Dean Holub Presents "Education and Obligations: The College and Its Undergraduates"

Dean Holub presenting at Colloquium

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By Alix Schwartz, February 25, 2004

On February 5, 2004, Robert C. Holub, Dean of the Undergraduate Division, was the featured speaker at what turned out to be perhaps the most well attended and controversial L&S Colloquium presentation to date.

Dean Holub focused his remarks around mutual obligations on the part of the institution and on the part of the undergraduates who are enrolled in the institution. Beginning with the obligations of the College toward sits students, he emphasized the general theme of access: access to majors, access to required courses, access to faculty, access to advising and access to the kinds of courses required for excellence in a liberal arts education. In connection with this last point he unveiled his plan for a program of Teaching Excellence in the Liberal Arts.

The second half of his talk focused on students' obligations toward the institution. "Berkeley is able to accept for admission only about one of every four freshman applicants," he reminded the audience. "The campus has a responsibility not only to the students who are accepted and eventually enroll, but also to the state to use this scarce resource efficiently."

Holub would like to make "a four-year graduation the norm for the vast majority of our students." He is also in favor of changing the drop deadline. Currently students can wait until the end of the eighth week to drop courses. Holub, concerned about the waste of resources,is exploring the pros and cons of a third-week or fifth-week deadline instead. This prospect has angered some students, while others look forward to improving their odds of gaining access to impacted courses.Before making a final decision about the drop deadline, Dean Holub is consulting widely among students, faculty, and staff.

While acknowledging that the vast majority of students do fulfill their obligations to the College, he emphasized that the changes heis advocating will affect all students: "Not infrequently good students are also affected by the atmosphere we create, the sense that obligations are one-sided, and that gaming the system is acceptable practice."

Dean Holub ended with a vision of mutual obligation, in which students and the institution work together to allow "as many potential and qualified students as possible to enjoy an education at the finest public university anywhere in the world."

The L & S colloquia, which take place once or twice each semester, provide opportunities to learn about and discuss the overarching issues affecting undergraduate education at U C Berkeley. For more information on upcoming or past programs, contact Alix Schwartz at or (510) 642-8378.

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