Core at Eight-Year Low
Number of Course Offerings Remains Small Despite Reform
Some of the most talked-about news on campus last year was the reform of the Core program, but you wouldn't know it to look at the Core section of this year's course catalog, which has changed little in either size or content.
One of the most concrete provisions a promise of six courses in each area per term, is no closer to being achieved than it was when it was conceived.
There are 85 courses offered in the Core this year, an eight-year low, despite previous assurances that this year would improve on last year's low of 86.
Director of the Core Program Susan W. Lewis, who promised more courses after last year's low, acknowledges that selection and over-crowding remain a problem.
"I think students will appreciate more choice," Lewis says. "That's one thing that students have quite rightly complained about in the past."
Members of the Committee on the Core Program say that it will take some time before each Core subdivision achieves the total goal of 120 courses for the current 10 subdivisions of the Core.
Last year, when the Core offerings hit 86, Lewis attributed the low number to year-to-year fluctuation, caused by Faculty leaves, differing teaching responsibilities and other factors.
In a fax last year, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles promised twice to "try harder" and "work harder" to increase offerings. Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel echoed Knowles' sentiment at the time, saying the committee of the Core he chairs was "working hard to assure there will be more next year."
Moral Reasoning, which had only three offerings last year, offers six options this year.
Although there is still a low number of Core offerings this year, the distribution is more even, with no area reaching the paucity in last year's Moral Reasoning offerings.
The year before, the Core had hit a 10-year high of 105 courses offered (see graphic, this page).
Since the Faculty decision came at the end of the last academic year, the Committee on the Core Program is only beginning to recruit for courses under the new requirements, Lewis says.
"The subcommittee chairs are going to be recruiting for Cores quite heavily this year," she says.
Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles noted that such substantial changes as have been outlined in the new plan will require a great deal of work before they can be fully realized.
"Course development (especially new course development) is very time-consuming, of course, but we shall do everything we can," Knowles writes in a fax.
Major League Expansion?
Dean of the Division of Applied Sciences Paul C. Martin '51 agreed that no predictions about potential yields could be determined at this time.
"Not before next year," he says. "Exactly what will happen and when will depend on what happens over the course of this year. You can't tell the first week of the term."
But Pope Professor of Latin Language and Literature Richard J. Tarrant, who teaches Literature and Arts C-61: "The Rome of Augustus," was hopeful about Core growth, predicting "students will see a few more new offerings next year."
Tarrant said the number of Core courses is not the Faculty's only concern. Although new guidelines will allow more departmental courses to count for Core credit, courses still must undergo a rigorous approval process to ensure that the Core philosophy is maintained.
"They wanted it to be as rigorous as the process has been before," he says. "We will look for departmental courses which could either be redesignated as Core courses, or remain departmental courses but count for the Core."
Tarrant says one additional advantage of the reform will be increased cooperation between the Core program and the departments.
In the past, departments were not very involved with the Core program. A closer working relationship, he says, could generate more Core possibilities.
"The contact was usually between the committee and the individual Faculty member and the department doesn't have much to do with it," Tarrant says.
"A closer relationship with the Core is to everyone's advantage," he says. "I think we're going to look at the curriculum in a more comprehensive way and bring [the departments and the Core program] into the same perspective."
The increased course choice will be the only aspect to affect current students.
The new QRR subdivision, which will replaced the current statistics test all undergraduates are required to take, will not be implemented until the 1999-2000 school year.
This year, approximately 70 percent of the first-year class placed out of the QRR requirement in the first test, which is standard. There are subsequent exams which students can also use to place out of the class requirement.
In keeping with the Core reform proposals passed by the Faculty in May, as soon as enough course offerings exist to create a Quantitative Reasoning Requirement area, it will become a class requirement and the test-out option will be eliminated.
"There's a lot of Faculty interest in the QRR area," Lewis says. "That's one area where I have heard some discussion [of new courses]."