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Design Debate


THE Great Design School Dispute is apparently over, with no real harm done to anyone involved. A week ago, the controversy in the School's City Planning Department had all the ingredients of a classic confrontation: the cries of "faculty sellout" and "student extremism" made prospects for compromise look dim.

Now the initial hubbub has died down, and students and Faculty members have agreed to reconsider the City Planning curriculum issues. But the real work is just beginning.

Reform is long overdue in the City Planning Department. Department professors, as well as irate students, realize that the traditional curriculum requirements allow students far too little freedom to experiment or specialize. Because students in the department have widely varying interests and plans, the school should offer course programs with correspondingly varied emphases. But the present rigid system forces all the students into a common mold and leaves no room for experimentation.

In response to this obvious need, the department established a joint Student-Faculty Committee last Fall to look for long range solutions. Two weeks ago, it made its recommendation: a new curriculum, with 12 required courses and 12 electives.

The new plan was a significant improvement over the old system of 18 required courses and 6 limited electives. Students were understandably eager to have this "12-12" plan approved by the Faculty. Feeling that it had to maintain "minimum uniform standards" in the department, the Faculty passed a slightly more restrictive 14-required, 10-elective plan, touching off the wave of student protest.

When the Faculty Council meets this week to reconsider the various programs, it should approve the more liberal 12-12 plan. But the Faculty should focus its greatest attention on more fundamental ways of reconciling the students' need for flexibility with the Faculty's demand for "minimum standards." The best way to do this is by expanding the department's Independent Study program. By making Independent Study more attractive and more easily available, the department can give the students the freedom they need while maintaining the standards the School wants.

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