The Faculty of Arts and Sciences yesterday voted overwhelmingly to approve Dean Rosovsky's Core Curriculum proposal, initiating the first extensive reform of Harvard's undergraduate curriculum in a generation.
The 182-65 vote authorized the gradual introduction, over the next four years, of Core courses that will replace the current system of General Education--the set of non-concentration requirements established in the wake of World War II.
The Faculty voted in the plan after rejecting a substitute proposal by William H. Bossert '59, McKay Professor of Applied Mathematics, that would have set up a program of major and minor concentration requirements instead of the Core.
Yesterday's hour-and-a-half-long meeting was perfunctory, reflecting Rosovsky's desire that the Faculty finish the Core debate before the end of the academic year. The meeting was the third since the Faculty took up the Core plan in March.
Before considering the Bossert and Core proposals, the Faculty debated an amendment by David G. Hughes '47, Mason Professor of Music, and Frederick H. Abernathy, McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering, that would have allowed students the option of filling alternate plans of study, subject to their tutor's approval, during the four-year phasing-in period leading to full implementation of the Core.
Abernathy, who seconded the amendment, said it would allow Harvard to cater to the needs of "our most highly trained and motivated students," by letting them avoid Core areas that they might already have covered in advanced high-school courses.
However, the full Faculty followed the lead of the Faculty Council--which unanimously rejected the amendment at its last meeting--and defeated the amendment by a show of hands.
The debate over the Bossert proposal was brief. Bossert apologized to the Faculty "for taking your time on a matter which, I am told, and which I believe, has little chance of success."
He reiterated his opposition to the assumption that the Faculty could determine a set of courses representing knowledge that all students should be required to know. He added that he would prefer "a Core faculty" of professors who would impart their own views and perceptions to students, rather than a rigidly-defined set of Core courses.
"If you tell me that Professor (Walter Jackson) Bate is going to teach a course, I don't care if you call it 'Moral Philosophy' or 'Basketweaving'--I know it will be 'The Age of Johnson'," Bossert said.
Samuel H. Beer, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, spoke against Bossert's proposal, saying the Core proposal "has too much promise to be given up now."
"The thing to do in the next few years is to go after the courses designed for non-concentrators," Beer added. "Beat the bushes, scour the countryside, cast pearls before swine--get those courses."
The Faculty then decisively defeated the Bossert proposal by a show of hands.
Rosovsky began the debate on the motion authorizing implementation of the Core plan by asking the Faculty not to vote against the Core out of doubt that it could be effectively implemented.
"I ask you to have faith in the process, in what we are trying to do," he said. "I ask you to believe that we can surmount problems of implementation."
The debate that followed Rosovsky's statement lasted only 11 minutes.
President Bok then asked for a show of hands, and at 5:29 p.m., at the Science Center B meeting, Charles P. Whitlock, associate dean of the Faculty, announced the final tally.
Rosovsky, speaking at a press conference after the meeting, called the Faculty vote "an IOU from the Faculty to students," which will be paid off when the Core is fully implemented.
"Our Faculty has found common ground--not unanimity, but a great deal of common ground" on which to build a new curriculum, Rosovsky added. "That gives me a great deal of satisfaction."
Rosovsky said he was "mildly optimistic" before the vote, and was "very pleasantly surprised" by the final 3-1 margin of victory.
"I never underestimated the magnitude of the task of getting the Harvard Faculty to agree to something educational," he added.
Bok said he reacted to the vote with "enormous relief and delight."
When asked if he would like to have been able to attend Harvard after implementation of the Core, Rosovsky--a graduate of William and Mary College--smiled and said that he never graduated from Harvard in the first place.
Bok said the Core "represents a vast improvement over what I was exposed to in college--but then, I didn't go to Harvard, either.