Faculty Examine Gen Ed Report

Curricular Review suggestions could come to faculty vote in January

Members of the Faculty Council—the 18-member governing body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—considered a draft version of the General Education report for the Harvard College Curricular Review at their meeting yesterday.

According to a copy viewed by The Crimson last month, the draft report recommends replacing the current Core Curriculum, which includes 11 areas of study, with three broad subjects—Arts and Humanities, Study of Societies, and Science and Technology. Students will be required to take three courses in each of the two areas furthest from their concentration. Alternatively, students can take year-long “portal” courses to fulfill the requirement for one of the new general education divisions.

The current draft of the report was composed by five members of the 16-member General Education committee.

The five members, known as the “Gang of Five,” met and exchanged e-mails over the summer to produce the report, after a draft written by the full committee last spring received scathing criticism from the Faculty Council for lacking a guiding vision.

Faculty Council member and Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures Julie A. Buckler said she was pleased with the new version of the report.

“The flexibility that the recommendations are advocating for undergrads seems to me a very good thing. The particulars of how that gets framed and how it gets implemented within the curriculum is for the faculty at large to decide. But in principal, it seems to me the Gen Ed committee did a valiant job,” Buckler said.

Buckler said she particularly liked that the Gen Ed report recommended greater flexibility for students and allocated more responsibility for General Education to the individual departments.

Though Buckler added that not all Council members supported all aspects of the report, she said she felt that they were pleased to discuss a concrete set of recommendations.

“I detected in the room a sense of excitement that a real proposal that the faculty could sink its teeth into...will be coming before us,” she said. “There’s bound to be a very spirited discussion of it.”

The Faculty members who serve on both the Faculty Council and the General Education committee—Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby and Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons—will communicate the Council’s feedback to the committee members, and the Faculty Council will see a revised version of the General Education report at its next meeting on Oct. 19.

At the earliest, the recommendations of the curricular review, including the final General Education report, could come before the full Faculty for a vote in January, said Secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Fithian.

“Our goal is that by winter recess there will be a kind of collection of final reports that will be gathered together and presented,” he said.

Yesterday, the Council members discussed the meeting that six of them had on Monday with two members of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

The Council also elected member and Physics Department Chair John Huth to the Docket Committee—a subset of the Faculty Council that prepares the agenda for each full Faculty meeting and presents the Council’s business at those meetings—to replace Professor of the History of Science Everett I. Mendelsohn, who is on sick leave this semester.

At the meeting, the Council members also heard a presentation on changes to the study abroad policy (please see story, page 1) and discussed an upcoming Holyoke Center exhibit on development in Allston.

—William C. Marra contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Sara E. Polsky can be reached at polsky@fas.harvard.edu.