Student, faculty communication must be improved

Claire Davenport, Staff Writer

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The student to faculty ratio at Tulane is nine to one, and 64 percent of classes contain 20 students or less. Students and teachers, however, are not taking proper advantage of this golden ratio. Despite these optimal numbers, many Tulane students, especially freshmen, feel that their relationships with their professors are decent at best. 

At the recent Student-Faculty Dinner, an open event organized by the Tulane International Society, students got a chance to meet with professors from various academic departments. It was a great opportunity for professors and students to eat and talk in an environment that fostered conversation.

One topic several students mentioned at the dinner was that many of the introductory classes are too big for professors to get to know students, but professors still encourage students to come to office hours despite the supply of office hours being dramatically smaller than the demand for them. At the other end, even in some of the smaller classes professors can sometimes feel distant.

As students progress through courses, they tend to develop deeper relationships with their professors once they move into higher-level classes. When students pick those upper-level courses, instructors know the students are probably more interested in the course, while in introductory classes, students are often taking the course to fulfill a core or major requirement. 

Professors also express more interest in teaching these specialized higher-level courses, which creates a heightened sense of common interest that fosters stronger relationships inside and outside the classroom. 

A second factor is simply the nature of lower-level classes. These classes are generally larger, and it is more likely that the courses will taught as lectures. Students sometimes complain that their professors don’t know them as well as their high school teacher did, even if the class sizes are similar. While this may be true, the essential distinctions between lecture classes and seminar classes contributes to the difference. High school teachers hear their students speak actively and frequently, while lecture-style college courses by nature involve less of this dynamic interaction. 

Both students and faculty seem to want to foster stronger relationships. More events like the Student-Faculty dinner would allow students to communicate their thoughts directly to faculty and staff members. Events like these are essential to the Tulane experience in that they allow students and professors an opportunity to get to know each other outside of the classroom.

Claire Davenport is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at cdavenp@tulane.edu.