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A plan to fold the East Asian Studies (EAS) concentration into the East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) Department will face its final hurdles next week at a Faculty meeting, and professors in each field yesterday predicted swift approval for the long-awaited merger.
If ratified at Tuesday's meeting, the combined department will begin operations next fall, according to Professor of Sociology Ezra F. Vogel, who chairs the EAS committee. The Faculty Council, which serves as the steering committee for the full Faculty of Arts and Sciences, voted unanimously to approve the plan earlier in the semester.
Vogel said current concentrators will finish their degree requirements in their present programs. Rising sophomores, who were informed of the merger during concentration meetings this spring, will be the first group of students in the combined program, he said.
The new concentration will be called East Asian Studies and will be governed by the EALC Department, Vogel said.
Faculty members said the merger is the result of a natural convergence by the two programs, which now cover much of the same material in different ways.
"I think it is a natural development," said Patrick D. Hanan, professor of Chinese literature. "The programs seem to overlap to a considerable degree and it makes sense for them to be grouped under an umbrella structure."
Vogel explained that when the EAS committee was formed in 1972, EALC was geared toward early languages and literatures. Student interest in using the social sciences as an approach to study the area led to the creation of the separate EAS concentration, he said.
"The programs were quite independent until the mid-1980's," Vogel said.
Since that time, Vogel said, a number of factors have created a growing overlap between the programs. New EALC faculty havew increasingly incorporated the techniques of the social sciences into their work, he said, and two EAS tutors have been hired as EALC head tutors.
Hanan noted that students are currently forced to choose between the two programs at the end of their first year at Harvard, and that concentrators generally have little idea what approach to the region they want to take.
The merger was proposed for "convenience for the students as much as anything else," Hanan said. "You can't expect people to know what they are going to specialize in so early in their sophomore year."
The new concentration will be divided into social science and humanities' wings, each led by an assistant head tutor, Vogel said. Students will choose a wing to specialize in after their sophomore year.
An advisory committee of faculty members will oversee the concentration, he said.
Vogel said that the new concentration will likely evolve as student interest shifts from one style of analysis to the other. Last year, 59 students concentrated in EALC, while 64 concentrated in EAS.
"While we have our little arguments about what's more important [to include in the new concentration], we felt it was in the students' best interest 'for us to collaborate]," Vogel said.
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