Students Ponder Proposal For Core

Most students have strong--if mixed--feelings about the Core changes the Faculty is likely to approve tomorrow.

The proposed changes include adding a QRR class requirement and mandating a minimum of six classes in each Core area every semester. The changes would affect the class of 2002.

Other reforms, which are expected not to pass, include ending Core class exemptions for AP test scores, adding prerequisites for certain Core classes and creating as many small, professor-taught classes as resources allow.

A QRR Class?

A majority of students interviewed strongly opposed the proposal to replace the QRR test with a class requirement.

"I don't see the point. If you take the test [and pass], you already know what you would learn in a class anyway," said Betsy A. Herbin '99. "Plus, it's completely boring, and it's not going to do you any good in life. It would just be wasting a lot of time."

Several students said a QRR class would be "ridiculous."

"I think [the QRR] is just ridiculous and is just an example of Harvard's paternalism," said Paul H. Freedman '98.

He said students have too few electives under the current system. "The electives are the best part," he said. "That's when people let down their guard and really learn."

"It would just be another class preventing me from taking classes I really want to take," said Chris R. Hall '99.

Other students said the current QRR tested sufficient knowledge in the field, making a semester-long class extraneous. But a minority of students said the material tested by the QRR doesn't represent relevant math or statistics.

"I'm actually in favor of a math requirement," said Demian A. Ord- way '99, a math and physics concentrator. "I don't think that anyone learns anything from the QRR."

Ralph E. Vatner '99 supported the proposal because it levels the Core distribution between the humanities and sciences.

"Science majors are already shafted by the current system because there are only two science Cores," he said.

Lowell resident Rudd W. Coffey '97 said that while a QRR class may not be among the most interesting, it will fulfill the requirement better than the current examination.

"I basically think that Core reform is great in terms of the flexibility they're going to be allowing students," Coffey said. "People here need more exposure to statistical methods."

More Core Options

All interviewed students praised the proposal that would mandate a minimum of 6 classes in each subject area of the Core every semester.

Students said this measure would offer them more academic flexibility in terms of meeting both scheduling needs and intellectual desires.

"Offering six classes in each area is key because I don't want to get stuck taking a Core I'm not interested in due to lack of selection," said Michael J. Ewart '00.

Smaller Classes

Students had mixed reactions to the proposal for more small classes taught by professors.

Many felt that under the current system, professors seem distant. They welcomed the chance to interact with Faculty.

"I need a higher-quality education which would be provided by smaller faculty-taught classes," said Alper Afya '00. "I don't want Harvard to be number three again."

But some students praised large lecture classes, and some students were concerned that demanding professors to teach smaller classes in the Core would be a disincentive to teach at Harvard.

AP Tests

Students strongly and unanimously opposed ending Core exemptions based on high Advanced Placement (AP) test scores.

"Refusing to give credit for APs is ridiculous because if you have already demostrated your knowledge in the subject, there is no point in taking it again," said Deborah A. Abeles '00.

Students also disliked the proposal for pre-requisites for some Core classes, because it seemed contrary the Core's mission.

"Prerequisites completely contradict the idea behind the Core because it limits your choice of classes in areas that you are interested in because you have no background," said Sarah H. Brierley '00.

Whither Reform?

Many students said the addition of a QRR class was not how they had envisioned the direction of Core reform.

"When [students] said, 'Reform the Core,' I don't think they meant this," said Joseph J. (J.J.) Kardwell '98.

Most upperclass students said they expected Core reform to allow them to substitute appropriate departmental courses for Core requirements.

"The most important issue that continues to be ignored is the counting of departmental classes for Core requirements," said Tom J. Roberts '99