Core's End Moves Forward

In fourth straight week, professors work to finish general education legislation

As they criticized the current Core Curriculum for being dominated by non-teaching administrators, professors at yesterday’s Faculty meeting stressed the importance of continued faculty leadership of the proposed general education program.

Although most spoke in favor of creating an expansive new program that could be home to a number of courses currently taught within departments, professors remained divided over the place of departmental courses in the future plan.

After stressing that one of undergraduates’ greatest qualms with the Core was the lack of course options, Professor of History Peter E. Gordon emphasized the importance of counting departmental courses for general education credit.

But McKay Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis ’68 expressed concern that too many departmental courses would be used to satisfy general education requirements.

“I think we’re sort of buying a pig in a poke here,” Lewis said, suggesting that the Faculty was accepting the proposal without a full understanding of its basis. “If people are imagining that 9 out of 10 courses will fit somewhere, then this entire curriculum is reduced to distributive requirements,” Lewis said.

General Education Task Force member Stephen M. Kosslyn, the Lindsley professor of psychology, replied that the task force intended for only a “medium amount” of departmental courses to count for general education credit.

The recommendations “wouldn’t open the floodgates,” he said. “I think there is a viable way to ensure that we have a substantial number of departmental courses while still fulfilling the intention of the report.”

Professors also addressed the long-standing question yesterday of whether freshman seminars, which are all

currently graded pass/fail, would count for general education credit.

Concerned that his colleagues were “dissing” the freshman seminar program, Cabot Professor of American Literature Lawrence Buell encouraged professors to rescue the seminars from the “outer darkness of the Gen Ed template.”

The Faculty eventually voted to allow freshman seminars to count toward the new general education requirements, but voted that these seminars—and all other classes—must be taken for a letter grade to count.

But Baird Professor of Physics Gary J. Feldman said he worried that inclusion of freshman seminars in general education would be detrimental to both programs.

“What makes it successful is that the only incentive that a student has for taking a freshman seminar is a desire to study a subject in which they have an interest,” Feldman said, adding that this would change if students could count the courses for credit.

Fewer professors attended yesterday’s meeting than the previous three meetings devoted to general education legislation. And although the Faculty voted to extend the meeting by 30 minutes, a number of professors left early, ending the quorum needed for votes on remaining issues.

The Faculty will continue discussing the general education legislation at a previously unscheduled meeting next Tuesday.

Interim Dean David Pilbeam, who is standing in for Jeremy R. Knowles as Knowles battles prostate cancer, addressed the Faculty for the first time yesterday since taking the position last Monday.

“I probably should have spoken last week,” Pilbeam said, “but I was feeling a bit numb.”

“I would give anything to not be standing here today,” he added.

Also at yesterday’s meeting, five professors were honored with Harvard College Professorships, given to professors for recognition of undergraduate teaching: Friend Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Luis Fernández-Cifuentes, Putnam Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology David A. Haig, Jayne Professor of Government Jennifer L. Hochschild, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology David R. Liu ’94, and Professor of Sociology Peter V. Marsden.

Glenda R. Carpio, assistant professor of African and African American studies, and Alison F. Frank, assistant professor of history, were honored with the Abramson Award for Undergraduate Teaching.

Hochschild, who teaches African and African American studies in addition to government, also received the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award.

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

—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached at jacobs@fas.harvard.edu.