Faculty Urged to Challenge Talented Student Body

Faculty Urged to Challenge Talented Student Body

Annual Faculty Day event highlights rise in quality of undergraduates

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Freshmen entering Boston College this fall are members of the University's strongest class ever and faculty must be ready to challenge them, said speakers at the annual Faculty Day event held May 3 in Gasson Hall.

But as they help to shape the new Boston College, faculty are also being asked to recapture the closeness and collegiality that characterized the University of old.

An audience of more than 100 turned out to hear University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John Neuhauser report on the changing face of Boston College. The University, said Fr. Leahy and Neuhauser, continues to attract gifted students and faculty who are pushing BC to ever higher standards of excellence.

Faculty Day also included the announcement of the 1999-2000 Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards.

Fr. Leahy called Boston College a "desired environment" in which to do intellectual work. But as the quality of students increases, he said, the University must ensure they are being effectively challenged to use the full measure of their talents and abilities.

"We must ask about our standards," said Fr. Leahy. "We will be reviewing the academic demands that we put on our students to be sure we are challenging them academically."

Neuhauser reported that the 2,191 members of the class of 2004 were selected from an applicant pool of approximately 21,000. As evidence of BC's increasing attractiveness, he noted 400 fewer applicants were offered admission this year, yet the size of the entering class is only seven less than that of a year ago.

The University's yield, or percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll, improved by 1 percent from last year to 34 percent for the Class of 2000, Neuhauser said. BC's selectivity, he added, also increased: The University admitted 32 percent of applicants this year, compared to 35 percent last year.

"It bodes very well for the health of the University," said Neuhauser.

Fr. Leahy also gave updates on the state of BC's physical plant, including proposed changes to the five-year master plan that call for additional campus housing for 800 students. This will be accomplished in part through renovating Upper Campus residence halls and moving offices out of Lower Campus dormitories once a new administrative building is constructed behind O'Neill Library.

Other changes will include an addition to Robsham Theater and the development of new athletic facilities to bring Boston College in compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Association Title IX regulations. Fr. Leahy also reported that the renovation and expansion of Higgins Hall is scheduled to be complete in September of 2001.

Guest speaker University Historian Thomas H. O'Connor, who joined the faculty 50 years ago, described how the changes Boston College has experienced throughout the last century have mirrored the changes within its faculty. But although there are benefits to greater size and diversity, and commitment to research and scholarly excellence, O'Connor warned, there also lies the risk of "fragmentation" and a loosening of collegial ties. He urged a return to the spirit of community that typified the University's faculty in previous generations.

"It was customary at one time to refer to Boston College as a family," he said, recalling a period when the faculty had a club and weekend-long teaching retreats were offered, which served as opportunities to foster relationships with other faculty members.

O'Connor recommended his colleagues make use of the University's many social opportunities, such as theatrical and musical performances, museum exhibits and sporting events, to foster out-of-classroom relationships.


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