Government Department to Launch Review

A committee of five Government faculty members will conduct a comprehensive review of the undergraduate concentration, the second largest at the College, this semester.

The committee, headed by government professor Steven R. Levitsky, plans to hold meetings with concentrators, pre-concentrators, and graduate advisors over the course of the fall semester before submitting its findings in March.

Levitsky identified advising and access to faculty, two potentially weak areas in the large department, as possible subjects of the review.

The review comes at a time when the concentration is facing low student satisfaction ratings. In the senior exit survey of the Class of 2010, the Government Department ranked fourth lowest of all concentrations that provided data, receiving a grade of 3.92 out of 5—significantly below the College mean of 4.18.

But Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch, who is also on the review committee, said it is standard practice for departments to hold periodic reviews of their undergraduate and graduate programs. The reviews, she said, are conducted to “make sure the curriculum fits with the college environment ... and to make sure that it is still current in terms of asking students to learn what’s important in that field.”


“It’s basically time to do a review,” Welch said.

The newly-formed internal committee will follow up on an outside evaluation of both the graduate and undergraduate programs conducted in the spring, according to Welch.

Other members include Professors Eric A. Beerbohm, Jennifer L. Hochschild, and Jeffry A. Frieden.

With 291 concentrators—in addition to undeclared freshmen and sophomores who plan to concentrate in government—handling the needs of individual students has always been a challenge.

“We are not only a big concentration, but also an incredibly diverse concentration,” Levitsky said. “We have students who want to get degrees in political science, we have [Institute of Politics] junkies ... and we have a large number of students who are jocks, who are in here because it affords them a certain amount of flexibility.”

In conducting the review, the committee hopes to learn from Social Studies, a large concentration known to have strong advising, Levitsky said.

The structure of the undergraduate advising program has been particularly scrutinized in recent years. The department switched to a House-based system in 2006 and initiated a peer concentration counselor program last year that went under-utilized.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at —Staff writer Matthew T. Lowe can be reached at


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