Major changes in store for Interphase
By David P. Hamilton
Motivated by concern about low grade point averages and graduation rates among minority students, Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay has announced major changes in Project Interphase, an eight-week summer program for disadvantaged students.
The experimental changes will place between 50 and 60 Interphase students -- as many as ten of whom may be disadvantaged non-minority students -- into six-person seminar groups which will study mathematics, physics, and writing together. The more intimate setting is designed to encourage individual participation and skills in oral presentation, according to Professor Arthur P. Mattuck, the faculty coordinator for the academic side of Interphase.
More significantly, Interphase participants will be expected to remain in their study groups throughout the first term of their freshman year while taking a prescribed set of courses: Calculus I (18.01), Physics I (8.01), a non-writing humanities subject, and an undergraduate seminar. The study groups will meet four times a week under the supervision of an advanced undergraduate tutor.
Upon completion of the first term program, Interphase students will receive 54 units of academic credit, including credit for one 12-unit writing course that reflects writing done during both the summer program and the fall term. Students will not be required to participate in the fall term phase of the program, but those who drop out will not receive the 12 units of writing credit.
"We hope and expect there will be no dropouts," stated an explanatory letter sent to minorities in next year's freshman class.
The new program has come under sustained criticism from former Interphase participants who dislike the rigid course requirements during fall term and worry that the emphasis on study groups during the regular term will "fragment" the minority community and encourage the formation of cliques.
Similar complaints were aired during the 20th anniversary celebration of Project Interphase two weeks ago, when McBay was interrupted several times while trying to explain the details of the program. One participant voiced the fears of many when he said, "Interphase is okay as a summer program, but there's a problem if you begin extending it into the regular year."
McBay dismissed such concerns as "silly," pointing out that there have always been differences between minorities who participated in Interphase and those who did not. Office of Minority Education Director Patricia Kaurouma echoed McBay's assessment, saying that "naive" worries about Interphase in the regular term are unwarranted since Interphase has in the past included some follow-up programming during the year.
Students such as former Black Student Union co-chairman Sean Cadogan '90 have also complained that the policy decision was made too quickly and without taking student input into account. "A change this major shouldn't come out of the blue like this," he said.
The revisions to Interphase grew out of discussions McBay held with three faculty members -- Mattuck, Professor Kenneth R. Manning, and Professor John G. King '50 -- early this year in order to explore ways of improving minority academic performance. In a matter of months, this working group hammered out a series of changes which will go into effect next year.
Although both McBay and Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 explained that the changes are "well within the bounds" allowed in experimental programs such as Concourse or the Experimental Study Group, students are irritated by the seemingly unilateral nature of the decision. Members of the Black Student Union have already scheduled a meeting with McBay tomorrow to air their discontent.
Despite the student complaints, McBay, Karouma, and MacVicar all said they had great hopes for the program.