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The Social Relations faculty approved last Tuesday the formation of a committee to investigate dividing the Department into its component disciplines-anthropology, psychology, and sociology.
Department chairman Roger Brown will choose the committee, which will consist of four faculty members and two graduate students, from within the department.
Ten Grad Students
Among those who took part in Tuesday's decision were nine graduate students. Last month the Social Relations faculty voted to allow the participation of graduate students in department meetings, giving them ten representatives at the meetings. There are 35 voting faculty members in the department.
The pressure for separation-a question which has recurred constantly in the Department's 20-year history-has come principally from tenured sociologists. They contend that they are being shortchanged by the present arrangement, under which sociology shares the resources and facilities of a single department with two other disciplines, allegedly only to its disadvantage.
The "physical" branches of anthropology and psychology are independent departments. Included in those departments are Social Relations affiliates in those fields. But the sociology faculty is not represented as an autonomous department.
Students in the department, both graduate and undergraduate, have shown themselves to be the strongest opponents of a proposed split. Graduates now benefit from the department's extensive interdisciplinary offerings as they pursue one of six independent degree programs. Because of the diversity of the department's interdisciplinary character, undergraduates are virtually free from pressure to specialize, and their enrollment in the department has rapidly risen.
On the other hand, supporters of the split point out that the nature of the department's interdisciplinary approach is unfavorable to other fields of learning. "Economists, political scientists, and historians take a very dim view of working with psychologists," explained Alex Inkeles, professor of Social Relations. "The stronger ties that sociology should have with these fields tend to be muted by the present arrangement."
'Social' vs. 'Physical'
Proponents of the present arrangement point out that the department was founded in the wake of the postwar antagonism between the "social" and "physical" branches in psychology and anthropology.
Yet only at Harvard did these pressures lead to the creation of a new "social" department that did away with sociology as an independent discipline.
"As antagonisms between 'human' and 'non-human' becomes less of an issue, there are fewer, and fewer left with a strong belief in the original concept." said David Armor, assistant professor of Social Relations.
Professor Talcott Parsons, one of the founders of the department and its chairman for ten years, said, "My own feeling is that the present arrangement is not totally sacred."
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