Letters to the Editor

Letter: TAs not informed of cuts to tutoring program

Monday, September 21, 2009

To the Editor:

We are the head teaching assistants for CSCI 0150: Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science. Our course, Brown’s largest introductory computer science course, previously relied on the Brown University Tutoring Program to offer additional help to our students by making individual tutors available to those in need.  These tutors were mostly current or previous teaching assistants for CSCI 0150, and were able to help students in ways that teaching assistants holding office hours could not. One of us, as a tutor and tutee herself in past years, knows from experience that one-on-one tutoring keeps students motivated and pulls students through a challenging course that they might have otherwise dropped.  And she is not alone — there are undoubtedly many experiences like hers.

We were extremely saddened, disappointed and frustrated when we discovered that Brown was no longer offering one-on-one tutoring, instead forcing everyone into study groups organized by the Dean of the College. We say “discovered” because the Dean of the College never informed our course’s professor at any time that this change, directly affecting our course, would happen. The tutoring@brown.edu address seems to dump e-mail into the void of cyberspace, lacking even an automatic response. The Web site for the tutoring program gives all indications that the program remains unaltered. It still erroneously states that “Brown’s Tutoring Program provides free tutorial support for over two hundred courses in the Brown curriculum.  Every student is eligible for these one-on-one tutoring sessions.” After many failed attempts to get in contact with the program’s coordinator and to access the tutor application form, we discovered a note taped to the door informing us that “Tutoring is changing to Facilitated Study Groups” for a select group of classes.

This means that our students will not be able to receive the extra help they need.  Our class policy does not allow students to work together on projects.  While students previously could work with their tutors on a project’s specific details, these study groups will not allow for the same help.  Additionally, these groups are only being organized for a specific set of classes, and CSCI 0150 and other courses are not listed.

We understand that in these difficult economic times cuts must occur somewhere. We strongly disagree this cut was a wise choice, but the most reprehensible aspect is the total failure to inform the Brown community at large.

Kelly Newton ‘10.5
Alex Unger ’11
Joshua Kaplan ’11

CSCI 0150
Head Teaching Assistants
Sept. 18