The University should allow graduate students to substitute individual study for the regular courses they are now forced to take, John Peterson Elder, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, maintained last night.
"Taking courses in graduate school is on the whole a bad thing," Elder told an informal gathering at Harkness Commons. A directed program of auditing and reading would enable students both to learn more and "to develop a sense of responsibility and self-confidence," he said.
This plan would abolish formal grades for graduate students. The marking system has always been unsatisfactory, Elder pointed out, since in most cases it provides only a comparison with other students in a course.
Elder also criticized as "shocking" the present process for obtaining Ph.D. degrees. He proposed that the requirements for the doctorate be lowered, enabling students to earn their degrees in less time.
He maintained that in most fields students could take their general examinations at the end of three years of graduate work and could write their doctoral theses during their fifth year. At present, graduates in Humanities take from four to nine years to earn their degree, in Social Sciences from four to eight years, and in Natural Sciences about four years.
Graduate students, moreover, should be allowed to substitute a shorter scholarly article for the doctoral thesis, Elder recommended. "We have too many dissertations resembling long books," he said.
Elder expressed the hope that the GSAS could increase its scholarship benefits soon, especially to students in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Study in the Natural Sciences is already extensively financed by organizations such as the National Sciences Foundation. Grants in various corporations have also supplied funds in this field.
"I think we will get something from the Ford Foundation soon," he revealed, adding "This isn't only a guess."