Looking for a reason NOT to attend Harvard, should your Crimson-tinted envelope this spring be a fat one? Well, it seems Harvard undergrads aren't a terribly happy bunch, at least judging by the results of a new survey conducted among a group of 31 colleges known as the Consortium on Financing Higher Education. That group includes the eight Ivy League schools, other elite research universities like MIT and Stanford, and liberal arts colleges such as Amherst and Wellesley.
Here's a bit from an AP story, which draws heavily on a Boston Globe report:
[A] 21-page memo, from staff researchers at Harvard to academic deans, documents student dissatisfaction with faculty availability, quality of instruction, quality of advising, as well as the sense of community and social life on campus.
"Harvard students are less satisfied with their undergraduate educations than the students at almost all of the other COFHE schools," according to the memo, dated October 2004.
On a five-point scale, Harvard's overall student satisfaction comes out to 3.95, compared to an average of 4.16 for the other 30 schools. Only four schools scored lower than Harvard, but the schools were not named in the memo.
Students complain that Harvard lacks places where students can socialize and has so many rules that it is difficult to hold a party on campus, where almost all undergraduates live.
In the classroom, students can go through four years with limited contact with professors. Large lecture classes are divided into sections headed by graduate students. Small classes are frequently taught by temporary instructors. In many cases, advisers are graduate students, administrators or full-time advisers.
And that aptly describes many research universities. Maybe Harvard students expect too much and find that reality falls short of reputation.