The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Overcast

Colloquium is a good start



is a good start

Kresge Auditorium's filled seating during Wednesday's "Teaching Within a Research Institution" colloquium attests to the quality of this entertaining and relevant panel discussion. Over the past few months, the importance of quality teaching at MIT has become an increasingly sore point in student-faculty relations, and Wednesday's presentation is a positive step towards bringing various opinions on this issue together in a constructive debate. Michael Dukakis served as a humorous and effective interlocutor, and the discussion following the panel discussion was enjoyable and well organized.

Wednesday's colloquium was disappointing only in that the discussion revealed how divergent the views of students, faculty and administrators are, and how little the faculty and administration are willing to acknowledge students' grievances concerning present Institute faculty policies.

The panelists were principally faculty members; most student opinions were only conveyed to the group through the audience's frequent clapping and booing, and through hand polls taken by Dukakis. Frequently defensive, many faculty and administrators failed to acknowledge students' repeated concerns over the quality of teaching assistants and the structure of classes, leaving many students with a sensation of powerlessness. Not all faculty reacted in this way -- most notable were Professor Harold Abelson PhD '73 and Professor J. Mark Davidson Schuster PhD '79, who defended students' rights to good teachers in a university setting. Their voices, however, were no substitute for additional students on the panel.

Such gaps in recognition, excusable in beginning discussions, will hopefully be diminished by further debate on the subject. We applaud the organizers of the colloquium, but hope its success will lead to further discussion and, more importantly, definitive review of Institute policy concerning the training and hiring of effective teachers.