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E DITORIAL & L ETTERS THE BROWN DAILY HERALD

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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2007

STAF F EDITORIAL

Calm down about Banner Even though the integrated software system has been in the works for nearly a half-decade, campus discussion about Banner has become frantic in the last week. For years, students have complained that Brown is one of the few top universities stuck in the stone age of course registration. But now, about 15 percent of the undergraduate student body has joined a new anti-Banner Facebook group — created just under a week ago — that is serving as a sounding board for students’ speculative panic. The widespread student interest in the anti-Banner Facebook group speaks loudly. To her credit, Associate Provost Nancy Dunbar, whose “Banner project owner” title bestows a level of responsibility that surely keeps her up at night, was quick to respond to the surge in student trepidation. Yesterday, Dunbar posted a lengthy response to student concerns on the Banner project’s Web site, and her letter was quickly linked to on the Brown Against Banner online message board. Dunbar’s three-page memo carefully unpacks many of the concerns raised on the Facebook forum. Some of what she says is comforting (students will be able to add courses without a professor’s signature during the first week of class) and some is troubling (seniors get to pick their courses first, meaning juniors will get the dregs of upperclassmen seminars). But we appreciate her openness and willingness to engage students. Even though some of the anti-Banner fears are baseless, administrators must not underestimate the seriousness of logistical concerns. University officials say the introduction of Banner won’t bring any new registration policies because professors will be able to login to the system to override virtually any restrictions, such as prerequisites and caps on class size. But administrators must be absolutely certain that every one of the University’s 658 professors knows how to use the system. If creating guest accounts and uploading class readings on MyCourses is any indication, that won’t be an easy task. Some of the Facebook activists behind Brown Against Banner upped the level of anxiety by invoking an argument sure to cause a rise in almost any Brown student — Banner is a covert attempt to bring down the New Curriculum. Even if you don’t believe Dunbar’s reassurance that “Banner is not a project to change the Brown curriculum,” suggesting that Banner is designed to destroy the open curriculum is irrational or paranoid. Banner is not going away, and new technology infrastructure is necessary for 21st century Brown. But as April pre-registration approaches, University officials need to boost their efforts to educate students and faculty about how to use Banner. Conspiratorial administrators won’t cause Banner to alter our curriculum. But logistical nightmares could.

T HE B ROWN D AILY H ERALD Editors-in-Chief Eric Beck Mary-Catherine Lader

Executive Editors Allison Kwong Ben Leubsdorf

Senior Editors Stephen Colelli Sonia Saraiya BUSINESS

EDITORIAL Lydia Gidwitz Lindsey Meyers Stephanie Bernhard Stu Woo Simmi Aujla Sara Molinaro Ross Frazier Jacob Schuman Michal Zapendowski Peter Cipparone Justin Goldman Sarah Demers Erin Frauenhofer Madeleine Marecki

Arts & Culture Editor Arts & Culture Editor Features Editor Features Editor Metro Editor Metro Editor News Editor Opinions Editor Opinions Editor Sports Editor Sports Editor Asst. Sports Editor Asst. Sports Editor Asst. Sports Editor

PHOTO Eunice Hong Christopher Bennett Jacob Melrose

Photo Editor Photo Editor Sports Photo Editor

General Manager Mandeep Gill General Manager Ally Ouh Executive Manager Darren Ball Executive Manager Dan DeNorch Laurie-Ann Paliotti Sr. Advertising Manager Office Manager Susan Dansereau PRODUCTION Design Editor Steve DeLucia Copy Desk Chief Chris Gang Graphics Editor Mark Brinker Graphics Editor Roxanne Palmer Web Editor Luke Harris POST- MAGAZINE Hillary Dixler Melanie Duch Taryn Martinez Rajiv Jayadevan Mindy Smith

Managing Editor Managing Editor Managing Editor Features Editor Features Editor

Steve DeLucia, Designer Ayelet Brinn, Chris Gang, Copy Editors Senior Staff Writers Rachel Arndt, Michael Bechek, Oliver Bowers, Zachary Chapman, Chaz Firestone, Kristina Kelleher, Debbie Lehmann, Scott Lowenstein, James Shapiro, Michael Skocpol Staff Writers Susana Aho, Taylor Barnes, Evan Boggs, Alissa Cerny, Irene Chen, Stewart Dearing, Nicole Dungca, Hannah Furst, Sarah Geller, Thi Ho, Rebecca Jacobson, Tsvetina Kamenova, Hannah Levintova, Christian Martell, Taryn Martinez, Zachary McCune, Jennifer Park, Nathalie Pierrepont, Kam Sripada, Robin Steele, Spencer Trice, Sara Walter, Allissa Wickham, Max Winograd Sports Staff Writers Amy Ehrhart, Kaitlyn Laabs, Eliza Lane, Kathleen Loughlin, Megan McCahill, Marco Santini, Tom Trudeau, Steele West Account Administrators Emilie Aries, Alexander Hughes Design Staff Aurora Durfee, Christian Martell Photo Staff Stuart Duncan-Smith, Austin Freeman, Tai Ho Shin Copy Editors Ayelet Brinn, Catherine Cullen, Erin Cummings, Karen Evans, Jacob Frank, Lauren Levitz

