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Faculty group approves report on expanding the College

The 51-member Council of the University Senate gathered in March to vote on the report of the Faculty Committee for a Year of Reflection. The committee’s report—which the Council of the University Senate approved by a vote of 32-1—makes several recommendations to ensure that changes in the size of the College take place in ways consistent with the University’s historic commitment to top-quality teaching and research.

Since 1996, the Year of Reflection Committee—formed in re-sponse to President Hugo Sonnenschein’s call for a heightened priority to collegiate education and an increase in College enrollment from its then size of 3,500 students to approximately 4,500 students over ten years—has analyzed the pros and cons of ex-panding the College.

According to the report, the committee’s task was “to organize and articulate faculty-wide reflection on academic issues of the present in order to recommend a course of action economically viable for the University’s future but in keeping with the traditions of its past.”

The committee began by studying the financial context in which the recommendation to consider increasing undergraduate enrollment was made. Though the University had a budget deficit of $22.7 million in 1993–94, it was back in the black by the 1996–97 academic year, and the report thus focused attention on long-term budget concerns, calling for in-creased spending on the libraries, the physical plant, the neighborhood, and faculty salaries, as well as building up the endowment. “After more than a year of investigation of the University’s financial condition,” the committee wrote, “we are sobered by what we have come to understand about the seriousness of the challenge we face.”

Facing that challenge, the committee suggested, requires a partnership of the faculty and administration and careful monitoring of all steps taken.

“We have a unique intellectual culture at Chicago,” says Melvyn Shochet, the Elaine M. and Samuel J. Kersten professor in physical science and spokesperson of the Committee of the Council. “We want to be sure that this culture is preserved by continuing to provide a Chicago-style undergraduate education in a larger College, while also maintaining the very best graduate teaching and research.”

To that end, the report of the Year of Reflection Committee makes a series of recommendations aimed at maintaining the quality of incoming College students, maintaining the quality of undergraduate teaching, and maintaining the quality of the faculty. They include:

• The College Admissions Committee should assess the quality of the applicant pool and report their findings at least once a year for the next two years.

• The College should offer a report “indicating how the in-structional demands associated with a larger College could be met in such a way as to maintain or improve the quality of undergraduate education.”

• The University should assess the impact of expanding the College on both graduate education and faculty research, with an eye to “how shifts in teaching responsibilities and academic culture will affect our ability to attract and retain a first-rank faculty.”

To ensure that College students continue to receive a rigorous, faculty-taught Chicago education, while faculty and graduate students can still do groundbreaking research, the report suggests several tactics for a larger College. Of the plan to increase College en-rollment, Shochet says, “I’m optimistic. I think it will allow us to provide a Chicago education to more of the very best students, and to do it in a way that preserves what makes Chicago such a unique institution.”

Ad Infinitum

Map of the Stars

Now that their telescope is complete, scientists working on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (“How Long Does It Take to Chart 50 Million Galaxies?,” April/95) are preparing to start mapping the universe.
The project’s telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico will allow researchers to catalog the positions and brightnesses of more than 100 million celestial objects, as well as the spectra for about a million galaxies and 100,000 quasars. Engineers installed the primary mirror in January, and the final piece of the telescope, a spectrograph, arrived in February. The astronomers expect the telescope to receive first light in May and hope to be collecting useful data in about a year.
Voices on the Quads
“It’s true that I think people are deep and life is big, so I don’t want to write down, patronize complicated people.…I don’t want to read books that patronize me and step down to some theoretical dumbed-down level that they think I’m supposed to function at.…I found the people in my environment the most complicated people I’ve ever known in my life. You can’t give them little simple stories.”
—Nobel laureate and U of C visiting scholar Toni Morrison, in a Q&A session after reading from her new novel, Paradise
“You put on a condom before you have sex. You put your sneakers on before you run. You put your books in your bag to go to school. That may not sound very romantic, but it’s just something you do, and it’s got to become a way of life, and we have to accept that.”
—Actress Drew Barrymore, spokesperson for the Female Health Foundation, during a panel discussion on safe sex