Registrar Identifies Biggest Classes

When it comes to picking Core classes, Harvard students tend to be risk averse.

Preliminary figures show that last fall's two most popular courses, Social Analysis 10, "Principles of Economics" and Moral Reasoning 22, "Justice," have taken the top slots again this year.

Social Analysis 10, usually called Ec 10, has 805 students this year, according to preliminary course enrollment numbers released by the Office of the Registrar last week. Justice is a close second with 754.

Judith A. Li, an assistant professor of economics who teaches Ec 10 along with Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61, says that despite the class's large lecture size, most of the basic skills introduced in Ec 10 are taught in smaller sections of about 20 students.

"Our goal for the course is to provide students with a solid and comprehensive foundation in economics," Li wrote in an e-mail message. "By taking a course like Ec 10, they will be better able to evaluate government policies and political proposals on their own."

The course is particularly popular among first-year students, many of whom are considering economics as a potential concentration.

"I really enjoy the lectures," Leah E. Wahba '04 said. "It's an honor to be in Marty Feldstein's class because he has so much extensive experience in the field of economics."

Students in Justice also said that lectures are their favorite facet of the course.

"Sandel manages to have a conversation with 800 people. That's talent!" Jessica R. Stannard-Friel '04 said.

"Michael Sandel just blew me away," said Michael W. Nitsch '04, who initially shied away from the course's large lecture format. "The feeling and the excitement of the lecture hall were so wonderful that I couldn't think of giving it up."

Harvard College Professor and Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel echoed his students' enthusiasm, describing the course as a "great joy."

"Despite the size of the class, students have a chance to argue back--with me and with each other--about hard moral and philosophical questions," Sandel wrote in an e-mail message. "This gives the course its energy and spontaneity."

Over the last four years, Ec 10 and Justice have been among the top choices for undergraduates, with enrollment consistently ranging between 700 and 1,000.

But another course in the top 10 has seen its enrollment double over last year's total.

Government 1540, "The American Presidency" increased from 152 students in 1999 to 298 students in 2000, catapulting it into ninth place.

"The looming presidential election may well have stimulated increased interest in the American Presidency course this year," said Roger B. Porter, IBM professor of business and government at the Kennedy School of Government.

"It is an encouraging sign that students are actively engaged in the electoral process," he added.

The course, which examines the American political system from the vantage point of the presidency, interests government concentrators and non-concentrators alike with its focus on the president's decision-making and managerial duties.

Aaron G. Dumas '03 said he admired Porter's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm.

"People stand around in line after class for 15 minutes just waiting for a chance to talk to him," he said.

Other popular courses this year include General Education 105, "The Literature of Social Reflection," Science B-29, "Human Behavioral Biology" and Literature and Arts C-42, "Constructing the Samurai."