Dean Henry Rosovsky's reform of the undergraduate curriculum--three years in the making, and usually lumped under the term "Core Curriculum"--held center stage for most of the year. Since last summer, when groups of Faculty members began to take the five broad areas of study recommended in the initial Core reports, and to shape them into definite elements of the "core of knowledge" that was the Faculty's announced goal, the significance of each step in the process was clear. The final result--a set of ten required course areas, of which students must take eight--came after months of intense bargaining within the Faculty, and consultation with student groups such as the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) and the Educational Resources Group (ERG).
Opposition to the plan sprang from several sources. Many students believed the high number of required courses, coupled with only limited options for by-passing introductory-level offerings, would create a strict curriculum focused on large, fuzzily defined, basic lecture courses. Others objected to the alleged lack of student consultation, maintaining that the students on CUE and ERG were not representative of the entire student body. More than 2500 undergraduates signed a petition asking for a delay of the Faculty vote on the Core plan, and a Crimson poll showed that almost 65 per cent of the College's student body opposed the proposal.
All along, however, most students realized that the final decision lay with the Faculty--a group that is, after all, Rosovsky's home turf. There was still a degree of opposition: several professors objected to the Core as an uncalled-for intrusion on academic freedom, or as an unrealistic attempt to teach students a little bit of everything. Some others felt that their disciplines had been left out in the calculation of requirements. Dissatisfaction ran especially high in the natural sciences; professors in the Division of Applied Sciences, for instance, voted 23-3 against the Core proposal in a straw vote.
Yet Rosovsky, clearly in his element, easily stymied the opposition. Undercutting student protests by accepting possible by-pass and pass/fail options, and sidestepping departmental jealousies by accepting an amendment that would allow some shifting of requirements between areas, the dean came up with a compromise plan that sailed through the Faculty on the final vote. The margin of victory was almost 3-1: Harvard's first major curricular change in 30 years had a clear mandate from the professors, if not necessarily the students.