
“There are just too many people for me to be able to comfortably voice my opinion without feeling I’m shutting somebody else up,” Perez said. “I want to make sure that Harvard stays true to their goal of educating future leaders of this world.... I feel that they are lagging behind in that aspect.”
According to Perez, the undergraduate wing of the Campaign will work to increase students’ awareness on the importance of smaller sections, and it plans to petition to submit a question on section size for a UC referendum in the fall election so that students can vote on the issue.
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Zara Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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