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Students to Petition Fine Arts

Concentrators Complain of Limited Course Offerings

By Joshua W. Shenk

Calling for a more flexible curriculum within the department and more classes in the art of non-European cultures, several fine arts concentrators will present a petition to department faculty at a student-faculty meeting this afternoon, students said yesterday.

"These issues could be brought up without a petition but we'd like to have student voices when we present them," said Richard T. Neer '91. Neer said he and Christina Kiely '91 began gathering signatures of sophomore and junior concentrators yesterday.

The "Petition For a More Diverse Curriculum" condemns the department for excluding the Americas, Africa, and Oceania in the nine special fields of art, from which concentrators must pick a major field of study.

The petition calls for three new special fields "allowing coursework in African, Native American and Oceanic art to count for concentration credit." The department is also urged to seek out qualified professors "inside the University and without" to teach classes in these subjects.

"The department isn't being consciously ethnocentric," Neer said. "We just want to get them to recognize these traditions."

According to Neer, Harvard has vast resources in the fine arts that the department ignores. "There are thousands of artifacts in the Peabody museum and [the department] limits itself to art in the Fogg, the Busch and the Sackler [museums]," he said.

Department Chair John K.G. Shearman indicated yesterday that he welcomed this sort of student initiative but doubted that much could be done to remedy the situation in the near future. "I absolutely share their interest intrying to expand the coverage and depth in suchdirections," he said. "In practice, though, wecan't do it all."

Shearman said that in addition to the areasmentioned in the petition, the department lacksscholars in medieval and British art. And withonly six professors teaching in the department forthe entire year next year, Shearman said that thedepartment will have a tough time expanding in thenear future.

"It's a scandal," Shearman said. "But everydepartment has its scandals."

Still, criticizing the department for a lack offaculty isn't the top of the students' agenda,Neer said. Rather, he suggested simple reforms inthe department's curriculum, such as grantingconcentration credit more readily for African andAmerican art classes in other departments.

Most concentrators contacted yesterday saidthey agreed with the terms of the petition andexpected that the faculty would be responsive tostudent demands.

Neer said he expects that the petition will besigned by almost every sophomore and juniorconcentrator by the meeting this afternoon. "Noone has refused to sign it yet," he said

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