Sizing up Tufts

Bacow outlines progress—and challenges for the future

The university has made significant progress toward achieving many of its long-term goals, President Lawrence S. Bacow told the Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty as the academic year drew to a close. But, he said, there is still more work to be done.

“We have made wonderful progress in some dimensions,” Bacow said at the May 19 faculty meeting. He praised the faculty and staff for their work, and, alluding to the health challenge he faced earlier this semester, he quipped, “My heart may have skipped a beat, but Tufts didn’t.”

Among the areas Bacow addressed:
• The university received a record number of applications for admission to the undergraduate Class of ’08. The class promises to be academically outstanding, with SAT scores an average of 40 points above the previous class. In addition, it will be the most diverse class in Tufts history, with students of color accounting for 25 percent of the incoming class.

• Increased support for financial aid is also “helping those talented students who are admitted actually go here,” the president said. New fellowships have helped the university compete for talented graduate students as well. The university is continuing to work toward a need-blind admissions process, and the Board of Trustees is committed to that process, Bacow said.

• On the issue of compensation for faculty, Bacow said, “We are working hard to ensure that our offers are competitive. We have made progress on faculty salaries relative to our peer group.” Saying that he did not want to paint a picture that was “overly rosy,” Bacow said, “I want to recognize progress and recognize when progress needs to be made.”

• While the undergraduate student body has become more diverse, Bacow said he is equally committed to ensuring diversity in the graduate student population as well as in the recruitment of faculty and staff.

Many of the recommendations that were included in the final report from the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience, issued in May 2003, have been implemented, Bacow said. “I made a commitment that this was not just a report that would be put up on a shelf,” he said.

For example, the Summer Scholars program, which provides opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research with faculty mentors, is entering its second year. Construction will begin soon on a café at Tisch Library, and the Tufts High Table, a series of faculty dinners and discussions, was launched last spring. This year’s Commencement included a series of smaller, more personal ceremonies for undergraduates, who were grouped by academic department for their degree ceremonies following the all-university Commencement.

Bacow said he is “looking forward to seeing what the faculty decides to do” with other recommendations in the task force report, specifically those concerning changes in the undergraduate curricula. Among the recommendations are the creation of “intellectual milestone events” for each year of study; a four-year writing curriculum and changes in the Arts and Sciences advising system.