Class of 2013 will be first to fall under mandatory Gen Ed

Current freshmen and sophomores will most likely graduate under the Core Curriculum, the professor in charge of implementing its replacement said at yesterday’s full Faculty meeting.

Moving away from earlier plans that would have brought the Classes of 2010 and 2011 under the general education program, Jay M. Harris said the new curriculum would not go into effect until fall 2009.

That means that the Class of 2013 would be the first to enter under the new requirements.

Harris said the committee expects to have a small number of courses available to students in the fall of 2008 in each of the eight Gen Ed categories: “Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding,” “Culture and Belief,” “Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning,” “Ethical Reasoning,” “Science of Living Systems”, “Science of the Physical Universe,” “Societies of the World,” and “the United States and the World.”

“Classes that are here now, including the Class of 2011, will have the option of switching over to Gen Ed,” Harris said. “Although we imagine for the majority of students, that will not be wise.”

Harris added that while the committee felt pressure from freshman and sophomore advisers to tackle the question of transition timing, the group will need longer to populate the categories with a wide range of courses, especially newly conceived ones.

John M. Duffy, professor of Byzantine philosophy and literature, expressed concern that Faculty members who have taught for years in the Core lack information about whether they will be able to tailor their courses to fit the new program.

“I hope you won’t keep them in limbo for a long time,” he said.

While Harris stressed that the urgency of communicating with advisers and students regarding the transition would take precedence, he replied that the committee would do its best to move forward on issues of implementation.

Jorge I. Dominguez, professor of Mexican and Latin American politics and economics, asked if “good departmental courses” would need to meet the multidisciplinary threshold in order to fulfill Gen Ed credit.

Harris responded that while multidisciplinary content will be one criterion, the committee expects “many or most” of the Gen Ed courses to be “well anchored in disciplines.”

Addressing questions about Core categories bleeding naturally into Gen Ed ones, Harris said, “We hope not for change for the sake of change, but for change for the sake of improvement.”

—Staff writer Johannah S. Cornblatt can be reached at jcornbl@fas.harvard.