This is the moment we've all been waiting for. At long last, change is in the offing for the Core. But it will take six brave faculty members and two brave students to effect the radical reform the Core needs.
Last week, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Jeremy R. Knowles made public the names of the faculty members of the new Core Program Review Committee (CPRC): Professors Anthony K. Appiah, John E. Dowling '57, Benedict H. Gross, Stanley Hoffman, Helen H. Vendler and Sidney Verba '53. The student members will be appointed later this year.
We believe that the committee should go beyond review to out-right revolution--nothing short of a switch to distributional requirements will serve the best interests of undergraduate education. We've made our case many times before: departmental classes are often as relevant to Core areas as Core classes, they're at least as rigorous, they offer a much wider selection and they do away with all the Core's administrative hang-ups.
If the College would only publish a list of departmental courses that satisfy the existing Core areas--as it currently does for Science A and B--students would have the choice and rigor that they deserve. This would be the first step on the way to a system of distributional requirements. The second step would be the deletion of all courses that could not be funnelled back into their departments of origin, in order to insure a substantive curriculum within distributional areas.
We hope that the CPRC decides to take at least the first of these two steps. Doing so would allow students who want to take a rigorous literature, fine arts, philosophy, music, history or foreign language course to take one for Core credit. The current program encourages students to take watered-down alternatives, only to fill a requirement for graduation.
An important part of the review--and, we hope, reform--process will be the selection of student representatives to the CPRC. We hope that, despite the committee's two-year term, some preference is given to students who have already experienced a few years of the Core program. For first-year students, Core offerings can look pretty generous. After a couple of years, however, one begins to find out how slim the pickings can be; we have already complained of the several Core areas that offered three or fewer alternatives in a given semester last year.
The undergraduate members of the new committee should not necessarily come from the Undergraduate Council, as has been the rule for several University committees with student involvement. The council must first prove with this year's elections that it has a true representative mandate.
In the meantime, why not choose informed students who have taken an active interest in the Core program and its curriculum? We could think of several such students who currently serve on concentration advisory committees, to say nothing of all those who participated in the debate over ethnic studies.
The CPRC has a remarkable opportunity to positively affect the lives of thousands of students to come. Switching to distributional requirements would ensure completeness for the curricular diversity of which the College often boasts. It didn't take us very long to come to this conclusion; with such an impressive list of scholars assembled for the CPRC, it should take them even less time.