The Faculty agreed yesterday in a near-unanimous voice vote to grant posthumous degrees to students-who die after completing degree requirements but before official graduation ceremonies.
Perhaps more noteworthy than the actual change--which affects about five students each decade--was the slight controversy that surrounded the proposal.
"Strong arguments could be made both for and against it," Pierce Professor of Psychology Richard J. Herrnstein said to the 150 faculty members at yesterday's meeting, presenting the motion on behalf of the Faculty Council.
Strong arguments are rare on the Faculty in recent-years, and the brief debate was the first since the Reserve Officers Training Corps issue in February.
"One of the requirements for a degree, from ancient times on, has been... the capacity to receive what has been conferred," said Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes, who was apparently the lone dissenter on the Faculty Council.
"It's not just attached to a person, but to an achievement," another professor countered.
Currently, the University grants certificates to the family of students who die after completing degree requirements but before graduation.
But the governing boards voted last spring to offer faculties the option of replacing the certificates with full-fledged degrees.
"A degree and a certificate are two quite separate things for two quite separate occasions," Gomes argued, but to no avail.
In other action, Paul C. Martin '57, dean of the Division of Applied Sciences, unveiled preliminary plans for a pilot computer network that will link four or five departments.
Martin did not name the departments or indicate when the pilot project will go ahead, but said that the University has picked International Business Machines (IBM) for the project.
Summarizing the findings of last year's task forces on computing. Martin noted that the libraries of the future will be on-line.
Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence added, however, that the University will move slowly toward this end. It would cost Harvard $20 million, he said, just to transfer the Widener card catalog to a computer data base.