This special issue of the Faculty Newsletter is devoted to musings, suggestions, cautions, accolades, critiques, exhortations, complaints, explanations, celebrations, all sparked by the recent report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons. If you have not yet examined the report in detail, the articles here will undoubtedly pique your interest in learning more; if you have studied the report, you will find new angles and consequences revealed here. Above all, you will see thoughtful, responsible, engaged and – in the best sense of the word – optimistic faculty and students grappling with and discussing a topic that is very close to the heart and sense of purpose of the Institute. It's too early to predict where we will end up, but it's safe to say that this is the process by which the best gets better.
The idea for this special issue arose at the October 2006 faculty meeting where the Task Force report was presented.
Subsequently, the faculty chair met with the managing editor of the Newsletter to arrange for a special edition devoted to faculty responses to the report. The Editorial Board of the Newsletter quickly approved the idea, and requests for articles went out. The large number of submissions to this issue of the Newsletter makes it clear that the faculty have much more to contribute and are interested to learn further details about the proposals in the report.
This issue is divided into categories as defined in the Task Force report. Although some articles expressed multiple themes, we tried to place them in areas appropriate to their content, for ease of comparison. The articles are presented alphabetically by author within the individual category.
The need to complete the issue in time to inform ongoing discussion has resulted in its production on the heels of the previous one. We are particularly indebted to our very lean Newsletter staff for stepping up to the challenge. We also thank the individual authors, who not only take credit for most of the content, but also participated in proofing their individual pieces in the final layout to assist us in meeting an extremely tight schedule. We also thank Senior Associate Dean Peggy Enders for invaluable assistance.
Finally, we believe that this issue offers the Faculty Newsletter at its best: as a means for faculty to communicate directly with each other in an unfettered way about topics of importance to the entire Institute community. The contribution of students to the discussion is also most welcome. We are happy to serve as your Newsletter.
Stephen J. Lippard
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