Notes From the Underground

The following notes are excerpted from the minutes of the January 1975, November 1975, and January 1976 Faculty meetings.

The President, Mr. Bok, presided and called the meeting to order at 4:05 p.m.

The Secretary moved approval of the Minutes of the Regular Faculty Meeting held on Tuesday, May 20, 1975, which had been printed and previously circulated to the Faculty. The Minutes were approved by a voice vote.

The Dean of the Faculty's Business was then in order. The Dean, Professor Rosovsky, announced that the Harvard-Radcliffe Blood Drive for the Fall Term would be conducted during the coming weeks. He reminded the Faculty that all members and their families received the privilege of free blood as a result of Harvard's traditionally high participation in the blood drive. Accordingly, all members of the Faculty were urged to donate...

Dean Rosovsky declared that he felt it necessary to act upon a suggestion that a designated section of the seating at Faculty Meetings be reserved for non-smokers. The Dean proposed, therefore, that all seats to the left of the President be designated for non-smokers and that those to the right of the President be occupied by members who wished to smoke during the proceedings. There followed a quick shift of population to achieve that arrangement.


Professor H. Mansfield asked the President what was being done about the problem of grade inflation, particularly among undergraduates. He noted that the matter had been touched upon in Dean Rosovsky's "Letter on Undergraduate Education" last Spring, but Professor Mansfield was not aware that the specific issue had been assigned to any of the Task Forces which were currently deliberating various aspects of undergraduate education. Professor Mansfield declared that when one considered that last June eighty-five percent of the class had graduated with honors and that seventy-three people had received Summas, it was possible to question how much of an honor it was to graduate from Harvard with honors. Quite to the contrary, Professor Mansfield thought it could only be considered a dishonor not to obtain the degree with honors. Professor Mansfield wondered whether it wasn't past time when some concerted action on the matter was required, since the shape of the curve in honors had ceased to be that of a bell and had come to resemble a swelled head.

The President then reported to the Faculty on the new procedures to be followed in the event of a faculty member's death. For some years, a black-bordered death notice was circulated to all University faculty informing them of the death of a colleague. That practice had been discontinued. President Bok recognized that some members of the Faculty might object to this decision, and he assured members that, although not sending out the cards would save a few thousand dollars, this economy should not prevail against strong sentiment in favor of continuing the practice. The President then went on to observe that in the past there had been certain deficiencies in the way in which the University officially recognized the death of a faculty member. The President's office had investigated the matter and discovered that frequently the only official contact between the University and the survivor had been a rather abrupt letter from the Comotroller's Office concerning termination of salary. Efforts were now being made to extend to the surviving spouse the University's sympathy and to inform that person concerning the full range of benefits and prerogatives. Seminars had been established to counsel survivors on the legal and financial matters involved in handling an estate; individuals had been referred to particular members of the University community who could offer more detailed advice to a survivor; and certain privileges such as borrowing from the library were being extended to the surviving spouse. The President hoped that these and other humane gestures would be a way of indicating that the University was in reality a community which cared not only about its deceased members but about those of their immediate family...

The Question Period was then in order. There were no questions.

Agenda Item VI (q.v.) a discussion of Dean Rosovsky's "Letter to the Faculty on Undergraduate Education" was in order.

Dean Rosovsky noted that he had distributed to the Faculty a list of proposed task forces to undertake a review of undergraduate education. These task forces were to be on concentrations, core curriculum and other non-concentration options, educational resources, pedagogical improvement, advising and counseling, composition of the student body, and college life.

Miss Felicia Marcus '77, speaking on behalf of the Educational Resources Group and the Committee on Undergraduate Education, welcomed the inclusion of students on the proposed task forces.

Professor W. Perry thought that the implication of the title Task Force on Pedagogy was that all that needed to be improved in the curriculum was the teaching. He suggested that a more appropriate title might be Task Force on Teaching and Learning. Professor Perry considered that there were skills involved in learning for which he confessed not having any more appropriate term than studentship. He was confident that there were things to be said about this area beyond the student's responsibility to be cooperative with the teacher.

Professor Stewart offered the information that the Latin word for the studentship to which Professor Perry had referred was docility.

On that light note there was a motion to adjourn, which passed by a voice vote at 5:59 p.m.