General Education Committee Changes Status of Nat Sci 36
The Committee on General Education yesterday decided to offer Nat Sci 36, "Biological Determinism," again next year, but decided by a close margin that because of its instructors' grading policies, the course will not count toward Gen Ed requirements.
Richard C. Lewontin '50, Agassiz Professor of Zoology, and Stephen J. Gould, professor of Geology, guarantee students who write a ten-page paper at least a B, while those who write longer papers are eligible for higher grades.
Francis M. Pipkin, associate dean of the Faculty for the Colleges and chairman of the Gen Ed Committee, said yesterday the committee considers Nat Sci 36 essentially a pass-fail course.
Since courses taken pass-fail do not count toward Gen Ed requirements, the committee decided to allow Nat Sci 36 to count only toward distribution requirements.
Gould--himself a member of the committee--said last night he is not happy with the decision, because he said he believes the change will keep many students from taking the course.
"How would you feel if you were teaching the only course in the entire catalogue which has been made unavailable for General Education requirements by fiat?" he said.
"We are being pilloried for being honest. If you say you grade conventionally, you can do whatever you damn well please," Gould said.
Lewontin declined comment last night, because he said he did not know the details of the committee's decision.
The Committee on General Education also passed a resolution yesterday reminding Gen Ed instructors that courses offered under General Education are to be graded "according to traditional Harvard practices."
The committee had examined the grade distribution in a number of Gen Ed courses, and found several courses with distributions similar to and higher than that of Nat Sci 36.
Pipkin said committee members will talk to the instructors of those courses. But in those cases, he said, "It's not a question of grading philosophies.