Bold moves

Task force work producing a more vibrant undergraduate experience

In the year since a task force analyzed ways to strengthen the undergraduate experience at Tufts, the university has made significant progress toward implementing the group’s recommendations.

James M. Glaser, dean of undergraduate education and a member of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience, said 27 of the 37 recommendations included in the task force’s May 2003 report have been addressed in some fashion.

“The university has been emboldened by the task force report,” Glaser said. “It’s nice to see our efforts validated, to see the goals set by the task force embraced and to be seeing results.”

The task force was established in 2001 by President Lawrence S. Bacow to provide a comprehensive evaluation of undergraduate life and education at Tufts and to make recommendations on how to enhance undergraduates’ experience.

Some of the suggestions—such as changes in curricula or academic requirements—will require more time for discussion. Others, such as establishing a need-blind admissions policy, depend on financial considerations.

“I’m very confident that in the end, there will be substantial change on a huge majority of the recommendations,” Glaser said. “In time…Tufts will offer an even more enriched experience to undergraduates.”

Three major accomplishments have been the establishment of the Summer Scholars program, which offers undergraduates research opportunities at the university’s schools and affiliated hospitals; a revamped commencement format that this year featured smaller, individualized ceremonies following the main exercises; and the opening of the Tower Café at Tisch Library to serve as a gathering place for students and faculty.

While the establishment of a full-fledged “college system” for residential life, as envisioned by the task force, may not be within reach, the university has established several first-year dorms, which have become extremely popular with entering students. This year, Tilton and Houston halls house first-year students, and there is demand for more.

Also, it is expected that the structure of the class deans will change in the near future to a “vertical” set-up in which students will remain with the same dean for all four undergraduate years.

Progress on some of the other recommendations includes:

The Academic Resource Center is offering equipment and courses to help students improve oral communication.

The faculty Educational Policy Committee is discussing the proposed four-year writing program.

An ad hoc committee is reviewing the foreign language, culture option and world civilization requirements and will give its report at the end of the academic year.

A “research clearinghouse” will go online this semester.

The Richard E. Snyder Presidential Lecture series, designed to enhance the intellectual climate outside the classroom, begins this month.

“A university is a living thing,” Glaser said. “It always has to continue to change and evolve. If it doesn’t, it’s worse than getting stale. It can’t survive.”

The task force update is available at