A Declaration of Intellectual Independence
Writes and Wrongs
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all students are created equal, that they are endowed by the University with certain unalienable rights, that among these are choice, intellectual stimulation and at least eight electives. That to secure these rights, curricular guidelines are instituted among Faculty, deriving their just powers from the consent of the student body. That whenever any Core Curriculum becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Students to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Curriculum, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Intellectual Freedom and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Curriculum long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that students are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Curriculum, and to provide new Guards for their future intellectual stimulation. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Students; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former curricular guidelines. The history of the present Core Curriculum is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the schedules of students. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
The Administration has steadily increased in size and encroached on students’ elective choices, such that when combined with Expository Writing and Language requirements it can take up to 11 half-courses to complete.
It has refused our petitions for departmental alternatives, even when the “approach to knowledge” used is identical, the syllabus is similar, and the professor is the same.
It has diminished the quality of our intellectual experience: by forcing us into large lecture classes, by watering down the content of what we are taught, by subjecting us to uninterested and underprepared TFs, and by subjecting us to uninterested and underprepared fellow students.
It has been unable to meet old guidelines for reform, offering 12 or more classes in only three areas this year when in 1997 it was declared that all areas should maintain this basic level of offerings.
It has tried to appease us with new guidelines for incremental reform that still do not address the fundamental problems of its philosophy and implementation.
It has failed to move with the times, refusing to acknowledge that an “approaches to knowledge” method of learning is outdated and inconsistent with a university where now more than ever academic work is inter or cross-disciplinary.
It has fallen from academic grace, losing its formerly innovative image and acquiring the criticism of students, faculty and administrators alike.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. An Administration whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free student body.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Faculty brethren. We have warned them from time-to-time of attempts by their Core Committee to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our matriculation here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common interest in intellectual advancement to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Renunciation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of academia, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the Harvard Student Body, appealing to the Supreme Judge of academia for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good Students of this University, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Students are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Core Curriculum, and that all academic connection between them and the Core Curriculum, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent Students, they have full Power to choose electives, reject large classes, pursue intellectual stimulation, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Students may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of our inflated grades, we mutually pledge to each other our Minds, our Diplomas and our academic Honor.
Lauren E. Baer ’02 is a social studies concentrator in Dunster House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.