January 22, 2010

Knudson gives misleading impression of anthropology department

Article strikes unhelpful tone in addressing departmental problems

“The bitter end” (1/12/10) was an unintelligible piece riddled with a number of factual inaccuracies and was unproductive in addressing issues that exist within the [anthropology] department. Marshall described the major as a neglected hodgepodge of courses, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Courses in various areas are offered every quarter and numerous professors, including the head of the department, are available through easily accessed, scheduled office hours to help guide undergraduates to form their own experience. This is required of faculty in the department and should be readily known to the undergraduate population. Undergraduates frequently feel as if certain times do not fit their own personal schedules, but this does not change the fact that times to sit down and talk with these professors do exist for everyone interested.

The graduate students that do teach courses do a fine job and frequently receive rave reviews in evaluations. The graduate students from the department go on to professorships at other elite universities based largely on these reviews. Perhaps they are inarticulate after reading papers written by the likes of Marshall, but they represent the department and University well. It is not a coincidence that the placement of our graduate student population into full professorships surpasses that of most peer institutions. Marshall also lacks any basis for claiming the existence of a “creeping audit culture,” which he used to attempt to further this argument. There are no official statistics of this kept for Marshall to base this on and in all of the anthropology courses I have taken or TA’d, I can count the number of auditors on one hand. All-in-all, this is just another baseless statement from Marshall.

Problems do exist within the department and must be addressed, but in a productive manner. Undergraduates currently fund the graduate department, which creates problems as select faculty wish to work predominantly with the graduate department versus those who fund a large portion their salaries. The department has numerous things to be proud about, but this should be looked at if it looks to remain the leading undergraduate department in the country. We should create dialogue, offer new solutions, name those causing problems within the department—not write unintelligible diatribes with irrelevant metaphors that take away from undergraduate credibility.

Evan Scott

Class of 2010