Core Changes Finalized

One fewer Core curriculum requirement will greet students in September, and many of them will get to choose which one it is.

Three months after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted unanimously to roll back the number of required Core courses from eight to seven, the Core office has quietly released the new scheme that determines which concentrations are exempt from which core areas. The change was originally proposed by former Dean of Undergraduate Education Susan G. Pedersen ’81-’82.

Many concentrations have denoted lists of areas from which students can choose one exemption.

Chemistry, for example, allows students to opt out of either Historical Studies A, Historical Studies B, Literature and Arts A or Literature and Arts C.

According to Director of the Core Program Susan W. Lewis, the choice of exemption for many concentrations was a difficult decision for the Core office—often leading to more choice for students.

“Nothing is absolutely ideal, but that seemed to best preserve the ideals of the Core. History is no closer to biochemistry than literature,” she said.

Students who have already taken a Core course in an area from which they are exempt have little recourse. Lewis said that exceptions would likely be made only for joint concentrators who want to take an exemption from their secondary field.

Not all students were pleased with the new exemptions.

Emma F. O. Wendt ’03 said she was disappointed that the new exemption in environmental science and public policy is Social Analysis.

She said she already took a Social Analysis course, in addition to the required economics class that would normally count as Social Analysis.

“I guess I just thought it was silly that we were exempt from something we had to take anyway,” she wrote in an email message.

Lewis said that the choice of exemptions was made in consultation with the departments.

“When the fourth exemption was designated, we used the remoteness principle,” she said. “In the sciences, we ran out of things close to the concentration.”

But more choices for students complicates recordkeeping for the registrar. Lewis said that students will likely be asked to fill out forms on registration day in September to choose which exemption they want to take. The form, which is also supposed to be available on the Core curriculum website, would be a non-binding way of helping the registrar keep track of which requirements a student still needs to fulfill.

The new forms have caused technical challenges for the Core office.

“We had to work with the registrar as to what was possible for the registration envelopes,” Lewis said. “We also had to find a person to make a form for the website.”

The full list of exemptions is posted on the Core curriculum website at http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~core/. Although, originally the website gave the impression that the new exemptions apply only to the class of 2006, they in fact apply to all current students.

—Staff writer Jonathan H. Esensten can be reached at esensten@fas.harvard.edu.