College houses develop seminars for fall

from The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 9, 1997
page 2
By Michael Brus

Ever dream of going to class in your robe and slippers?

Four new college house seminars - created by the many of the same students who will take them - offer the opportunity of studying offbeat topics by literally rolling out of bed.

Held in the seminar room of each participating college house, the courses range from the expected - W.E.B. DuBois College House's "Past, Present, and Future of Africans in America" to the wacky Stouffer College House's "'Weird' and 'Eccentric' Unusual Individuals in the History of the Philadelphia Area."

The courses, which are not listed in the fall 1997 course and room roster are open primarily to residents of the respective houses, and will be open to the general student body if they do not fill up.

But English Professor AI Filreis said that probably only the DuBois course will be open to outside students.

"Three of the four courses are all ready to run in terms of enrollment," he said.

Filreis, who chairs the Residential Faculty Council, said the seminars - new this fall - are the brainchild of the College and the RFC.

"What's new in these courses is they're student created," he said "We assumed this would work in the small houses."

Each house devised its seminar differently. Ware College House, for example, invited teaching assistants to present course proposals to the house council. The winner - "Health and Society" - beat a course on the medical philosophy of Ware alumnus William Carlos Williams.

Van Pelt residents decided to create their course from scratch and then search for an instructor. After developing "Student Movements in the Political Process," the house council recruited English graduate student Victor Tulli, who is writing his thesis on a related topic.

Tulli said he intends to "theorize how and why we think about student protests the way we do."

DuBois's house council molded its course so that it could be taught by DuBois Faculty Master and Education Professor Howard Stevenson.

"[The course is] a way to connect social issues of black empowerment, reform and social psychology," Stevenson said. "It's about giving back to the neighborhood."

Stouffer's house council developed its course along with faculty master and German Professor Karl Otto.

"'Weird' and 'Eccentric"' was actually the council's third proposal, behind a course on bias in the media and one on cult films.

" [But] part of the problem was finding profs who could teach the courses and who were willing to teach them," Otto said. "The compensation wasn't anywhere near what you'd expect."

Unable to find an instructor for its first two choices, Stouffer decided to offer its last choice, which Otto felt qualified to teach.

"Anyone who has studied literature, psychology and sociology has some idea" of the course's themes, he said. "I don't think you could ever be trained fully to teach a course like this because it is so interdisciplinary."

Filreis acknowledged the material disincentives of teaching a college house seminar. Not only must instructors teach the seminars on top of their regular course loads, they are paid at the rate of College of General Studies instructors - far lower than they would receive teaching College courses.

But Filreis said there are intangible benefits to teaching these courses, such as the chance to teach a different type of subject matter.

"[The students] want to do this because it's exciting," he said. "When you live together [with classmates] there are all kinds of add-ons. The course becomes a part of the conversation around the house."


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Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Rescoll/coll-house-seminars.html
Last modified: Monday, 09-Jun-1997 23:12:27 EDT