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Tutoring Service Helps Struggling Students

By Hyun Soo Kim
Staff Reporter

For freshmen having trouble with 8.01 problem sets, or upperclassmen struggling with 18.05 or 6.013, the Tutoring Services Room (TSR) in 12-124 provides free tutoring in all subjects for all MIT students from 1 to 11 p.m. every day.

Furnished in the MIT spirit with gray carpet, comfortable red chairs, and Athena workstations, TSR tries to provide quality service for students.

"We endeavored to embrace the concept of total quality service and management. Last year we took a survey of the most requested subjects of undergraduate tutorees and then we endeavored to meet the need of students in any subject," said Judy Jackson, director of the Office of Minority Education, which sponsors TSR.

TSR has implemented a new computer database of tutors this semester. Over 50 MIT graduate student tutors and approximately 15 undergraduate tutors are available. Students can schedule a convenient tutoring time in a subject through a 24-hour voice-mail line, or they can schedule tutoring sessions directly at TSR. The manager then contacts tutors who are available during the time requested and arranges a tutoring session at TSR.

Last year, the TSR helped approximately 150 students for a total of 650 hours of tutoring, according to Program Coordinator Fabricio E. Rodriguez, who is in charge of the database.

"We were able to respond to every tutoring request," Jackson said.

"We will actively go out and find tutors if we don't already have tutors in [a certain] subject. But we do have tutors for every major course, especially in courses II, VI, VIII, X, and XVIII," said Fritz N. Francis '92, a program coordinator who oversaw the recent revitalization.

As a result, student satisfaction with TSR seems to be high, according to the positive reaction column on the sign in/out sheets.

Dione Sturd '96 was pleased with her tutoring session in physics. "The tutor was very qualified; he explained concepts well. Also, I got the time that I wanted," Sturd said.

Jason Puchalla G, a physics tutor, said, "Tutoring is good practice; it keeps you on your toes by reviewing material. Also, it is enjoyable to have someone else understand something they didn't understand before."

Renovations made last year

Renovated last year, TSR now has more management staff, and a library of textbooks which will soon include a collection of bibles. Though TSR has been around since the early 1970's, when it was started by the Black Student Union, it had declined in use three years ago due to under-staffing. Rubn Morfn-Ramrez, assistant director of the OME, directed the renewal of the program.

To insure quality, tutors are paid and must have at least a 4.0 GPA in the subject they tutor in and a 4.0 GPA overall. Also, Morfn-Ramrez interviews each tutor to check their communication skills. Graduate student tutors start at $9 an hour and undergraduate tutors at $7 an hour.

According to Francis, one shortcoming of TSR is that tutors for upperclassmen are harder to find, but TSR is working on the problem. Presently, TSR is used primarily by freshmen and sophomores.

Another deficiency of TSR is the lack of racial diversity among the tutors, Francis said. "I've made a push to get more tutors of color. Though this is highly touchy and political, you need tutors of color for two reasons. One, you're making a statement if you have a certain group of people dominating in a program -- that people of color are not intelligent. Second, people of like backgrounds understand each other better anyway. People [should have the option] of calling in and getting tutored by a person of their own race," he said.

TSR receives funding from the OME budget and is also subsidized by the Industrial Advisory Council for Minority Education (IACME). IACME consists of 24 Fortune 500 companies which are involved in many of OME's programs and offer suggestions. IACME donated computers and helped renovate the room.