The newly-formed Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) may approve several changes in Harvard curriculum requirements this spring.
At its regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Faculty spent an hour discussing three questions of curriculum reform-posed by Dean May-concerning possible revisions in the Rales Relating to College Studies.
No action was taken on these questions. The purpose of the discussion was to gauge the range of Faculty opinion and assist the CUE in preparing legislation.
The questions were:
Should the Rules continue to prescribe that each candidate for the A.B. fulfill a set of concentration requirements?
Should the Rules continue to prescribe as a prerequisite for the A.B. degree the completion of 16 courses ordinarily to be taken at the rate of four courses a year?
Should the Rules be altered to provide for some mechanism by which students might obtain credit toward an A.B. degree for applied or field work or for work in one of the performing arts?
Alternatives to rigid concentration requirements, May said, could be a concentration in general education or general studies, or the maintenance of requirements for honors candidates only.
"The main advantages of concentration, advanced tutorials, and the senior thesis are not generally for non-honors students anyway," May said. "It seems they could be relieved of concentration requirements without impairing the education of the majority."
May cited the large number of students choosing cross-departmental concentrations and the number rejected form their fist-choice concentrations-90 were rejected from History and Literature and 130 from Social Studies this year-as reasons for more flexible requirements.
Explaining his second question-the four-course rate-May suggested that Harvard might make credit dependent upon exams rather than courses passed.
"However, we must recognize that with greater freedom students may make mistakes," May said.
The third question-credit for field work or work in the arts-May said, involves official sanction of what is already common practice. The 1214 independentstudies approved this year include yoga exercises and illustrating children's books.
"We must first ask the broader question, what kind of college are we supposed to be?" Bruce Chalmers. Master of Winthrop House, said at the meeting. "I believe we should be an educational institution, not merely a passive environment."
"We must not move away from our responsibility to foster educational development," he said. "The discipline of study is learned through the study of a discipline, through study in depth of a field over several years."
Chalmers urged making requirements more demanding, not less. "We may have to look critically at our admission policy," he said, mentioning "the happy bottom quarter" and athletic scholarships.
"A major in Gen Ed as an alternative to individual concentrations seems to build on a weakness, not a strength," Otto Eckstein, professor of Economies, said.
Richard S. Tilden '71. a student member of the CUE, objected to Harvard's "elitist approach." "We all must acknowledge our limitations," he said. "Professors and students are equally ignorant when it comes to veritas."
"College must be a place where we can explore." he said, "not simply produce scholarship for scholarship's sake alone."