Regarding the Wabash Report

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Dear Students,

We are sorry. Having shared the Wabash Report with the full faculty, but not sharing it with you, our students, we realize we have created confusion and anger and caused many of you to question whether or not the College is truly committed to transparency. Despite our mistake, we would like to assure you that we will do better moving forward. So that we may listen to your concerns and respond to your questions, we will hold a community-wide forum for students, faculty, and staff at 5:15 p.m., Wednesday, March 29, in the Platt Living Room. We hope that you will join us so we can begin to have a broader conversation about the curriculum and workload.

For decades now, this College has grappled with issues around the curriculum and workload. When the faculty revised the Core Curriculum in 2010, it was believed by many that this revision would provide the much needed space for our students to have greater flexibility to pursue additional interests—either through co-curricular activities or through greater choice in electives earlier in the curriculum. At the time, we heard concerns from both sides. There were some faculty who felt that even with these changes, the College hadn’t gone far enough to address both student and faculty workload concerns. There were other faculty and alumni who thought we were reducing the rigor that had become a hallmark of HMC and thereby reducing the quality of the education we provide. While we believe many improvements came from that core revision, we know that we are far from solving our workload balance problems.

In considering workload and the curriculum, the College’s Teaching and Learning Committee commissioned consultants from the Center for Inquiry of Liberal Arts to conduct focus groups of students and faculty to identify strategies that would help support students as they move through the curriculum. This study, the Wabash Report, was meant to help us understand, in the words of the charge to the consultants, “the complex connections between challenges students face in our curriculum, the way self-worth is tied to academic performance, and the rise of honor code infractions.” The TLC hoped to gather honest input to identify issues that could inform a fuller evaluation and wider dialogue. As part of the process, student and faculty participants in the focus groups were in some cases promised confidentiality and in all cases anonymity.

Given the unexpected specificity and rawness of some of the comments that were shared during the conversations, there was reluctance to release the full report to the student body. We had a number of concerns about the validity of using the comments as representative of the full faculty and student body given the small number of interviewees. We worried that by releasing the full report, students would incorrectly believe these comments were reflective of how the majority of faculty members felt. We recognize that in retrospect, the choice to not share the full report with our students was wrong. We hope that with the appropriate context, the Wabash Report will be viewed as a call to action. We have remarkable and talented students, and we have a faculty that is committed to supporting them as they work their way through our challenging curriculum. As we continue toward our goal of evaluating the curriculum and workload, we need to be aware that we, as a community, will have to have many difficult and painful conversations. Real change is never easy.

Although this was a misstep, we see it as an opportunity to commit to a more transparent and productive process of reviewing the curriculum as we move forward. We hope to see you at the forum on Wednesday.

Jeff Groves
Dean of the Faculty

Patrick Little
Chair of the Faculty

Maria Klawe