Marshall Admin to Move Forward With D.O.C. Overhaul

    After a tumultuous year and a half of protest by students, teaching assistants and faculty, Thurgood Marshall College writing sequence Dimensions of Culture will be reassessed by a yet-to-be-appointed steering committee in Spring Quarter 2009.

    The TMC administration began adjusting the program’s structure last quarter, guided by recommendations from both a faculty and student review committee. Among administrators’ chief concerns was identifying a seasoned faculty member to lead the troubled program, while giving adequate direction to the committee review process.

    Literature professor Robert Cancel and communication professor Robert Horwitz stepped up to the position, replacing former D.O.C. Director Abraham Shragge.

    “One of the strongest recommendations in the D.O.C. report that was authored by the [faculty] TMC Curriculum Committee was that D.O.C. be directed by regular ladder-rank, senior faculty,” Cancel said.

    According to an update posted on the TMC Web site, Cancel and Horwitz enacted the first changes to the program even before the beginning of this academic year. Minor adjustments have been made to the TA orientation that occurs prior to Fall Quarter, geared at increasing collaboration between faculty and their TAs.

    “[These changes] were designed to make the teaching of the course more collegial, with a good working relationship between TAs and faculty lecturers,” Cancel said.

    Students and TAs have expressed concerns that D.O.C. has strayed from its original mission and that the program’s original guidelines, which require TMC students to confront cultural, social and racial norms in the United States over three courses, were not being met.

    “There was a sense that the courses were being ‘watered down’; the controversial issues were not being met head-on,” former D.O.C. TA Tania Jabour said. “It seemed like the former director did not want to rock anyone’s boat.”

    In addition, the original format of the courses asked for a team of ladder-rank, or tenured, professors to lead the program. D.O.C. had zero such faculty members in its program during the 2007-08 school year, according to Cancel and Horwitz.

    The two professors are currently looking into developing a team of nine to 12 faculty members to lead the formation of a new program for the 2009-10 academic year.

    The implementation of program reforms will also be guided by a steering committee consisting of faculty members, TMC undergraduates and D.O.C. teaching assistants. The committee will work toward implementing further changes to the program recommended by both the faculty and student review committees.

    Horwitz and Cancel held meetings with D.O.C. 1 and D.O.C. 2 lecturers to decide on a standard tone and structure for the courses and interactions between students and TAs.

    Cancel said that major changes would not be immediately implemented, as the course reformatting process requires a staff willing to teach multidisciplinary courses. He added that it is possible that the steering committee and new faculty will rethink the entire format of D.O.C.’s three-course sequence.

    “To be fair to the new team of faculty and to ensure proper preparation of the new courses, we had to make this year, in practical terms, a bridge from the version that was taught the last few years and the new one to be taught in 2009-10,” Cancel said.

    The TMC administration will gradually appoint members to the new steering committee throughout the quarter. Cancel said that over the course of the year, transitions between the first D.O.C. class and the last would be examined to understand how continuity and standardization may better be established between courses, as well as within the course readings.

    “As we look at this year’s [classes], we are striving for a little more continuity both between topics, themes, and issues that should flow through the entire year and also between the three large lectures offered each quarter,” Cancel said.

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