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The task force on College life was charged with considering the extracurricular educational responsibilities of the College and to evaluate the educational effectiveness of the Houses.
The task force's sprawling 110-page report touched on the House system, student-faculty contact, the arts, the relationship between Harvard and the surrounding community, athletics, and even religious organizations and final clubs.
The report contains a long list of not-very-startling recommendations, but interspersed among them are some interesting ones. For example, the task force proposed that the Faculty turn Memorial Hall into a coffee house or beer hall so that there would be some place on campus where students and faculty members could go and talk. The report favored four-year Houses as the "ideal," although it believed the plan would have been too expensive to implement. The Fox plan, of course, has put this recommendation to rest.
Like the task force on advising and counselling, the task force came out in favor of "no-choice" pre-freshman housing assignments, modeled after the Yale system. It also advocated giving credit for the performing arts as long as "such activities are part of an analytically and theoretically rigorous course of study."
Composition of the Student Body
The report of the task force on the compostion of the student body was basically a laudatory review of the College's admissions policies. The task force found no need "to suggest sweeping criticism of admissions."
The Harvard-Radcliffe admissions office operates with a dual admissions standard--considerations of both academic excellence and personal diversity enter into the selection process. The task force, chaired by John K. Fairbank '29, Higginson Professor of History, completely endorsed the dual principle.
Administrators say that the most important challenge facing the admissions office is declining middle class enrollment. Students from families with income from $20,000 to $40,000 are affected most by increasing costs of a college education, as they often do not qualify for financial aid. The task force recommended that Harvard make increased efforts to develop financial aid packages appropriate for all income ranges.
Other challenges to the present system, the task force reported, include the changing character of secondary schools, falling SAT scores, and the need to maintain efforts to raise the number of minority group members admitted.
One source in the administration said that the most important aspect of this report was that it presented the Faculty with an explanation of the admissions procedure. The admissions committee works with a great deal of autonomy, and the faculty wanted to make sure that it understood what was going on and that it had some input into the process. And the task force report shows this aspect of its work: the first recommendation the report makes concerns compensation for faculty members who serve on the Faculty Standing Committee on Admissions, and the second requires the dean of admissions to submit an annual report on admissions policy to the Faculty.
"The farther into it, the tougher it gets," says one administrator. The task force on educational resources will not release it report until next fall, but when it does it could create a controversy. Chaired by James S. Duesenberry, Maier Professor of Money and Banking, the educational resources group is trying to determine how the Faculty's resources can best be allocated between the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), and between the departments.
The task force's report has been delayed because of the sheer complexity of its task. It must determine the fairest balance of money and personnel within the Faculty, and so must first disentangle the conflicting and interwoven interests involved.
Some of the questions its report will address are how to promote senior faculty contact with undergraduates, the pros and cons of hiring more assistant professors without increasing the number of available tenured slots, and whether more post-doctoral fellows should be retained as instructors.
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