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The Advanced Standing Program: Playing with Numbers and the Core



To the Editor of The Crimson:

The Crimson's registration issue introduced students to the issue of the proposed changes in Advanced Standing rules. That is good. Unfortunately, the article, from its very title ("Overcrowding in the Academic Fast Lane") gives only one side of the story.

It is by no means clear that the fast lane is indeed overcrowded. Since Dr. Davis first suggested changes in Advanced Standing, the Education Resources Group and the Committee on Undergraduate Education have hotly debated the proposal, and have raised serious questions. But The Crimson article ignores the role of ERG and CUE in helping set Harvard's educational policy.

The rule changes may not even affect the size of Dr. Davis's program. For one thing, if requirements for eligibility were raised, those students who met the stiffer standards might be far more likely to actually accept Sophomore Standing. In addition, raising the standards might simply encourage more students to take an additional A.P. course in high school without materially affecting the size of Harvard's program.

More importantly, the reduction in numbers may not be warranted. Why is 108 a "reasonable" number of eligible students while 396 is not? Dr. Davis has claimed that students entering with 3 acceptable scores are "marginal" A.P. students, but his office has not yet completed a study requested by CUE to document the phenomenon (if the study has been completed, it has not yet been released to ERG).

The Core poses a more interesting problem. The philosophical contradiction between the Core and Advanced Standing was first pointed out to CUE by student members of ERG. The only ways to achieve logical consistency are to abolish the Sophomore Standing Program entirely or to accept the concept (proposed by a CUE faculty member) of a one-to-one credit system between A.P. and Harvard courses. Neither change is likely to be adopted soon.

Short of achieving logical consistency, proper Core credit must be assured for Advanced Standing students. Admittedly, faculty politics are important, but students' welfare should take priority. Dr. Davis feels that students who accept Sophomore Standing and stay four years can "abuse" the program to reduce their Core requirements. But 57 per cent of 569 undergraduates polled by ERG last spring felt that course flexibility was a legitimate reason for an Advanced Standing Program. This is the most important benefit for students who do stay a fourth year. Dr. Davis's proposed legislation would empower the Core Committee to rescind Core credit previously granted to such students. The ERG has been virtually unanimous in its belief that forcing students presumably prepared to do advanced work in their field to "make up" Core requirements which they were once told they had met can serve no educational purpose.

Dean Bowersock has said that the proposed changes in Advanced Standing will not be brought to the faculty until CUE has reached a consensus regarding them. The issue is on the agenda for CUE's next meeting. Your ERG reps would like you to know both sides of the issue, and are anxious to hear student opinions. Steve Gold '80 [or '81]   ERG rep, Quincy House

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