Bacow’s appearance comes just days after Dean of FAS Michael D. Smith’s announcement he will step down from his position as soon as Harvard can find his successor. In an email Monday, University president Drew G. Faust wrote Bacow will take charge of the search Smith's replacement and will use it as an opportunity to learn more about the “hopes and views” of FAS affiliates. Bacow’s solicitation of feedback from the Faculty Council—FAS’s highest governing body—marks one way in which he is carrying out Faust's words.
Council member David L. Howell called the Faculty Council's conversation with Bacow “philosophical” and said the discussion took up the bulk of the meeting. The Council considered issues the new dean would face and the qualities they wanted to see in the next dean.
Howell said he believes one of the most pertinent issues is the current devaluation of higher education in the country.
“We have that tax on the endowment and some people sort of questioning the purpose of higher education and the role of universities in society,” Howell said. “We were thinking about those sorts of challenges going forward.”
In December, Congress voted to levy a 1.4 percent tax on returns from University endowments that met a certain threshold of endowment money per student, including Harvard.
The Council also discussed preliminary plans to revamp the Q Guide, an evaluation system students use to give feedback on professors and courses. Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser presented about this topic, informing the Council that FAS will update the Q Guide’s software—a move that may permit other changes to the evaluation process, too.
Howell said the Council discussed altering the Q Guide so that questions would be better tailored to specific departments and courses.
“I think the idea is to have a system that both encourages students to respond and to make it easy and appealing to comment more because the comments, rather than the numerical scores, are—at least from the faculty point of view—a very valuable part of the evaluation,” he said.
The Council also voted in favor of a proposal from the Business School to create a new Ph.D. program in Business Administration. The general Faculty will hear the proposal at their meeting in April.
The next full Faculty meeting will be held Tuesday, April 3.
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.