James Brock, Philip Cottell, Thomas Hall, William R. Hart, Gerald Miller, Miami University Faculty

We appreciate that Denise Krallman and Andrea Bakker take our concerns seriously enough to respond to them, but we find their two rebuttals unpersuasive.

First, they state: “Contrary to Brock et al.’s assertion, a class of 200 students who meet together would be counted as a class of 200. Breakout sections, where students are indeed meeting in classes of 20, would be counted separately as 10 sections of 20 students each.”

But this is exactly what we said in writing that a class of 200 students is counted as including 10 sections of 20 students each. We think we’re all saying the same thing: Such a class would be counted as one section of 200 students plus 10 more sections of 20, making it seem as though 400 students are involved and that half of them are enrolled in small classes when, in fact, there are 200 students involved and all of them are enrolled in a large class.

Second, they state: “Offices and departments across the university use a variety of methods to examine students’ engagement with their education, with an emphasis on students’ behaviors and the activities they participate in.”

But this is to engage in the Vietnam War Fallacy, where the Pentagon generated truckloads of statistics demonstrating we were winning the war when, in reality, we were losing it where it counted, on the ground.

The administration can do all the surveying in the world but, as we asked, if our students are so engaged in learning, how come we have to push so many of them so hard to get them to attend class, to complete assignments on time, to use office hours, and to not take off days early before breaks and holidays? 

If they are so engaged why do they seem to view “break-out” sections of large classes taught by grad students as a way for faculty to spend less time in the classroom with less student-faculty engagement? 

Facts matter, but reality matters more.  If more of our administrators taught undergraduate classes and weren’t so removed from the teaching enterprise at the core of the university, they might appreciate this distinction between statistics and reality.

Hopefully, this exchange can begin a dialogue on the actual state of undergraduate education at Miami and what needs to be done to address it. Who knows, a leader might even come out to provide some leadership on a matter so vital to this particular university.

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