COLLEGE administrators limit lecturers’ autonomy over curriculum

Nov. 8, 2023, 2:41 a.m.

COLLEGE teaching fellows must now “strictly follow” the COLLEGE syllabus — lecturers were told not to express personal opinions following reports of identity-based targeting in two COLLEGE 101 sections. This new directive was delivered to COLLEGE fellows by program administrators at a mandatory Oct. 27 meeting that was called due to the “political situation” on campus. 

In October, Ameer Loggins was suspended as a COLLEGE lecturer and placed under investigation for identity-based targeting of Jewish and Israeli students in his class.

Some COLLEGE fellows who spoke to The Daily said that they were frustrated with the new policy. While they acknowledged the importance of limits to avoid targeting individual students, they characterized the new policy as an overstep that prevented the academic freedom to customize their sections and express individual opinions. 

Previously, COLLEGE fellows, who are non-faculty recent doctorates, exercised a great deal of autonomy over their sections, including the freedom to supplement syllabus texts with new material, discuss current events or switch syllabus weeks.

“Bringing in outside material from our specialties is one of the things that has made this teaching gig so good,” said Lecturer A, a COLLEGE lecturer who requested anonymity due to fear of professional retaliation. “We were encouraged from the start to bring in our own expertise. In my classes, and in the classes I’ve heard from my colleagues about, these [new materials] have always gone really well.”

Lecturer A said that the new policy felt like a big reversal from what they understood the fundamental goal of their job to be. Other lecturers echoed Lecturer A’s interpretation and affirmed the versatility of the COLLEGE program before the Oct. 27 meeting. 

Dan Edelstein, the director of faculty for introductory studies, wrote in a statement that, “All program instructors who teach for COLLEGE commit to adhering to this common curriculum so that students can discuss their experiences with any other first-year student throughout the course regardless of section.” In his statement, Edelstein alluded to the new policy being consistent with the original COLLEGE program policies.

Reflecting on her experience as a student in COLLEGE 101 so far, Lila Temple ’27 said it “seems like a class to create your own ideas and your own understanding of why you’re here. And so having a rigid curriculum isn’t super important to me, because I don’t care if a different COLLEGE class does something entirely different.” 

Multiple fellows, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they felt upset and insulted following comments during the mandatory meeting from Emily Levine, a COLLEGE program instructor and the former director of faculty for introductory studies. The Daily reached out to Levine for comment but was referred to Edelstein.

Levine began the meeting by describing the competitive nature of the fellows’ positions, according to statements by the meetings’ attendees and a transcript of the meeting obtained by The Daily.

Lecturer B, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said they felt “implicitly threatened” by Levine’s comments on their jobs, saying they felt that Levine was calling them “replaceable.” Lecturer A expressed similar sentiments.

“They hired us, every single one of us … because we had really good teaching records. We all have loads of experience teaching, we all love teaching and we all are experimental, innovative teachers. They gave us this freedom,” Lecturer B said.

Elaborating on lesson experimentation, the teaching fellow shared that some aspects of the current syllabus are attributed to fellows who strayed away from the syllabus. 

“We have a Google Drive full of different people’s lesson plans where people have gone completely off-piece, where people have written anything they wanted to try and teach the core concept. Some of the readings now, currently in the syllabus, come from those kinds of experiments that people took,” Lecturer B said.

A few weeks ago, one COLLEGE fellow, after consulting their class, strayed away from the syllabus to discuss settler colonialism in relation to the United States.  

Lydia Wang ’27, a student in that COLLEGE section, said she appreciated that they learned about the topic during class.

“Every single member [of our class] agreed that we’d rather learn about something new rather than go over something old that we sort of understand,” said Wang. “I feel like our discussions about settler colonialism [in relation to the U.S.] were more beneficial for me than the majority of other readings. It’s very relevant and has a huge impact on pretty much everyone all around the world.” 

COLLEGE fellows hold degrees in a wide variety of academic backgrounds, from religious studies to ecology.

“People who teach COLLEGE classes, that’s not all they do,” Temple said. “I think [the new policy] takes away from the individuality of a COLLEGE course and reinforces a more ‘GenEd’ requirement of everyone doing the same thing.”

Dilan Gohill ’27 is the Vol. 265 student activism beat reporter and a news staff writer. He is from Santa Monica, CA and enjoys avocado toast and listening to Lorde. Contact him at dilan 'at'

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