A L E X A N D E R G A R D - M U R R AY

LETTERS New Grad School policy is poorly thought-out To the Editor: As graduate students in the history department, we are deeply concerned with the policy changes being enacted by the Graduate School, along with the recent statements by Dean of the Graduate School Sheila Bonde in Tuesday’s Herald (“Change in Grad School policy won’t alter TA numbers, officials say,” Feb. 6). Though we cannot speak for other departments, we can tell you how these policy changes will affect the history department — home to one of the most popular concentrations at Brown. The Grad School made substantial changes to funding policies two years ago. Having adjusted to these changes, the history graduate students were shocked when the Grad School decided to inform the graduate student community late this fall that the policies governing funding would be completely overhauled, effective immediately. We had neither notice of these changes nor any input in the decision making, and the result is a poorly thought-out funding policy. Though the average history Ph.D. across American universities takes upwards of eight years, most of the graduate students in the history separtment have been operating on a six-year trajectory. Usually, we hold teaching assistantships in the second, third and fi fth years, we travel for an essential year of research in the fourth year, and we use a fellowship in the sixth year to complete our dissertation. Within this framework — a framework now eradicated by the Grad School — history graduate students have worked prodigiously to provide the best learning experience for undergraduates we can, while researching and writing the kind of

high-quality dissertations we hope will bring recognition to the University and further our careers as historians. The policy changes recently mandated by the Grad School create a five-year paradigm of funding even for departments where this is not viable. This will, without doubt, degrade the ability of history graduate students to produce strong dissertations, and consequently undermine the quality of the program, ironically in the midst of the Plan for Academic Enrichment. But perhaps even more relevant to the Brown community as a whole — undergraduates, professors, workers, alumni, parents — the rashness of this decision by the Grad School will substantially diminish the undergraduate experience in history classes. Forcing a long and arduous process into merely five years would leave even less time for teaching assistants to devote their attentions to their undergraduate sections. Furthermore, despite Bonde’s disingenuous assertion that the procedural change in how grad students are funded shouldn’t affect the number of teaching assistants, the 2007-2008 school year will be marked by a drastic shortage of teaching assistants in the history department. Because of the policy changes and research necessities, next year’s fourth, fi fth, and sixth year Ph.D. students will be removed from the eligible pool of teaching assistants, leaving only second and third year Ph.D. students — fewer than 15 students overall — to teach discussion sections for some of the most popular courses here at Brown. There has been recent discussion in the history department about measures necessary to deal with a short-

age of TAs, including course enrollment caps, drastically increasing the size of discussion sections, or even eliminating them altogether. One of the great advantages of the University has always been its small class sizes and the ability of undergraduates to forge meaningful relationships with teaching assistants and professors. These policy changes, being forced through by deans with only fiscal concerns in mind, will cause irreparable harm to those relationships — to your undergraduate experience. So if you have the time, if you’ve ever had a TA who has been critical to your undergraduate experience, drop a line to The Herald or Dean Bonde in the Grad School to let them know that these changes are antithetical to the meaning and purpose of the University. Kevin Hoskins MA‘05 GS, Erik Anderson MA‘04 GS, Chris Barthel MA‘05 GS, Caroline Boswell MA‘01 GS, Christopher Brick MA‘04 GS, Will Brucher GS, Thomas Devaney MA‘06 GS, Matthew Dunne MA‘03 GS, Natalina Earls MA‘03 GS, Nicole Eaton MA‘05 GS, Heather Ellis GS, Sara Fingal GS, Katherine Flynn MA‘05 GS, Jessica Foley MA‘05 GS, Elisa Gollub MA‘01 GS, Jonathan Hagel MA‘01 GS, Sheyda Jahanbani MA‘01 GS, C. Cryn Johannsen MA‘06 GS, Christopher Jones MA‘03 GS, James Kabala MA‘03 GS, Paige Meltzer GS, Kelly Ricciardi GS, Mark Robbins MA‘04 GS, Gabriel Rosenberg MA‘04 GS, Erica Ryan MA‘02 GS, Derek Seidman MA‘05 GS, Stacie Taranto MA‘05 GS, Adam Webster MA‘05 GS, Stephen Wicken GS, Jennifer Wilz MA‘03 GS Feb. 6

CORRECTIONS POLICY The Brown Daily Herald is committed to providing the Brown University community with the most accurate information possible. Corrections may be submitted up to seven calendar days after publication. COMMENTAR Y POLICY The staff editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial board of The Brown Daily Herald. The editorial viewpoint does not necessarily reflect the views of The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. Columns, letters and comics reflect the opinions of their authors only. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR POLICY Send letters to letters@browndailyherald.com. Include a telephone number with all letters. The Herald reserves the right to edit all letters for length and cannot assure the publication of any letter. Please limit letters to 250 words. Under special circumstances writers may request anonymity, but no letter will be printed if the author’s identity is unknown to the editors. Announcements of events will not be printed. ADVER TISING POLICY The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. reserves the right to accept or decline any advertisement at its discretion.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007  

The February 7, 2007 issue of the Brown Daily Herald

Wednesday, February 7, 2007  

The February 7, 2007 issue of the Brown Daily Herald

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