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A Boost for the Undergraduate

September 14, 1986

A faculty task force is making an important contribution to strengthening the University of California by urging the improvement of undergraduate education. The timeliness of the report is underscored by the fact that several of the UC campuses already are actively engaged in seeking solutions to the problems.

For every great university there inevitably is a continuous struggle to create an appropriate balance among its various functions. Advanced research and scholarly writing are not always complementary to stimulating teaching. Not all of the most celebrated faculty members have classroom charisma or the ability to inspire a seminar or lecture audience. In evaluating the struggle for balance at UC the faculty group concluded that undergraduate education has been "something of a neglected child."

The remedies for neglect are numerous. Some are obvious, such as having "the most brilliant and effective teachers, regardless of title and rank," play a more active role with undergraduates. Some are complex, such as creating a "core of a core" curriculum that would facilitate both intercampus transfers and transfers into the UC system from the community colleges. Some are technical and potentially costly, including comprehensive teaching training and closer supervision for the graduate teaching assistants who do almost one-third of the undergraduate instruction.

Neil J. Smelser, a sociology professor at Berkeley, has been serving as chairman of the task force and has written the report. As Anne C. Roark, our education writer, reported, it is expected to have a significant effect because it comes from the faculty, and it is the faculty that has the ultimate authority for the curriculum in the UC system.

The university's future has been enhanced by the new commitment of Gov. George Deukmejian to give strong financial support after neglect by his two predecessors. That future will be further enhanced as the regents support these proposals.

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