The independent news organization of Duke University

Two compete for academic affairs vice presidency

Engineering freshman Drew Ensign, a candidate for Duke Student Government vice president for academic affairs, views the position as a messenger for students' concerns to the administration. Specifically, Ensign said that although both the current curriculum and Curriculum 2000 are superb, many areas still need improvement.

Based on frequent student complaints about lower-level math courses, Ensign-a legislator on the academic affairs committee-targets such classes for reform. Although some grievances are inevitably linked to the subject matter, he said, "this level of dissatisfaction certainly should be looked at."

He also said that one of academic affairs' main goals next year will be to ensure a smooth transition to Curriculum 2000, which the Arts and Sciences Council passed Jan. 14. Ensign said that it is important to look at course structure and area of knowledge allocation.

Ensign also said he hopes to reform the course credit system to give more credit to lab courses.

But Trinity junior Ben Kennedy, current vice president for academic affairs, said that although he also once thought such a change feasible, any drastic transformation of the credit system would require a significant amount of administrative work and support.

In addition, Ensign said he wants to increase the funding for the preceptorial program originally started by Kennedy and John Burk, Trinity '98.

As a member of the Student Organization Finance Committee, Ensign said, he has a good background on how funds are allocated to the University's student groups. But some members of the committee offered Ensign only lukewarm support.

"He does his job respectably," said Trinity sophomore and SOFC member John Druckman, but added, "He isn't one of the most outspoken members of the committee."

Ensign also said students should know which professors are undergoing tenure review, and have a chance to voice their opinions informally-but not officially-on specific faculty members.

"I think it may be overly antagonistic to try and forcibly involve students in the process," he said.

He further emphasized that DSG must support and improve current forums for collecting student input, such as the Duke Undergraduates Evaluate Teaching online course rating system.

Ensign has spent much of this year working on the main DSG web site and he said he would be interested in creating an online feedback system for evaluating academic life at the University.

Outgoing Vice President for Academic Affairs Ben Kennedy said that one of the main issues that next year's vice president will face is the Honor Code; Ensign said that he generally favors non-proctored exams, which could be brought about by a stronger code.

Ensign also agreed with Kennedy that the dean's excuse policy is inconsistent with the Honor Code and that all sickness excuses should be handled between individual students and their professors.

"The honor code by definition means that people should be trusted to say whether they are indeed sick," Ensign said.

Kennedy was elected to the position as a freshman, and said Ensign should not be rejected simply because he is a relative newcomer.

"He's got a lot of experience and enough experience to do the job," he said.

Ensign agreed, saying that his interpersonal skills are not diminished because he is new to the school. "As a freshman, you're no less able to work with people," he said.

Several legislators on the academic affairs committee said that because they do not know Ensign well, they could not comment on his leadership style.

Comments